It's hard to believe that just three years ago I wrote, "Grokking the Millennials," for this very magazine. At that time, we talked about aligning our strategy to accommodate this mysterious, new bill paying group and how we needed to think differently about the way we communicate, market and accept payments from this new generation. It amazes me how much has changed in that time. Nine months after the article published, Apple introduced the iPad and has since sold well over 15 million; similarly, at the time of the article, 73% of Millennials said texting was the most important feature of buying a cell phone.

The last three years can be described, by some, as a time of turmoil. Our economy hit an all-time low; we learned to do more with less; and social communication platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, gave everyone a voice and means of sharing information. Millennials are expected to help lead the way to our economic recovery, and they are, by far, the most technology-driven segment of the population. So, I strive to understand the shifts needed to seize the market opportunities for this new group of bill payers and ponder how we should align our products and services to meet the needs of the "digital generation."

There's no shortage of data surrounding this interesting group of 18- to 29-year-olds. The aggregate income of the adult Millennial hit one trillion dollars in 2011, indicating a great need and market for finance management through technology offerings. The digital generation adopts technology at an accelerated pace, and according to Javelin Research, young adults from 18- to 24-year-olds are the most likely to use a mobile device for financial services functions, such as paying their bills, transferring money between accounts or paying for dinner.

Keeping our Millennials engaged and up-selling this digital generation is new territory and no small feat. I was impressed last year to see Chase open a Facebook page to great success, with over half a million fans. Is this the era of the "new" bank? While it's exciting to see large institutions develop digital engagement tactics, it also makes me think the majority of banks, with their legacy systems and heavy back-office infrastructure, won't be ready to handle the numerous channels of payments Millennials demand. I just saw that Facebook reported $557 million in revenue from payments in 2011, which was 15% of their total revenue. Sure, PayPal is still far ahead at $1.2 billion in fourth quarter revenues, but the trend tells me the time is now to begin your strategy around payment consolidation and aggregation.

Banks and billers alike will face hard challenges bringing together these disparate processes and systems. There is not, however, one solution. Just like document presentment, some customers like to view bills via the Internet or email, some via a bank branch or consolidator site and others prefer their bills delivered via the postal service. Payments are just the same. Multiple channels must coexist to please an institution's entire customer base. Aite Group, an independent research firm, reported that 59% of banks and billers interviewed were not happy with their current receivables process; yet only 13% had the appetite to build it.

Today, there are just too many choices, too much legacy technology and too little profit margins to replace and upgrade receivables systems. So, consider if you replace or rethink how to be most efficient with these new opportunities.

This year, we will explore the digital generation and how they will continue to affect documents, communications and payments. I value your thoughts and ideas, and I want to hear what you would like to talk about. Please comment, blog, Facebook or tweet DOCUMENT, so we can talk about the important issues, ideas, concerns and breakthroughs you're experiencing to address our Millennials.


TRACY A. DALTON is the senior product manager of Outsourcing Solutions at Wausau Financial Systems, a provider of payment and receivables processing solutions. Ms. Dalton is responsible for driving new product and sales through innovation. For more, email tadlton@wausaufs.com.

 

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