Considering the $350 billion combined spending power of Millennials and Gen Z, brands have made it a priority in 2019 to reach them, motivate them, and inspire loyalty among them.
But what's truly motivating these younger audiences? How do they differ? And what strategies and tactics can today's marketers use to inspire the enduring loyalty of Millennials and Gen Z consumers?
To find out, I recently hosted a panel at Nerd 100 with prominent marketers and researchers who excel at understanding, engaging, and bridging these two generations of customers. Here are some of the things experts from Facebook, Airbnb, Lyft, Ellevest, and InterQ Research had to say.
1. Immediacy matters
One of the dominant themes from the panel was the idea that the window for successful engagement is extremely narrow, so marketers really need to be in tune with cultural trends and relevant in the right moments.
These younger audiences—Millennials, who are 23-38 years old, and GenZ, who are 7-22 years—are true digital natives and they consume vast amounts of data each day. In fact, the average attention span for Millennials is just 12 seconds. It's an even shorter eight seconds for GenZ audiences; moreover, Gen Z consumers often consume content on up to five screens at once, compared with Millennials' three screens.
That's one of the reasons Facebook's Jasmine Clennon, advertising insights marketing strategist, attributes to the rising popularity of Stories. The 24-hour time limit for this popular vanishing-content format has unique appeal for younger audiences that crave authentic, immediate experiences.
To inspire engagement, brands should "play more," she suggested, emphasizing that younger consumers enjoy stickers, emojis, and playful photos and videos that allow them to express themselves around the brands they use and enjoy.
The idea, of course, isn't to deliver an endless cascade of meaningless content; rather, it's to deliver a steady flow of meaningful content to an audience that craves immediacy.
2. Build community
Time and again, the panel's conversation returned to the idea that younger consumers see the world in entirely different ways and have different priorities than prior generations.
"So many young people today don't even want to own a car," observed Dave Kim, consumer product marketing lead for Lyft. "They no longer see it as a symbol of freedom, or a sign of their independence. Instead, they want an authentic experience with their Lyft driver and a connection to the community they're traveling through."
Tony Högqvist, executive creative director at Airbnb, agreed. He pointed out that Airbnb has expanded its business model to include passions and experiences in response to younger customers who expect more than a clean, safe, affordable room. He also noted that younger customers require "connected sources of social truth" in the journey to brand loyalty, meaning they build trust over time, synthesizing insights from family, friends, and influencers in and around the communities they visit.
Facebook's Clennon added that Millennials in particular are using multiple sources of truth to crowdsource their opinions, often relying on their friends' opinions to select which brands to engage. Companies, she observed, are not seeing the same brand loyalty they've historically garnered from older generations.
One of the most interesting themes to emerge was the importance of co-creation—the development of technologies or services in close consultation with end-users.
According to Joanna Jones, founder and CEO of InterQ Research, a Bay-area market research firm, these unique cohorts grew up as digital natives and expect to be involved in product creation.
"They are much more communally minded than individualistic. So instead of top-down directives, for them everything should be bottom-up and they absolutely must be involved in the creation of the product," Jones said. Younger generations are accustomed to providing input, and it is critical for them to know that their opinion and experience with the brand is valued.
Sylvia Kwan, chief investment officer at Ellevest, an investment platform designed for women, agreed, noting that Ellevest was built entirely in consultation with the women they serve, who are not viewed as customers or clients but as "members" of the Ellevest community.
Kwan argued that consumers should never feel that brands are trying to talk at them or try to sell them something. Instead, younger generations want to feel that they are co-creating something that is useful and relevant to them.
Airbnb's Högqvist later agreed, "If you're building a product or a brand for the community, engage that community in the process."
* * *
The opportunities for today's marketers are vast. By involving customers in product and service development, providing customers with incentive in the form of immediate and relevant experiences, and helping people connect to a community, marketers can truly stand out and earn the loyalty of new generations of customers.
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