Alternative marketing thinking

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Millenials. Changing The Face Of Marketing

Economist Business Intelligence unit has published the results of their survey “How prepared companies are for the millennial consumer?” That the millennials (people born belween 1977 and 1998) will affect business and the marketplace is already assured. Social networking sites and Web 2.0 tools all bear their stamp. Millennials have grown up in the digital era and live in a media saturated environment. Moreover, they have billions of dollars in collective purchasing power. In an era of text messaging and online interaction, what are companies doing to tailor the customer experience for the millennial generation?

Respondents overwhelmingly agree that the millennials have specific marketplace needs, but few organisations have formally prepared for the millennial customer in their strategic or marketing plans.

When it comes to purchasing products and services, corporate reputation and brand are less important with the millennials than peer recommendation and viral marketing (that is, online promotional communications passed from one customer to another). Moreover, respondents say it is convenience, more than price, that drives millennial purchasing decisions.

Companies have not kept pace with the millennials’ preference for interacting through newer, community-based technologies, as most firms continue to rely on telephone, e-mail and store/office-front points of contact.

To attract and retain millennials as customers, organisations will need to adapt business processes to enrich the customer experience and allow greater choice in customising products and services

The survey points to the fact that millenials seek convenience, customisation, community and “cool” as motivating factors. Others include “fast, reliable service”, “frictionless interaction”, a “tailored approach”, “honesty and trust” and a “personal touch”.

The survey was done among 164 executives from around the world. One-third of respondents’ organisations had annual revenue greater than US$1bn and just over one-half (51%) had less than US$500m in revenue. Board members and CEOs comprised 30% of respondents. CFOs, CTOs and other C-level executives made up an additional 19%. The remainder was split among other senior and middle management functions.

Nearly 40% of those surveyed believe that companies should allow customers greater choice in designing or tailoring their products, with 32% noting that companies should solicit direct input from millennials in the product creation process. This idea of individually crafting the service or product received seems tied to this young generation’s interest in forming fluid, dynamic relationships with companies, which some survey respondents say help millennials “feel special”.

Seventy-one percent of the respondents say that when it comes to purchasing decisions, millennials care most about convenience, followed by overall style and taste (69%), peer recommendation (67%) and accessibility (65%). They also think that enriched content, enhanced online experiences and peer validation as among the most effective communication channels in serving millennials.

Throughout the survey, executives downplay the importance of traditional corporate assets, such as reputation and brand, as key influencing factors for millennials. Further on, the proliferation of blogs, podcasts, videos, chatrooms, social networking sites and other online interactive communication has changed the corporate-customer relationship. And more than one-third of all executives cite the goal of offering superior customer service and value as their main customer priority over the next three years. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of respondents agree that customer service is a competitive advantage and critical to growing and retaining their customer base.

The survey concludes by saying that millennial influence has yet to reach its peak, but its force is already being felt. The young demographic group continues to grow in buying power and as a percentage of the overall population. No generation in history has been so prepared at so young an age to use technology as an agent for change. Millennials’ ease and access to on-the-go, anytime computing has, in a few short years, spawned new channels of communication, collaboration and commerce. These channels increasingly shape the millennial buying experience. With superior customer service identified as a strategic cornerstone for most global organisations, executives will need to adapt business processes and exploit technology to enrich and personalise the customer experience. Indeed, failing to consider the customer contact preferences of millennials would be WOMBAT (a waste of money, brains and time), as millennials would note in text messages.

Download the survey from the Economist site

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