YOU’VE SEEN THEM walking around shopping malls, college campuses and summertime social gatherings — those packs of sleepy-eyed teens with their heads down and eyes glued to their smartphones. Even though they cluster together in groups, you notice they don’t make direct eye contact or utter any sounds to each other except to share a video or Tweet, since each is immersed in his or her own text message conversation or social media exchange. One might even be sending a text to another only a few feet away. Whether we like it or not, the zombie apocalypse is upon us and unlike the movies dedicated to this popular genre, the millennial generation will prove to be the most influential, distracted and finicky demographic in history when it comes to technology use.
What does the millennial generation mean for technology makers? In a nutshell, it means that interactive technologies, from smartphones to websites to mobile apps to SaaS apps, need to provide the most usable, self-guided, hiccup-free, efficient user experiences in history. Contrary to the belief that millennials can make anything work, their expectations for slick user experiences are the highest ever. Although millennials can often figure out how to use an app or site that is a clunker, they probably won’t take the time to do so. They are experts at finding alternatives and they simply won’t put up with bad user experiences that get in the way of accomplishing their tasks NOW. It is no coincidence that Apple evokes the strongest overall brand loyalty for this demographic. Apple products thrive on fluid user experiences that allow millennials to accomplish their goals with ease.
Providing millennials with slick user experiences is not just a matter of appeasing them. It is a necessity for the health of any tech business’s bottom line. Industry research indicatesthat by 2017, the millennial generation will comprise the largest online audience and will have more buying power than any other generation that has come before it, including the baby boomers. With 50 percent of e-commerce becoming m-commerce from smartphones and tablets by 2015, the need for website makers, e-commerce stores, and mobile app developers to ensure intuitive, easy, straightforward user experiences for mobile is higher than ever.
Millennials also have different communication habits, according to Accenture, and are way more connected and in-tune with technology and online culture. Growing up with access to information at their fingertips, they have become accustomed to an on-demand lifestyle, expect a seamless shopping experience, and won’t hang around for long if they don’t find what they need. Millennials also take to social media and lambast brands and technologies that have just let them down, meaning they will be companies’ greatest advocates or worst critics in real-time. Most of what causes millennials to refer to brands either positively or negatively in social media is centered on the online experience this group of consumer has with those brands. That’s why great user experiences will pay for themselves many times, and why investing in creating great user experiences is worthwhile.
The good news is that although millennials have higher expectations for their online experiences than other generations, companies are becoming more capable of understanding their needs. By examining millennial behavior online, we can predict where technology is heading and how website designs will need to adapt to cater to this growing demographic. For example, current research shows that if a consumer has a question and an answer isn’t immediately available, more than half will abandon their purchases on the spot. Therefore, the future of engaging these users hinges on providing fast, efficient website self-service options that give millennials answers at their fingertips. Millennials prefer to be in the driver’s seat, and will generally not seek assistance over live chat, email, or phone to get answers to their questions. They need self-service solutions; if they can’t quickly resolve their own problems, they will give up and go elsewhere, knowing that many alternatives are just a Google search away.
Here are things businesses and website designers should keep in mind to provide millennials with the technology experiences that they expect:
- Mobile is the platform of choice for the millennial generation.
- Less tolerance for poor user experiences means that the importance of creating great online experiences is higher than ever.
- Millennials generally prefer to be in control, so favor website self-service solutions over assisted service; give millennials the power to resolve their own problems.
- Expect millennials to talk about your brand on social media, so engage in the conversation and learn from it.
Although the millennial generation has a unique, evolving set of needs around interactive technologies, the ability to examine millennial behavior online gives companies the power to evolve with this crucial generation.