The term millennials is a misnomer. The general tendency to think of millennials as teenagers is flawed as millennials were born after 1980. The majority of millennial customers with purchasing power have exploded and brought to the market an entirely new set of expectations. With their dependence on social media to get and share information and flair for technology, they are redefining the paradigms for every industry. Their consumption of services is led by peer reviews on social networks, advice from friend groups on instant messaging (IM) platforms and smartphone apps. If they do not like a particular service or product, they will immediately share their experiences over social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), or IM platforms (WhatsApp, WeChat etc.) using their smartphones. Likewise they can also become endorsers for a brand if engaged in the right way over mobile, social and IM platforms. Businesses need to learn how to address the needs of these millenials, lest the ‘mobile-first generation’ will find today’s businesses conventional, non-engaging and static.
Take for instance the way news is consumed by this generation in the digital age. The influx of smartphones and tablets means that people can now watch news on the go and not wait until they get home. Companies are increasing their ad spends on mobile news sites, which reinforces the way millennials are keeping themselves abreast of the latest news. Live Twitter news feeds have also meant news is broken and debated every hour. Another industry that is transforming itself in line with the expectations of millennials is the banking sector. Banks are working hard to provide the same level of services and experience on their mobile sites as their physical branch. They do not expect these young professionals to actually visit their home branch often.
These traits should provide insight into how companies and marketers should respond and communicate with millenials. Millennials seek instant gratification and recognition. This is something recruiters need to keep in mind during campus and lateral hires, as millenials are willing to give their loyalty to someone who can fulfill their quest for new challenges. They show meta cultural ease i.e., they are comfortable with people from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. They also want to be able to give back through their work and have a good network of friends at work. Businesses need to integrate these millennial traits into their outreach strategies. One way of doing this would be to recognize, reward and encourage these traits. At my company, we focus on three key areas that would drive a millennial mindset and that includes fostering a millennial user experience, enabling social core processes and gamifying outcomes. On our social platform, communication is a new form of content. Across sectors and verticals, companies need to learn from millennials and then formulate their marketing strategies accordingly.
Millennials are already transforming the business landscape. Startups like Flipkart and Ola Cabs operate with a millennial attitude and are constantly forcing change in the market. These start-ups are creating new e-tailing and aggregating business models, thus challenging the way conventional businesses have engaged and delivered their offerings. What sets these start-ups apart is their agility and entrepreneurial spirit. Agility gives them the power to challenge the large corporations, grow faster than the industry and innovate and disrupt the conventional way of doing things. Big traditional companies, engaged in large format retail, consumer durables and taxi services, are losing market share and customer imagination, as they cannot quickly adapt to the changing demands of the millennial customers.
It has also been our experience that individuals that behave like entrepreneurs within a company are the star performers. These individuals come up with original ideas and continuously innovate. At our company, we have embraced the millennial focus to drive innovation and to stay ahead of the competition. Agility and an entrepreneurial spirit are traits that need to be preserved. IT services and product companies should not just recognize, but also reward their millennial employees for innovation, by funding and implementing these ideas for their customers. Such innovative employees will lead their initiatives like a start-up within a large corporate organization.
All this again brings to the fore that we need to adopt a millennial mindset, regardless of when we were born. In order to flourish in the workplace of the future we need to be agile, digitally literate, use the latest social technologies and above all, be open to people of all cultures, since the workforce of the future will be increasingly multi-cultural and diverse. The new market entrants are rapidly changing consumer preferences, therefore, in order to remain competitive and retain customers; we must be able to fully leverage the potential of social media. Being ‘millennial’ may be more a way of life rather than just a buzzword.
The article was originally featured on The Hindu Business Line on December 23, 2014 and is re-posted here by permission.