Young people communicate very differently and there are still a lot of the older generation who want to keep using the media they grew up with. Understanding that difference could be life or death for a brand in 2017.
Let’s remind ourselves how deep the generational divide goes. Venture capitalist Mary Meeker, in her ‘Global Internet Trends’ (http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends) summarises the main trends digital marketers need to worry about, and this is what she found; Millennials – those born in the 1981-1996 tranche – are set to see a significant rise in spending power in the next 10 to 20 years. And they’ll be spending that wealth online: ecommerce was under 2% of all retail sales in 2000 but it’s already 10% now.
But how are these shoppers communicating about these purchasing decisions? Turns out this demographic love text (SMS) as a communication channel, while telephone (fixed wire) communication for this segment is almost zero.
Meanwhile Internet/Web chat and Social Media is the preferred option for 24% of Generation Y, the cohort just before Millennials; and by contrast just 2% for those born before 1944. Telephone is the number one choice for Gen X-ers (1961-80), Baby Boomers (1945-1960) and it’s at 90% for those in their Seventies. It’s even more notable that the rising generation, after the Millennials, ‘Gen Z’ (those under 20), are even more attuned to portable communication, while Meeker suggests images are a big part of this form of communication.
The import is that all brands need to take on board the different communication habits and preferences of different age demographics of the population, because that really matters if you’re trying to connect with them.
After all, one size does not fit all. Some people like to talk on the phone, some are much keener on SMS or web chat, or prefer to be contacted at certain times during the day. I’m a blur of motion in the early morning, I have a couple of calmer times in the day – and in the evening, I will be ensconced in the latest episode of Westworld, and so reluctant to answer any calls.
In other words, if you don’t ensure your communication strategy incorporates your customers’ schedules, you’re going to be wasting your time. The optimal time to communicate on a particular channel is key to any omnichannel strategy. Getting your communication pitched and timed correctly is fundamental, as well as having a clear idea of who does what comms device-wise.
Longer term it’s also worth thinking about that important visual element for the younger generation. Thinkers like Salesforce’s JP Rangaswami have long been predicting the move from a text-based Internet to a more visual one; indeed, for many writing about the evolution of the Web, visual will become the new ‘natural’ in our digital age. Clearly sites such as Pinterest, Instagram and other social media are visually driven and have a broad and universal appeal; you can be from any culture, speak any language, it doesn’t matter – you instinctively understand it. Visual has incredible reach and needs to be part of your omnichannel mix.
To sum up, we live in complex times and in a complex world. To succeed in it as a service provider and a brand, you have to work with the reality of how people at different life stages are operating.
Practical, workable omnichannel proactive engagement solutions is the way to communicate to the denizens of that complicated world. And if you are using visuals supported by connections to online tools (think SMS messages with smart links to a mobile web page or app), you are exploiting the universal engagement images create. This is an engagement that delivers superior results, and absolutely for the next generation.