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Millennials: The industry killers?

Posted May 28, 2019
Group of Millenials taking a selfie in the park

If you were to Google the partial phrase, “Millennials/Generation Y are killing…” you’ll be presented with a lengthy list of options to select from, which run the gamut from cable TV, to lunch, to Halloween and even napkins! Why does this generation get such a bad rap? The answer lies in their behavior.

Generation Y differs dramatically from all others in terms of how and where they shop, their brand preferences, the way they interact with technology and even their paths to purchase. Moreover, given the sheer size of this demographic — Millennials are expected to overtake Boomers as the largest living adult generation this year — analysts can be quick to blame them for an industry’s demise.

But, knowing what Millennials want from a company is only the beginning if you hope to turn them into loyal customers and avoid ‘certain fate’. Brands must also create and deliver the type of customer experiences they are seeking.

What Millennials want

Some of the differences between Millennials and their older counterparts are fairly predictable. Millennials are more tech-savvy and active on social media. The Pew Research Center reports that nine out of 10 Millennials own a smartphone, while 85% use social media — far more than Gen X (75%), Baby Boomers (57%) and the Silent Generation, born before 1945 (23%).

Other behaviors and preferences aren’t necessarily as obvious. For example, Gen Y cares deeply about sustainability and social corporate responsibility. Nielsen’s Unpacking the Sustainability Landscape report found that 90% of Millennial consumers are willing to pay more for products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly, compared with 61% of Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, 80% will buy a product because of its social responsibility claims, while only 48% of Baby Boomers will do the same.

The thing that most differentiates Millennials from other generations of consumers, however, is their desire for authenticity. Last year, Jean McDonnell, director of research and strategy firm Sylver Consulting, wrote that authenticity encompasses five distinct qualities: Truth, sincerity, originality, integrity and being human. Businesses that can successfully embody these elements in their culture, team and company are best positioned to develop meaningful and lasting connections with Gen Y.

To win over Millennial consumers, provide a better customer experience

When it comes to how they get their customer service, Millennials appreciate convenience and low effort. Increasingly, they’re looking to use mobile devices to help them solve problems and answer queries fast, and computers to facilitate instant communication. Taylor Schreiner, a director at Adobe Digital Insights, recently told Forbes that, “about half of people under 35 would rather engage with a computer than a human when interacting with a brand.”

Customer experience is, in fact, what gives many of today’s companies their competitive edge. In the retail space, brands often struggle to attract and retain customers in the face of competition from e-commerce. Couple this with a customer base that’s not only discerning about the products it purchases but also the companies it chooses to support, and reinvention goes from being a useful business strategy to becoming essential.

How digital transformation can help save your brand

In reference to Charles Darwin’s famed book, On the Origin of Species, business management professor Leon C. Megginson once wrote, “The species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” Now, more than 50 years later, this mantra is gaining new relevance.

In order to raise the bar on customer care for Millennial consumers, companies must embrace digital transformation, and adopt technology like IoT and AI. Customer self-service options are also critical. Many Millennials would rather solve their customer service issues on their own than with the help of an agent and embedding these in the customer journey can differentiate you from competitors.

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This is true of social media and chatbots as well, says Lux Narayan, CEO of social media analytics company Unmetric. “An astounding majority use social media to interact with customer service, with Facebook being the most popular platform followed by Twitter and then Instagram,” Narayan says. “To improve the customer experience for them, brands should expand their live chat offerings and provide timely customer support on social media.”

The companies that are using live chat tools that make customer service available 24/7 are still in the minority, he says, “which points to a huge opportunity for brands to begin using AI-powered chatbots during the times when representatives are not available to respond to requests.”

Narayan adds that brands should aim to respond to social media customer service queries with lightning speed, while also offering phone-based customer care that doesn’t exceed a wait time of 15 minutes. One way to achieve this is by supplementing technology with human support. It’s important to remember that a digitally-enhanced contact center can’t operate without human agents to spearhead and execute CX strategies. Building a positive corporate culture that combines people, process and technology is a must if a brand hopes to effectively cater to Millennial consumers.

At the end of the day, Millennials aren’t purposely eradicating industries; they are simply ‘voting’ with their dollars in a different way. This has challenged brands to rethink and re-imagine the customer experience to better serve all customers.

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