Connecting with Millennial Consumers: Understanding Them as People, Not Numbers, Will Lead Brands to Success
The one constant in the customer experience landscape is that it is always changing, and at a rapid pace. A quick look at its evolution over the past hundred and fifty years shows a dramatic pendulum shift from vendors being product-centric, or relying on their products to succeed, to being customer-centric, or relying on their customers to succeed. This focus on the customer is even more prevalent in industries where products and offerings are becoming commoditised and the gap between price differentiation is shrinking, such as in telco and finance.
More important than customer-centricity however, is the shifting focus on customers as individuals with powerful voices that can change the direction of a company, a product or a culture. The increased ability for brands to listen to what customers are saying is an essential asset, and when utilised properly, contributes to stronger products, offerings and services. When this connection with the customer is missing, however, the results can be disastrous, as we have seen with Blackberry, who refused to adopt touchscreen keyboard technology even when their customers were asking for it.
In contrast, Apple, who is renowned for carefully listening to and acting on their customer feedback, has adapted their products and culture to their young consumers in a way that makes their lives easier and “cooler,” and this has paid off immensely.
Technology has played a strong role in the rise of the customer too, especially for millennials and Gen Z’s who are breaking all the rules of traditional consumerism, leaving many companies wondering “what’s next with these young adults?”
These highly valuable generational cohorts do not follow the rules that traditional marketing strategies are built on. Because of technology, they are better connected and able to influence a brands successes and failures than before. For example, when United Airlines destroyed David Carroll’s guitar, he created a video called “United Breaks Guitars” – which went viral and has been seen by over 15 million people.
They are also more transient than previous generations and reassess their connection with a brand every 30 to 60 days; demanding the brand constantly earn their interest over and over again. So, it’s no surprise that leading fashion retailers like Zara that target Millennials and Gen Z customer reserve 85% of their manufacturing capacity for “in season” designs and can get a product from concept to store shelf in 15 days compared to the industry standard of 6 months. This velocity and adaptability is a key to Zara’s success with younger generations.
This velocity is also apparent in other industries if you look hard enough. Samsung used to release over 50 mobile phone models per year, Starbucks celebrates nearly every other week with a specialty drink and Lululemon hosts in store events every week, at every store. These are examples of companies and industries that have a strategy to engage the unique nature of today’s customer.
However, the vast majority of companies are still disconnected and reactive to changes in customer attention and perception. Industries such as, financial services, technology, automotive, healthcare and travel seem to be particularly vulnerable to the pace and intelligence that is personified by the younger generational cohorts. I expect for the disruption in these industries to accelerate as new engagement models come online.
It is not all doom and gloom though. There is a silver lining which is that the generational consumer is connected, has a voice and wants to share – if you know how to listen. Technology has given young customers the power to research and compare competitors at breakneck speed, and to voice their dissatisfaction more forcefully and effectively than ever via social media and consumer focused websites.
As a mobile feedback company, we have connected brands to over 250 million unique consumers in 2016. From our work, we can see that Millennials want to talk but it must be on their terms; make it short, make it mobile and make it relevant.
Mobile feedback is a highly effective way to gather experience and preference data but it must be “in the moment” to gain the attention of the distracted consumer. Continuous listening through mobile channels can inform a brand of subtle or major changes in customer perception, long before they start to impact operations and financials. Having a well thought out listening strategy that leverages mobile technology can exponentially increase the experience and preference data available to your marketing, brand and operations teams.
Having micro segment real-time information available on real customers will revolutionise your product development cycle, marketing campaign effectiveness and delivery quality. In my opinion this revolution must be championed by the office of the CMO given that all roads point back to the brand. And remember, if you want to connect with these highly valuable generational customers make it short, make it mobile and make it relevant.