Generational Marketing and the Millennial Mindset

Stijn Hendrikse
Stijn Hendrikse
11 December 2014 Business Insights

There’s a disconnect in how businesses communicate and market to their customers today. This disconnect in generational marketing, could be killing their profits without them even knowing it.

Before I get started I want to clarify some generational marketing and generational characteristics. Generational Marketing is defined as the approach to product development, Customer Relations Management (CRM), communication and marketing that recognizes generation as archetypes; a model of which all things are considered of the same type, copy or representation.

  • Baby Boomers (1946–1964)
    • Characteristics: Experimental, individualist, free-spirited, self-believing, self-fulfillment, self-improvement, rejection or redefinition of traditional values.
    • Influenced by: The rise of television, the assassinations of JFK and MLK, the Civil Rights Movement, the Beatles, the Vietnam War, the Apollo moon landing, and Woodstock.
  • Generation X (1965–1979)
    • Characteristics: Rebellious, independent, entrepreneurial, anti-establishment, skeptical, ecologically-minded, anti-consumerist, short attention spans, multi-career minded.
    • Influenced by: Watergate, the 1970s oil shocks, the Iran hostage crisis, rising divorce rates, the rise of personal computers, AIDS, and grunge music.
  • Generation Y (1980–1994)
    • Also known as Millennials.
    • Characteristics: Style conscious, tech savvy, wealthier at a younger age, independent, socially and environmentally aware, pro-community, multicultural, pro gender equality.
    • Influenced by: The fall of the Berlin Wall, the birth of the internet, the dotcom boom and bust, 9/11, social media growth, and the rebirth of pop culture.
  • Generation Z (1995–Present)
    • Also known as the Net Generation.
    • Characteristics: Internet and technologically savvy, brand conscious, community-minded, multicultural, pro equality.
    • Influenced by: the explosion of social media, the War on Terror, growth in mobile technology, the Bush Administration, the Obama election, and Reality TV.

In a late 2013 Forrester Research survey, participants in different age groups were asked if they prefer online customer service or talking with a service representative by phone. Generation Y was the largest group to favor online communications, at 44 percent, followed by the Generation Z at 41 percent and then Generation X at 39 percent. By comparison, only 27 percent of Baby Boomers said they preferred online communications for customer service. Even so, the phone is still widely seen among many small businesses and service providers as the most important channel for all customer interaction. This is where the big disconnect happens. A large percentage of people, aside from the Baby Boomers want to text and type though most small businesses want to communicate by phone. The small businesses failing to recognize this may be missing out on 44 percent of your younger customer base, but what should they do about it?

The answer? Start developing an omni-channel communications strategy. Omni-channel communication is the conversations between businesses and their customers that flows freely in both directions across multiple channels. The benefits of having multiple channels is obvious. Giving customers multiple options for connecting to a company: by phone, on Twitter & Facebook, through Web chats, e-mail, instant messages, and even text messages means more communication. More communication means more business, which can translate into more sales and higher profits.

In the same Forrester research, they found that 87% of customers said their time was the most important factor when dealing with customer service. By responding quickly to customers in the channel of their choice, businesses are showing that they are readily available to answer their questions. This is also removing the potential frustration that customers and leads may experience when trying to contact a business.

Consider this quote from a corporate trainer interviewed by Forbes.

“Typically the older generations prefer talking face-to-face or on the phone, and the younger generations tend toward text-based messages like email and instant message. It becomes very frustrating when you communicate with someone in a mode that they don’t like.”

Omni-channel communications is only going to get more important. If a business is not being agile and listening across multiple channels, they ignoring a lot of their current and potential customers. With Millennials getting older and making more money they are becoming a huge part of the customer base and it’s important to meet their needs and communication preferences as well. Besides, you never know when a simple tweet can turn into a lucrative transaction.

Millennials are becoming the biggest generation since baby boomers, and they are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to their spending dollars and the ability to cause major chaos to a brand when their needs aren’t met. They extremely high standards when it comes to customer service because they were raised on the internet and mobile technology meaning instant communication at any time.

Mobile Technology, in general, has highly raised the stakes when it comes to customer service as it’s generally fast, personalized, transparent and has a good level of control from the customer. Aspects of customer service that are no longer optional for business, it’s a must! This generation isn’t “wowed” by technology and everything that was amazing and innovative ten years ago is now part of the typical life of a millennial. Generally it’s their life from shopping, music, coupons, navigation, and, let’s not forget, socialization.

This may not be the first time you’re hearing this as a business, “that you have to be social” but it’s more the case for the millennial audience. They are more willing to reach out to a brand and vent out about it online if they aren’t happy with a company. No reply from a brand on social media is the equivalent of hanging up the phone on a customer.

Millennials love to be included in a brand

Brands who do social campaigns that target millennials generally get more involvement online if that campaign includes their participation on social. While huge brands can easily pull this off more so than smaller companies, you have better chances of targeting millennials via social when you “feature” them or make them feel in some way special. For a small company that could be mentioning a customer in a tweet, tagging them in a post or holding a contest for customers. Business is changing with the new wave of consumers.

They are willing to move

Just like a summer fling, these kids are ready to move on to the next person if their needs are not met in business. You’ll have to make sure they get attended immediately! While they has a harsh rap for being a delusional “spoiled” generation who think they are a protagonist in a fairy tale by baby boomers, to some extent that’s true based on their standards of high quality customer service. This generation is really no different to other generations when it comes to customer service in general, they’ve only set a higher mark for marketers and small business a like out there.

This generation is really no different to other generations when it comes to customer service in general, they’ve only set a higher mark for marketers and small business a like out there.

Generational marketing: Customer service to generation Y

Generation Y Customer Service Inforgraphic for Generational Marketing

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