Millennials are the largest generational demographic in the U.S. and arguably the most dynamic and prominent consumer base. Without a doubt, Millennial consumers are the dominant force in the marketplace, wielding immense spending power worth $200 billion in 2017.
Millennials have reached the age where they’ve begun to make significant financial decisions. But to connect with them, marketers need a comprehensive and interactive approach that engages and educates them as customers, which means cultivating their brand loyalty through experiences that create real value for them.
It’s important to remember that Millennials are not a one-size-fits-all group. That’s why it’s especially critical to offer them targeted, personalized services that earn their loyalty. Millennials engage with brands that have positioning similar to their own as extensions of their own values and status.
Key Fact: An engaged Millennial is 10x more likely to become a passionate brand advocate.
To win their loyalty, bank and credit union marketing teams must do more than deliver a solid experience and high-quality services. Here are some tips to winning with Millennials:
1.) Maintain an authentic, optimistic tone. Many Millennials came of age through the proliferation of social media and entered the workforce during the great recession. They’ve learned to tune out things that feel interruptive or inauthentic, but they eagerly share brands that genuinely connect with them using an authentic tone and real, honest voice. Financial institutions that reflect and align with Millennials’ aspirational ideals through their actions, stories and endorsements will find their brands amplified. The opposite is also true.
2.) Reach out with a multi-channel, cross-media brand presence. Millennial consumers are turning to digital channels for everything transactional in nature. Whether cashing a check, investing in a specific stock, transferring funds across borders or getting a car loan, today’s digtally-savvy consumers have a broad set of options that simply did not exist before. To engage Millennials where they are, a brand must be present across the full range of media, through offline, online and mobile channels.
3.) Invest in digital marketing, social media and cause marketing. Assuming Millennials are an important segment to your financial institution, digital marketing and social media simply must be the bedrock of your marketing strategy. To attract Millennials and foster their loyalty, banks and credit unions should also be willing to take risks and stand for common values by supporting various causes (e.g., #MeToo and #TimesUp), and then engage Millennials individually and in small groups through direct, two-way communications. Social media gives savvy brands powerful tools to speak directly with Millennial consumers.
4.) Cultivate brand advocates. Engaging Millennials after a purchase is not only critical to keeping them as customers, it is important because Millennials are more eager than other generations to share their opinions with friends and on social networks. The goal should be to cultivate more of a one-to-one “community” connection with them. Such initiatives might include events, recognition, referral programs, testimonials from influencers, customer advisory panels, social media, online community marketing, public relations and personalized e-mail campaigns.
5.) Embrace new advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Marketers have no excuse not to drive new levels of efficiencies through dynamic content, real-time targeting and personalization. For instance, the tracking of digital shopping behavior merged with user interests can result in personalized messaging that resonates with Millennials, down to a segment of one, allowing marketers to deploy ads that are uniquely focused and impactful.
6. Leverage advances in automation. From simple engagement rules to more sophisticated targeting and creative, marketers benefit from advancements in machine learning for digital optimization. Predicting needs in real time and serving only the most relevant advertising lets marketers benefit from improved cost efficiencies and more nuanced targeting.
Millennial-Centered Business Strategy
In order for brands targeting Millennials to make the right decisions, it’s essential that they better align internal strategies, tactics and investments. Marketing alone is insufficient. Executives must collaborate to position their banks to target consumer segments with an integrated, comprehensive view of consumers across channels and in terms of their lifetime value. If they haven’t already begun to do so, financial institutions must transform their organizations in at least the following ways:
- There should be fewer organizational silos separating such functions as product, design, marketing, public relations, business development, analytics and pricing.
- There should be greater agility through the empowerment of both in-house marketers and third parties (agencies, studios, etc.) to allow for real-time response and proactive outreach.
- Marketing investment should shift from traditional and direct-buy digital media to more innovative media and tools that can measure short- and longer-term returns from marketing.
Banks and credit unions that master activating Millennials will have a major competitive advantage. Attracting and retaining this valuable generation of buyers is a strategic imperative.
Serge Vartanov is the CMO of AutoGravity, where he leads marketing, product and design teams. Prior to AutoGravity, Vartanov was a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School, and bachelor’s degrees in both business administration and Japanese from the UC Berkeley. To connect with Serge, you can send him an email.