The other day, a 20-something told me that the best way to reach her is to text her, and that if I want to keep current with her, I should visit her Facebook page. She checks email only occasionally and uses the voice function of her phone less often than she used to. She also mentioned that since she has her cell phone with her 24/7, she no longer needs to wear a wristwatch.
That snapshot of millennial behavior got me thinking. Marketers are very focused on Gen Y behavior - but are billers? Maybe they should be. Maybe they should keep in mind that today's Gen Y preferences will be tomorrow's norm. I read somewhere that by 2017, Millennials will have an annual income of $3.5 trillion, second to baby boomers and well above Gen X. They're becoming homeowners now, thanks to plummeting home prices. They can't rely as much on mom and dad, whose pockets are shallower than they used to be, forcing them to figure out how they're going to swing retirement. Since the millennials are becoming bill payers, we as billers and service providers must align with this dynamic group and begin to position ourselves to meet their needs.
To reach the millennials, we need to focus on the mobile platform. While I personally can't imagine performing all my major transactions on a tiny screen, it's second nature for this group. In a recent study by Amplitude, the most important consideration when buying a cell phone was text messaging (73%), and 40% are currently receiving alerts! We need to deliver a mobile "perfect for me" transaction, one that is personalized, customized and accessible anytime, anywhere. Paper transactions are completely irrelevant. I can imagine the rise of Gen Y coinciding with the demise of paper billing. Maybe I sound a bit dramatic, but then again, maybe not. In any case, we should be prepared.
Gen Y is very focused on relationships, which makes me wonder how we might apply the concept of TransPromo to this group. Millennials know nothing about the PC being "cool"; it's simply a part of their life. They eschew advertising, unless it is entertaining or has engagement value. They easily tune out the kinds of marketing messages we currently integrate with bills and statements. Maybe TransPromo as we know it today is simply a stepping stone that will soon need to take the form of widgets or online video. Maybe billers should be in the entertainment business, if they want to develop brand loyalty.
Millennials rely heavily on word-of-mouth and recommendations from others in their social networks. A biller or financial institution that is technologically ill-equipped or one that charges fees for mobile services may develop a negative reputation. The smart billers will treat every customer as an influencer and will be very tuned in to their customers' wants and needs.
Should we be focused on what colors appeal to millennials? Maybe - although I suspect that green is the key color for this environmentally conscious generation. More importantly, we need to pay attention to this group and its transactional expectations. Remember, technology is second nature, and Gen Y is not shy about communicating its preferences. We have to think about ways to reach out to this critical group and provide them vehicles to want to stay and grow loyalty with us.
Billers, are you listening?
TRACY DALTON [email@example.com], is manager of product development and management for Regulus Group, a transaction processing solution outsourcer provider. Ms. Dalton is responsible for new products and services that meet the strategic direction of Regulus and their clients.