There is more than one way into the complex heart — and mind — of the Millennial customer.
This story first appeared in the July 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The elusive demographic — born in the early Eighties to the early Aughts — are the first generation of true digital natives — they don’t differentiate between “the Internet and the real world” — and they are approaching their prime earning years, said Anthony Citrano, vice president of communications at Verizon Digital Media Services.
They’re also loyal — to a point — as well as intense and passionate, and they are inclined to trust deeply people whom they’ve never met. They expect brands to fit into their lives and are ultramobile, using smartphones and tablets frequently, texting while they watch television and simultaneously consulting their iPads.
Citrano said while it’s necessary to build mobile sites accordingly for this kind of behavior, brands should not try to put their entire Web sites onto mobile. What they do want is curation: Millennials live in high-definition and expect to be able to watch what they want, when they want. “They expect it to be perfect and beautiful,” said Citrano, adding that while it’s “very hard” to deliver that level of quality all the time, the expectation remains.
Indeed, he noted that he had found it difficult to find designers that stream their catwalk shows in HD, even well after the show has taken place.
Trust is another big theme in Millennials’ lives, as is impatience. “They trust people that you and I have never heard of,” he said. “Their set of influencers is very specific and highly distributed, so they have a curated set of people that they trust about shoes, makeup, cars.”
And they have very little patience: “They really will not wait, whether it’s for a site, video, or image to load. For a customer service representative to e-mail them back…they really expect almost an instant response,” he said.
Citrano encouraged brands to “be human.…If you don’t care about them, they won’t care about you. Put the product in the context of their lives.” They prefer a personal touch when shopping, despite shopping frequently online, and appreciate human touches in service.
“Stop talking about yourself; talk about them, with them,” he recommended. “Engage them, show them videos, bring other story lines into your digital experience.”
He said it was a mistake to be constantly talking about product without engagement, and treating social media like “broadcast media,” and woe betide the brand that has a slow-to-load or frustrating-to-use Web site.
“If your Web site sucks, you suck,” he said, explaining that Millennials will perceive a lack of investment in a site with a smooth user experience as a lack of interest in them. “And they’ll shop accordingly.”
He also stressed the importance they put on curating their lives. “They’re social shoppers, and a huge part of their lives is publicly curating, showing off what they love,” he said.
“They’re proud of their taste, and they show it off digitally on Pinterest, on Tumblr. They’ve built networks of people who they follow religiously to see what they’re pinning.”
It’s a generation that also wants to be entertained, so Citrano suggested that brands weave more stories about themselves. “Don’t be too uptight — be fun, be funny,” he said. “Have a damn sense of humor.”
On rebooting advertising, he noted that this crowd will click on ads mostly by accident, so he advised building content they’re interested in engaging with. “Traditional ‘click-through’ advertising: it doesn’t work.”