Millennials Matter: This Buzzword Goes Well Beyond the Hype

There was definitely buzz around the Boomers and Gen X, and there’s already hype about the hyper-connected younger teens and tweens of Gen Z. But millennials seem to be a whole different ballgame with a powerful significance that can’t be overlooked. More than any others’, this generation’s footprint extends massively beyond their numbers.

Because of this diversity of millennials’ experiences, desires and backgrounds, their “been there, done that” attitude is, in some ways, well deserved; and it’s that attitude that’s going to shape our economy, our marketplace, and the way we evolve professionally, culturally and globally for decades to come.

And, of course, there’s what all of this means for marketers. Millennials are the first to barely — or more likely, not — remember a pre-Internet world. This, paired with the key drivers above, comes together in a really unique way and plays directly into how they engage with your brand. You have to consider it all — the always-on mentality, the desire for meaningful relationships with brands, the need for customization — to engage successfully with millennials. It all matters.

The brands that can weave together a powerful brand experience where technology, customization, and relationships intersect are the brands that stand to benefit the most and the longest from this me-centric generation. And the ones that haven’t yet figured out the secret sauce really need to roll up their sleeves and dig in, because this one’s more than just a buzzword.

So What’s the Buzz?

You can’t separate millennials — the ultimate buzzword — from all of the buzz and hype and excitement. Every time the term gets tossed around, it’s inevitably linked to other big, buzzy, of-the-moment concepts — millennials and growth hacking, millennials and Big Data, millennials and the Internet of Things. They’re a buzzword epicenter. They eat, sleep, and breathe social media; they live on their smartphones — nearly nine in 10 own one versus only 71 percent of the total population. They have an insatiable appetite for wearables and will gladly turn over their info to brands promising spot-on personalized experiences. The overwhelming majority want to consume content that’s omnichannel — another millennial-centric buzzword — and are hands-down the first generation to open their arms wide to advertising messages, provided that content is somehow valuable, life affirming, or just plain entertaining.

And this absolutely matters to your brand. Why? Because, by 2017, this population will control $200 billion in annual spending, so now is the time to start forging those relationships. Need help getting started? According to Accenture’s recent millennial-outlook study, their needs, wants, hopes and dreams are simple when it comes to brand engagement:

It’s All About the (Great) Apps

And those apps? Despite the chatter that apps were getting pushed aside for mobile web experiences, “Millennials are a developer’s most important demographic, with … 18-to-24-year oldsspending an average of 37 hours and six minutes a month on apps,” explains Entrepreneur. “They’ve grown up accustomed to instant and constant connectivity, in every aspect of their lives from media to shopping to education,” and they get their fix with every app engagement.

But what about app engagement (another buzzword, but who’s counting?)? Statista says there are more than 1.6 million apps currently kicking around the mobile universe, which is great for diversity, access and options but tough for brands looking to cut through the clutter and connect in a big way. While organically capturing one new user is difficult in its own right, creating a mobile experience that will keep millennial consumers engaged on a daily basis teeters on impossible. But all hope’s not lost. Here’s what I’m seeing from brands that are nailing millennial-app development — and without a doubt, I think much of this can be applied to digital, social and video platforms, too. Anything a millennial touches should enlist a fresh approach, heightened value and a commitment to being data-driven. Here goes:

Measure Engagement — and Determine How You’ll Gauge

Before worrying about whether your app is engaging, first determine how your brand will measure user engagement. For example, social-networking apps like Facebook use daily user-engagement metrics that are dramatically different from the metrics an app like Uber would use. How you measure engagement is contingent on your business model, so determining how you will measure that engagement should be decided early on, giving your app the best chance of achieving your definition of success.

Provide Something Important

When setting out to create an engaging app, you need to make sure that you are providing something relevant, important, and differentiated — in other words, does it have a market fit? Take the retail-app market, for instance. Right now, there are at least 3,500 shopping apps on the App Store. Want to create a new retail app? Make sure you’re providing an unparalleled brand proposition that will drive millennials to your app over and over again — keeping in mind that they have seemingly endless choices. Test, explore, survey the landscape, and see where holes exist. Maybe it’s a gaming component, or a powerful deal searcher, or something that elevates the shopping experience — just be sure yours is compelling, exciting, and cutting-edge, or it’ll fall on deaf (millennial) ears.

Fresh Content Is Key

In that vein, it’s critical to update your app continuously with fresh content if you’re going to cater effectively to a millennial audience. That could mean new products, articles, games, offers, or anything else — whatever drew them in will likely be the same thing that keeps them coming back for more as long as there’s something more to be coming back for. Test timing, refreshes and types of content rollouts to see what pulls them in, and more importantly, what they’re still craving.

In-App Messaging

Another key consideration — and buzzword — is in-app messaging. Millennials are not only looking for an engaging app, but also a community. The ability to connect and chat with fellow app users — or even the brand itself — is a great way to show millennials that their feedback is not only important, but also encouraged. In-app messages are crucial to user involvement and enjoyment and can dramatically change the app’s engagement rate for the better.

So now, the million-dollar question: so what? How does this population impact what I, as a marketer, can/should do — and more importantly, what can brands do to capture the attention of millennials as well as their market share? Because it’s clear to me and countless marketers out there that “millennial” isn’t just a buzzword. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful audience set to turn branded experiences upside down.

The brands that are doing it right aren’t just capturing these 18 – 34 year olds today; they’re forging a path toward long-term affinity, loyalty, and powerful word-of-mouth chatter that drives exponential growth and engagement. What’s more, this is the generation that all the buzzwords seem to be leading back to — they’re popping on the Fitbit, hopping from one channel experience to the next, converging their branded journeys based on their real-time needs, and demanding hyper-personalized touchpoints every moment of every day. So don’t ignore the hype, the buzz, and the constant barrage of trendy have-to-haves. Now is the time to embrace the buzz just like these millennials are poised to embrace your brand. More on how to optimize for millennial spend in the next post, so stay tuned.

A sneak preview: once you’ve harnessed the power of millennials for your brand, guess who’s waiting right around the corner. Gen Z. They’re today’s 7 – 17 year olds, and they’re poised to drive major purchase decisions in the not-too-distant future. The kicker? “Gen Y and Gen Z want very different things from brands,” says Contently Lead Writer, Amanda Walgrove, “and now that people who are a part of Gen Z are making independent purchasing decisions, that distinction is very important.” The good news, though? They’re cool with online advertising — really! — and are highly product focused, much more so than their older siblings and parents. So we’ll have a lot to learn about Z but also stand to leverage some of our own core competencies and strategies to wow these young decision-makers. More on that to come, no doubt.