Matthew Hurst

What Customer Experience Do Millennials Expect?

Does your brand segment communications based on the age of the customer? It’s a question I’ve been thinking about recently after reading about some of the specific techniques marketing experts are suggesting for reaching a millennial audience. In many ways, the millennial demographic is now the most important for all brands to reach out to. The majority of employed adults in the US are millennials and according to data from Gallup, this is a block of over 70m people in the US alone.

But what has fundamentally changed with these customers, apart from them being younger and finding it easier to use tools such as smartphones and social networks? There are some interesting observations in various articles I have been reading recently, but here are few of the key takeaways: 

  1. They don’t trust advertising; millennials trust recommendations and review sites far more than advertising. In fact the only type of ads that strongly resonate with this demographic are social media stars talking about sponsored products. That’s still advertising in my book, but it works better for this generation than buying a one-minute slot during the Superbowl.
  2. Everything is mobile; they might be concerned about data privacy at work and on laptops, but everything from dating to banking is done on their smartphone.
  3. They love experiences and events; this generation is far more focused on experience rather than ownership. Why buy a car and pay all those expenses when it’s cheaper to just use Uber? This pay-as-you-go attitude is extremely strong and can be used by brands that want to reach customers who care about what is posted on their Instagram feed.

The Gallup research I mentioned earlier has some interesting insights focused on banks and I think this is also reflective of how millennial behavior differs from earlier generations. Only 30% of millennials feel any sense of engagement with their bank. They actively want brands to be engaged with them, but they don’t feel that their bank is doing a good job.

This is quite different from earlier attitudes to brands. Millennials are far more comfortable building a relationship with a brand and regularly engaging. This might be online discussions with their favorite grocery store, road trip ideas with Ford, best hotel room ideas with Hilton, or best in-flight movies with American Airlines. They will talk to these brands not because they have a complaint, but just as part of an ongoing relationship.

This is why I believe the Gallup data shows that banks in the US have a serious problem. More than 50m of their customers feel disengaged – their bank shows no interest in a relationship. If the banks can’t see this or don’t understand the implication of not connecting to their millennial customers then their rivals will. And they might not even be from the banking sector.

Photo by Matthew Hurst licensed under Creative Commons.