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Why Millennials Are The Conversational Commerce Generation

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With over 75M of them in the US alone and representing a combined $200B of annual purchasing power, Millennials are a demographic your brand can’t afford to ignore. They’re the generation that spends more money online than any other age group, so if you aren’t actively marketing to them today, it’s likely you will be tomorrow.

Where many brands get sidetracked in trying to woo Millennial consumers is confusing their habits for values. They take a cliched concept like “Millennials love technology” and treat it as the impetus for jumping on every tech trend bandwagon that passes by (QR codes, mobile apps, social media “dark” posts) without understanding whyMillennials are tied to their smartphones and social media. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Millennials aren’t into technology for its own sake. Technology facilitates the life they want to lead and the relationships they want to have — it’s both a tool of communication and a means of signaling status and belonging. Specific platforms are valuable because they allow Millennial users to make connections, cultivate their own personal brand and feel as if they’re plugged into the aspects of the broader culture that matter most to them. Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram and the like are a means to an end and that end is greater engagement with each other, with brands and the world at large. It’s about people, not technology for Millennials.

What does this mean for retailers looking to foster stronger relationships with Millennial shoppers? As Douglas Brundage writes for Ad Age, “The way for brands to build loyalty in the 21st century is to behave more like people.” There is no better way for brands to behave like people than to embrace conversational commerce, which is built on the idea of genuine, helpful engagement between brands and their customers, driven by how, when and where those customers want to communicate.

If you’re a retailer committed to better connecting with the Millennial market, here’s where you need to start.

Look to the leaders

Millennials value authenticity from brands above almost every other trait and there’s little as inauthentic as pretending to be cool. Millennials see a brand’s awkward hashtags, its clunky mobile app and try-hard Snapchat filter and they aren’t impressed. Instead, look at the brands Millennials love and the tools they’re using for engagement and how they’re positioning themselves and their products. In particular, Amazon is a true standout when it comes to setting the standard for customer engagement (lightning fast shipping, on-demand content and customized product recommendations, for example) and is the bar by which Millennials judge other retailers. You can’t go from zero to cutting edge in a day, but you can start looking at what you can learn from industry leaders.

Understand the popular channels

The temptation to keep up with the competition is strong among retailers, but before you fall victim to the ‘me too’-ism that led so many brands to launch mobile apps without considering how technology was changing shopping behavior not just device usage, dig into how Millennials are already embracing conversational commerce. It should come as no surprise that the most successful current applications of the concept aren’t reinventing the wheel. Instead of trying to lure customers to your retail real estate, focus on showing up where they’re already spending their time and building relationships there. For Millennials, that means messaging apps, texting and social media. With mobile users spending over 80% of their time in their favorite 5 mobile apps, communication and media apps are the superstars of the home screen and make up the bulk of interactions.

Messaging apps

The top messaging apps are outpacing even the most popular social networking sites in terms of monthly active users, with Millennials as the largest user segment. Messaging apps users are open to interacting with brands on these channels, with almost 80% saying they were likely to engage with brands via messaging and almost half of Millennials reporting that they’ve already interacted with chatbots on a messaging app.

Texting

Almost three-quarters of Millennials send at least 10 texts/day, so it makes perfect sense when it comes to brand engagement that 60% of them say that two-way texting is their preferred communication option. If you’re still living back in the 20th century with a 1–800 number as the default method for shoppers to connect with you about customer service issues, you should know that fully 80% of Millennials would much rather text you than listen to your hold music. There’s a reason customer support teams are offering end-to-end support via Twitter — it’s one of the most established 2-way short-form communication platforms on mobile.

Social media

The average user spends almost an hour/day on Facebook properties, which explains why when Facebook opened up Messenger for brands to develop their own chatbots to operate within the channel, there was rush to capitalize on this opportunity. In less than a year almost 35,000 chatbots have been launched, allowing you to do everything from ordering pizza to making a flight reservation. Over 1B messages are already being sent every month between Facebook Messenger users and brands/brand pages.

Embrace the Millennial mindset

Studied, talked about and marketed to almost since birth, Millennials are skeptical of bombastic brand claims and stingy with their loyalty. They’re also used to having all of the entertainment,

information and connection they could want at their fingertips. You won’t win them over by competing exclusively on price or product features. You’ll need to demonstrate that you not only understand the values they look for in a brand — sustainability, authenticity, personality — but that you’re prepared to meet your customers where they are instead of trying to lure them to you. For a population that’s been used to unprecedented control and customization in buying everything from burgers to cars, conversational commerce isn’t a fad or a revelation, it’s simply what Millennials expect from any brand worth doing business with.

Interested in learning more about leveraging conversational channels to connect with Millennial shoppers? Get in touch.

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