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Engaging with ‘Generation Y’ as future loyal business
It is often felt that – Generation Y (born early 80s - mid 90s) - ‘are less loyal than their predecessors’. As a consequence there is ‘doubt about the long term ROI that focusing on this target group for new business will bring’ (sic). I disagree with this sentiment, which leads me to question Gen Y as the ‘Me’ generation. In this article I look at Gen Y from the perspective of a generation that has access to more information and thus more choices before making decisions about ‘loyalty’ than ever before.
Gen Y are as loyal as any generation that has preceded them. There are distinct generational differences however. With the advent of the internet Gen Y has wider access to knowledge/information. The nature and sources of information has changed – the first port of call no longer being parents, (to a lesser extent ‘the establishment’ – government, church, media, and press) and acceptance of their world view (most notable since the 60s). Essentially Gen Y has the ability to question more than their predecessors, and undertake a different thought process as to whom they trust as a result.
A trap easily fallen into is to view Gen Y as an age range. Age is not necessarily the best guideline to capture a target audience. Increasingly society takes into account differences between biological and mental age. Old heads on young shoulders, and vice versa; William Hague, who in his teens was tipped as a future leader of the Conservative party due to his recognised level of maturity, being a good case in point. I would advocate the use of age range as merely a rough guide as opposed to a definitive one. The determination of mental age by asking a series of questions (on a web site or via questionnaires) to typify an individual’s ‘mental’ age would be a useful exercise to determine whether an organisation has ‘tailored’ their offerings precisely and successfully.
An additional contextual factor is Social Networking, which as a relatively recent ‘phenomenon’ helps characterise Gen Y. The Internet, email, IM, and texting being primary means of communication for Gen Y. Interestingly the facility to become a member of a social network is juxtaposed with Gen Y’s wish to be seen as an individual. As I mentioned earlier members of Gen Y are often seen as the ‘Me’ generation. I believe there is a business/promotional Gen Y opportunity to provide greater ‘personalisation’ around ‘tailored information’ regarding career plans/planning, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, etc.
I dare suggest that for organisations Gen Y personalisation around tailored information from initial contact will gain insight into underlying ‘loyalty’ factors; and moreover how to address the question of – how do we make the ‘Me’ generation work for ‘Us’?
We are all concerned with what the future may hold employment and lifestyle wise. The relatively recent downturn of employment opportunities and negative economic trends engender particular concerns for Gen Y. The future has a greater level of uncertainty than ever before. An organisation, which tasks itself to addressing not only present but also anticipating future needs, will have a greater chance of successfully retaining Gen Y as long-term customers.
The future is the future – to what extent can it be anticipated? This is a particularly tricky question for organisations who wish to use potential ‘leading edge’ technologies. To what extent can an organisation, especially IT companies, be proactive as opposed to being reactive in the use of technologies for a specific market segment, such as Gen Y? My answer is to find ways to respond to the challenge of accurately gauging timing of entry. But when is the right time for a technology (preferably as an enabler) targeted at Gen Y to enter the market?
Companies need to gauge entry into a market by investing more time in indentifying trend makers/trendsetters among Gen Y as a target group. An additional consideration for entry into a market which can be assessed in conjunction with the aforementioned is ‘time lag’.
I will now clarify what I mean by ‘time lag’. All too often trends that end up as mainstream are adopted (note not necessarily started) by trend makers. Once adopted there is a period when only those ‘in the know’ will adhere to the new trend or new behaviours. There is a ‘time lag’ between early adoption and mainstream acceptance. The Internet is a prime example, the military and the scientific community being early adopters, and trendsetters (even if they did not view themselves as such). They were the first members of the (Internet) community in the know. The rest is history. It should be noted that trend makers may be communities as well as individuals. The business community adopted the mobile phone well before it gained wider social acceptance; once again, the rest is history. Currently Gen Y are active participants of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter et al – Companies should use the intervening period, namely, ‘time lag’ to determine what trendsetters are seeking next, and therein lies a to revealing a forthcoming new market opportunity.
In addition to the above, I have come up with several suggestions which can be promoted/sponsored by an organisation aimed specifically at engaging Gen Y as targets for new business loyalty.
In summary, the ideas are as follows:
- Develop a business specific site, portal and/or knowledge base highlighting cultural differences in organisations across the world. (options to be discussed) that can be organically grown by Gen Y as a target group. (along the lines of Wikipedia).
- Arouse curiosity in targeted group by use of acronyms without explanation. The idea being the use of acronyms on pages Gen Y are likely to access where an individual has to search for the explanation of the acronym. (As a fan of Stargate Universe (Sky TV), the constant mention of FTL without explanation was driving me to distraction. My curiosity led me to Google the acronym).
- Create a company sponsored GREENLIGHT Project. The idea is to encourage Gen Y to submit ideas that address ‘Green issues’ in the business environment. The aim is to engage Gen Y directly as problem solvers, and to position an organisation in Gen Y minds as leading edge in the Green IT space. Either teams or an individual (in respective categories) can submit ideas. The prize winning idea(s) will be ‘Greenlighted’, namely adopted as a real working solution for the business and/or as an offering to clients.
Generation Y today have more choices and more options prior to making decisions than their predecessors. Technologies are adopted as being ‘transparent’ to Gen Y end users at faster rates. With a view to maximising Gen Y loyalty benefits, it is up to companies and organisations to understand the changing technological landscape and the ‘loyalty’ and ‘trust’ contexts for Gen Y decision making. Moreover, there is the need for companies and organisations that target Generation Y to use various feedback mechanisms to ensure that messages are clearly understood, and believed.