Understanding Millennial consumers and managing shifts in the engagement economy
Bill Binch discusses how Millennial consumers are driving the discipline of marketing and the engagement economy.
This article originally appeared in The Generation Issue, our June/July issue of Marketing magazine.
Millennial influence on marketing
Every company is transforming right now. Digital’s changing, everything’s changing. Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C, the buyers are gaining control. As control shifts into their hands, you need to move beyond just marketing to them. You need to engage them. No one wakes up in the morning wanting to be marketed to.
But people do wake up looking for something that stimulates them intellectually. That means sellers have to engage their potential buyers on the right channel, on the right device, with an authentic and appealing message.
The engagement economy is really about how organisations listen to their buyers, learn how they want to be interacted with, and then engage with them in that way.
As an example of Millennial consumers, I’ll use my family nanny who looks after my two boys. She’s 21 years old and probably indicative of a lot of Millennial consumers her age.
She’s in university, reads fashion magazines, watches Netflix on her iPad and listens to Spotify on her iPhone. She uses Snapchat, SMS and Facebook.
She’s digitally savvy and digitally connected, but you will never, ever, reach her on email. I once emailed her a confirmation for a flight then texted her, saying, “Have you received the confirmation?”
“No, I haven’t,” she wrote back.
I texted her again, “Have you looked at your email?”
She wrote back, “Not for a few days.”
I texted her back, “Can you go check your email?”
She said, “Yeah.”
About 30 seconds later she said, “Got it.”
The losing company is going to keep emailing her over and over and again with their message, totally ignorant of the fact that she’s not opening it, she’s not clicking it, she’s not paying attention. They will never get their message through to her.
If they can’t listen to her lack of engagement on email and find channels and media to communicate with her, then their marketing spend and their complete marketing message is lost.
Enter the engagement economy
We are shifting to the engagement economy, which is about organisations listening to their buyers, learning how they want to be interacted with, and then engaging them.
Email has been the vehicle of digital marketing for the last 25 to 30 years. Young Millennial consumers are not tuned in to email. Right now, people who are 15 to 22 are driving a shift to multi-channel marketing. New technologies Millennials consume are influencing the engagement economy to be more sophisticated; be more genuine and authentic in your message.
Another shift is that the marketing dollar of many companies is spent trying to acquire customers. The shift that’s happening is from acquisition to thinking about consumers through their entire life cycle. Few companies now sell to a buyer for a ‘one hit wonder’. Most are looking for repeat buyers and to build loyal customers over time.
The change Millennial consumers are driving
There is an explosion of touchpoints, technologies and platforms on which someone could be marketing. As mentioned previously, Millennials are not using email, but are using SnapChat, WhatsApp and Facebook to name a few. Marketers end up buying a lot of different technologies to address this, which is a recipe for failure.
There’s a saying that captures this thought: accidents happen at the intersections. Think about a company buying 10, 20, 30 non-integrated software packages saying, ‘We’ve got to handle SMS over here, we’ve got to handle Facebook over there, we’re going to do Snapchat right here and we’re going to do email with this one.’
The problem is you’re thrusting onto marketers the job of becoming technologists, becoming integrators of software. Most great marketers aren’t great integrators – most great marketers are great marketers.
The solution is you need to aggregate all of those touch points, all of those devices, all of those channels to be able to listen, learn and engage – to learn the behaviour of your customers and how they are interacting with you.
The opportunity that’s in front of marketers right now is driven a lot by Millennials.
Millennials are consuming new technologies, and those new technologies are forcing us to respond differently.
So tune in to the Millennial generation. Snapchat is a vehicle that’s used for what? Capturing and sharing simple pictures. And how old is their CEO? Twenty-six. Facebook was created by a guy in college, a project on how to share his activities with friends. Instagram – again – is about taking pictures and sharing them. Do you get the trend?
There are two things there. Sharing and visuals seem to be coming up over and over again. When you want to understand the Millennial, look at the trends. Visual and sharing is big with this generation.
Today, an experience is an engagement. If I gave a Millennial $1000, they’d say, ‘OK great, I’m going to go pay some bills, pay my credit card and my car payment.’
But what if, instead of giving them $1000, I gave them a plane ticket to Queenstown and a new iPhone? What are they going to do? They’re going to go on that trip, capture amazing images and share them. What’s a better experience for that person? Figure out how Millennials interact in authentic and meaningful ways for them. The big opportunity out there now is that the marketer is changing from being the cost centre into being the owner of the customer experience.
Marketing used to mean you were the arts and crafts person. You made the cool looking logos. You put on seminars. You put coffee and orange juice at the back of the room, and you got butts in seats. You had to justify to your CEO how much money you were spending and its impact. Now marketers have moved from making claims about how they influence sales to being the owners of the entire customer experience.
We are now hearing about the creation of this role called the chief digital officer. The marketer is being pushed into the role of controlling not just customer acquisition, but the expansion of that customer to a brand advocate, to making them a loyalist of the brand.
New applications and communication channels are going to continue to emerge. That means complexity is going to increase for the marketer and their role will evolve into someone who truly does influence sales. You’re either going to be an old-school, one-dimensional, one-way marketer, or you’re going to be an omni-channel marketer who gets that Millennial consumers buy and interact with you differently than a retired couple in their late 60s.
The marketing message is going to become much more nuanced, which means the chief digital officer has the opportunity to become the person that owns the entire experience – not just the message, but also the vehicles and the methods of how buyers from Millennials onwards consume their content.
Bill Binch is managing director ANZ at Marketo.
Marketo is a Marketing Content Partner. A leading organisation with which we collaborate. For success in the engagement economy, download a preview of Engage to Win by Marketo CEO Steve Lucas.
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