Millennials are projected to become the world’s largest generation by 2020, and are influencing how other generations prefer to shop, buy and even communicate. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile technology — even “silent generationers” have cell phones these days — the gap between the buying habits of millennials and those of other generations has become even narrower. Some argue millennial is no longer a generation: it is a mindset that all consumers now share.
Here’s what marketers need to do to reach today’s hyper-connected digital consumers.
1. Communicate with Customers on Social Media Apps
Research studies on social media usage reveal a shift in how people are communicating online. Social media apps, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, are increasing in popularity. A survey by my company, Sparkcentral, found that not only did 41% of millennial consumers say they would be “truly satisfied” if they could use messaging or SMS to engage companies, but that other age groups, such as Gen Xers and baby boomers, would also like to use messaging or SMS services to communicate with businesses.
2. Invest in the Technology Digital Consumers Want to Use
According to eMarketer, in 2018, people in the US spent an estimated 215 minutes — more than three and a half hours — on their mobile devices per day, not including time spent making voice calls. Globally, WhatsApp (1.5 billion users), Facebook Messenger (1.3 billion users) and WeChat (1 billion users) are the most popular messaging apps in terms of monthly active users across all generations. WeChat is popular in China and other parts of Asia, and LINE is the most popular messaging app in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia, with 217 million monthly active users as of January 2017.
Marketers who understand the preferences and expectations of their customer demographics can better engage with their target audiences.
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3. Keep Things Easy and Convenient
Digital consumers are accustomed to whipping out their mobile phones and immediately accessing whatever it is they want: an answer to a question, a communication from a friend, a game or other entertainment. It’s all at their fingertips. They demand instant gratification, ease of use, and convenience from their products and services — all while enjoying a customized experience. Putting everything else in their lives on pause while waiting to speak with the next available customer service representative isn’t easy or convenient. It certainly doesn’t offer instant gratification or a customized, value-added experience. The last thing modern consumers want is hard-to-use, outdated technology that wastes their time.
4. Help Your Customers Help Themselves
According to Software Advice, 73% of consumers prefer to search for answers online, but only 27% are willing to call a customer service department if they cannot solve their problem independently. According to the Aspect 2018 Consumer Experience Index, customer service contact, especially via telephone, has declined. At the same time, emerging channels, such as live chat and messaging apps, are growing in acceptance. Gartner says that, “new offerings are providing customer-facing technologies that allow customers to take the lead in resolving issues.” Messaging channels can be that vehicle for customers to take the lead, by being able to ask a question whenever, wherever.
As the Aspect report noted, “Companies offering self-service and AI-assisted service will improve their brand perceptions. In 2018, 52% of Millennials and 36% of all consumers said that businesses offering self-service (AI or agent-assisted) CX opportunities were viewed more positively.”
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5. Deliver Great Customer Service in Real Time
Harry Broadman wrote in Forbes that “instant messaging systems could, in time, actually rival the use of email for internal corporate communications.” This is already evidenced through external corporate communication systems, with Gartner projecting that by 2021, 15% of all company-consumer engagement will be completely handled by AI. According to Aspect, the preference for AI interaction, while still small, increased by 50% or more for all consumers in 2018. Millennial preference for text-based chatbots increased 250% over the last year.
Imagine how convenient it will be when SMS and instant messaging apps are the new norm, allowing consumers to contact customer service departments from their smartphones.
Customer service is a dynamic field where innovation is driven by the needs of consumers. Today’s hyper-connected, smartphone-loving consumers want fast, reliable service that gives them what they need without the hassle of enduring an unwanted phone call. Companies provide this at an affordable cost will earn the business of those consumers — from baby boomers to Generations X, Y and Z.