By Michelle Perez Patel / Contributor
WHEN I started my customer-experience research and consulting company exactly 10 years ago, the millennials were still young children who were only starting to discover the Internet. It took them some more years before they were able to open their own Facebook accounts, but they were already brought up in the digitally connected world we live in now.
By definition, I am considered part of Generation X, as I was born in 1978, but the more I learn and understand about the millennial generation, the more I realize that as a customer, my views and habits reflect the typical needs of this genertion.
Who are the millennials? Anyone born between 1980 and 2000 are part of this generation who were brought up with the Internet. They are now the largest in history according to Forbes magazine. In the US alone, millennials spend $600 billion per year. By the year, 2020, spending will increase to $1.4 trillion per year. They are starting to rule the world, many millennials are behind successful startups that make our lives better.
To survive, businesses everywhere have to understand and evolve to suit the dynamic needs of this new generation of customers.
Here are ways your business can reach out and satisfy the millennial customer:
- Be accessible. Millennials have the need to be constantly connected to the Internet, and they multitask across platforms. Having a web site is not anymore a minimum requirement. Your business has to have presence on social media to even gain the trust of the customers that you are a credible brand. They can connect with your brand online, whether they are using a personal computer, a tablet or a mobile phone. Remember, access is different from online presence. To be accessible, means “it works.” If they inquire from your web site, Twitter or your Facebook page, you answer in real time.
- Focus on the customer experience. The online and offline experience of your customers have to be consistent and seamless throughout. Speed, ease, efficiency and convenience should be the factors considered when you are designing your customer journey. Visiting your physical shop and your online store should not only have the same functionality, but more important, the experience provides the customer the same emotional satisfaction of visiting and purchasing from you. And do not forget that your customer-recovery program and after-sales service—for both offline and online—are critical components of your business which affect customer retention.
- Have an authentic voice. Make that vision and mission posted on your web site or displayed on your office wall, come to life by sharing your message on social media. What do you stand for? The millennial customer knows when a brand is just luring them or is being real. Advertising campaigns that have been effective were those that use real people in relatable contexts, or ads that show celebrities being the real them.
- Personalize your message. The millennial customer expects that you have done your work (checked his profile, studied his consumption or purchase habits, and could anticipate his future needs and wants) and will only offer what is relevant. The old-fashioned way of telemarketing, where agents cold-call customers and offering them a product or service they already have will only lead to irritation and dissatisfaction. Sadly, this still happens today, big brands employ telemarketing agencies to upsell or cross-sell but they don’t provide them access to the customers’ data. The approach is purely hard sell and the spiels sound mechanic. It’s a waste of time and money, and more important, it affects the image of the brand.
- Offer new adventures. Millennials seek new discoveries and adventures. If you have a mall-based restaurant, consider having a food truck version, which goes around the business district during lunch time. If you are in retail, consider having a pop-up, these are limited-time retail experiences, lasting for a day or up to several weeks. It usually offers a unique environment and targets a particular audience. It is the age of disruption, to think “out of the box” is now an understatement.
- Collaborate. This is another buzz word among the millennials, which creates excitement in the market when two unexpected brands or personalities come together for a limited-edition collection of products. These launches create hype and the concept of exclusivity will always have an appeal on your target market. The formula for a successful “collab” is to have a shared purpose and design philosophy with the brand or personality you are teaming up with.
- Keep engaging. Millennials have the “fomo,” which means “fear of missing out.” They need to be kept up to date on what’s being talked about on social media all the time. The smartphone has become an extended body part. Given this, brands need to constantly have fresh content uploaded, which is meant to inform, update and notify the customers on what’s going on.
- Offer instant gratification and validation. The millennial customer’s validation in the age of social media are the number of “Likes” and “shares” he or she gets for a single post or photo/video uploaded, and the number of Twitter and Instagram followers one has. A post that is more than a day old is considered stale and literally, yesterday’s news. When you develop your brand’s promos or loyalty program mechanics, keep this mentality in mind. Customers want instant rewards for patronizing you. For every transaction, let them earn points. If you only reward them after multiple visits, you will likely lose their interest. The millennial customer want it fast and they want it now.
- Offer group deals. The shared experience is important for millennials. They like to shop and dine in groups, which is favorable for businesses. We have seen the success of e-commerce sites, like Ensogo and Metrodeal, which offer group buying discounts and deals. If you are in the food and beverage industry, offer packages and special menus for groups, which offer your customers more value for their money.
- Build a community. The millennial customer will most likely check an app first for reviews before trying out a new restaurant and check user ratings before buying a product. The definition of an “expert” has truly changed for this generation. Millennials will trust a friend’s firsthand experience more than any other credible source. It will benefit a business to organize a community, which could even be a Facebook page, and be able to effectively monitor, manage and participate in the conversation of the customers. A community lets customers interact with the brand and other customers, as well.
Businesses who fail to recognize and embrace the characteristics of the millennials will lose out on the opportunities of tomorrow. The millennial customers are our economy’s present and future. To stay relevant with this market, “be fast, be social and be memorable.”
Michelle Perez Patel, a customer-experience expert and speaker, is a cofounder of SatisFIND, a customer-experience company established in the Philippines in 2005. For more information, questions or comments, please e-mail [email protected] or visit www.satisfind.com. Like this story online via the BusinessMirror Millennials Universe (BMMU) Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Millennial-Universe/435594193285671. Follow BMMU on Twitter via @millennial_U or Instagram (type Millennial Universe). E-mail comments or story to [email protected] and the editor at [email protected].