Customer centricity is more than a passing trend. The empowerment that digitalization offers consumers has increased the demands upon businesses, and that demand will only continue to grow. With big investments made in customer experience strategies and technologies, many research organizations and interested individuals have taken it upon themselves to create predictions based upon in-depth analysis of the “next generation” of customers.
Gartner’s Jenny Sussin recently came out with a piece of research that debunks the generalizations that are normally attached to the next generation*. Among those generalizations are that they want “digital everything” and that they don’t know how to have conversations in an analog environment, which leads many people to presume that they hold extremely different values than the generation preceding them. A failure to understand the next generation will lead many companies to run campaigns, institute new channels of engagement, products or services to a customer that doesn’t need or want them.
So what defines the next generation of customers?
They don’t trust you, yet. Consumer confidence in businesses, governments, and media is at an all-time low. The next generation, in particular, is apt to search for the opportunity to self-validate. This is caused in part by the fact that the next generation grew up with increasingly easy access to information across a number of digital channels. Additionally, the next generation has been burned by traditional advice such as “Attend university so you can get a good job.” This makes them more likely to want to evaluate products and services, frequently through external review sites.
They want a reciprocal relationship. According to an Accenture survey, 95% of millennial respondents in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, China, and Brazil said that they want the brands they shop with to engage with them in a way that benefits them, such as sending them coupons. They tend towards loyalty when brands can illustrate that they are being heard. Starbucks in particular has had success with the My Starbucks Idea community which is responsible for the introduction of stevia and almond milk in stores.
They want to be trusted to self-serve. To add an extra layer of nuance, millennials seeks engagement, but only if they can’t complete the task themselves. The next generation is particularly averse to having to go through people when technology could do it faster, and with less hassle.
You’re not selling them products. You’re selling them experiences. The next generation is driven towards things that feel unique or new – hence the shift towards the “experience economy”. Unlike traditional products, experiences can’t be mass produced. A couple popular examples with the next generation include the rise in escape rooms (in which a team of people have to solve a puzzle to get out of a room in a particular time frame) and microbreweries (breweries that make use of local ingredients and production, and often provide the “experience” of tasting or drinking the local beer among the locals).
They influence the rest of your customers. Many organization’s choose to ignore Millenials and Generation Z for the time being, simply because they are not currently in the age group to be a customer. However, that is short-sighted not only because they could one day become a customer, but also because there is plenty of research that shows that over 70% of them influence their parents’ purchasing decisions. Additionally, due to the capacity to adopt rapidly to digital environments, the next generation will continue to dictate general consumer dynamics in the coming years.
*The next generation is defined here as young millenials (roughly born 1987-1994) and older members of Generation Z (roughly born 1995- 2002).