It's an Omnichannel World: The Rise of the Millennial Customer
We may already be living in a digital world, but the current younger generation has a special distinction of its own. Millennials--also known as Generation Y and considered to be anyone born after 1980-are the first generation to have been born into the modern digital world. They don't remember a time before the Internet, the smartphone has been around forever, and life is simply unimaginable without social media. So when it comes to marketing to these young consumers or delivering customer service, companies are presented with both the challenge and opportunity to do business differently than they may have done in the past.
The statistics are interesting and at times surprising. According to Forbes, 33% of millennials consult blogs before making a purchase, preferring to check the opinions of peers on social media rather than relying on standard advertising. In fact, the same study reported that advertising held very little value for this generation-only 1% of the consumers surveyed reported that advertising encouraged them to be loyal to a brand. Not surprisingly, 62% reported that they wish to engage with brands on social media. Rather than disregarding advertising altogether, the message here seems to be that millennials want an authentic brand voice and are eager to hear the voices of like-minded peers. They like having choices and learning for themselves, so they expect brands to accommodate them. And ultimately, they want their voices to be heard, too.
Clearly, companies need to engage with these millenials using an omnichannel strategy-using social media channels in addition to traditional support channels-while prioritizing mobile optimization. Nielsen reports that over 85% of Generation Y owns smartphones, and they are using them for virtually everything they need. Pizza delivery? They want an app. Trouble with wifi at home? They'll want a live chat. Tracking a delivery? Don't give them an agent-they need a button so they can check for themselves. This generation looks for fast, thorough information, and it's often on the go. Brands need to be sure to define themselves clearly and consistently across all channels so that millenials not only get a great customer experience but they feel that they have a choice as to the channel they prefer. The more consistent and appealing a brand appears, the more loyal this generation is-as often evidenced by the enthusiastic support and endorsement they'll give on social media (and the critiques they'll likewise make when they're unhappy). Social media has the power to project a great brand image while empowering companies to engage-not just inform-their younger consumers. Indeed, the Forbes study also indicated that 42% of those surveyed showed interest in being involved with the creation of products. This means that brands need to be more creative about soliciting millenials' opinions on social media and giving them opportunities to make these opinions count. A compelling example is Starbucks' recent announcement that, choosing from its six new Frappuccino flavors, consumers are invited to vote for a “fan favorite.” But the brand took it a step further: The winning flavor will be discounted for a short period of time across all stores. Customer engagement meets customer loyalty-Starbucks fans will have their voices heard on social media, and they will even be rewarded for sharing their opinions. Such is the power of great customer engagement, especially when applied to millennial-friendly brands such as Starbucks.