If there is one universal way to engage today’s emerging generation of consumers, it is thru technology. While this may appear obvious, the subtleties of doing so are more elusive. Regardless of the platform, there are five characteristics that all electronic marketing efforts share if they are to be successful with young buyers:
Informal personalization – Emerging consumers have come of age immersed in a world that treats them impersonally. After all, who knows their neighbors anymore? But on the Internet, the sites they visit address them by name, if they have been willing to share that name on a previous visit. If they are willing to embrace this kind of relationship with other sites, it is incumbent upon you and your organization to do the same. Remember the old saying? The most important word to anyone is their own first name. You don’t need anything other than a first name and a valid e-mail to begin. The rest will come as the relationship evolves.
Relevant content – The old saying “sell the sizzle, not the steak” is counterintuitive for engaging emerging consumers. Successful marketers have discovered that value offered up front is the most effective way to establish a relationship with those in this young generation. Whether it’s an excerpt of a book, a free upgrade on a product, the latest issue of an electronic magazine, or something else of perceived value, young visitors expect to walk away with value every time they visit a site.
Retailer Amazon.com and others have mastered the art of suggestive selling by matching visitors’ navigation through the site with the electronic data they gather using cookies and other applications. While no one is advocating the surreptitious use of this technology, research indicates that emerging consumers are accepting of this practice provided it moves the relationship forward in a productive way. How can you accomplish this in your marketing and service efforts?
Intuitive navigation – Call it the Amazon.com effect. Granted Amazon has hundreds of programmers working 24-7 to make sure you not only find what you need but also what you don’t know you need. Suggestive selling used to consist of “Would you like fries with that?” Amazon.com, and other organizations like it, have taken this to an entirely new level. You, on the other hand, may be your organization’s webmaster, top salesperson and chief custodian. Unfortunately emerging consumers do not draw that distinction. That said, development of intuitive navigation takes little more than being able to place yourself in the users’ minds and create a system that most visitors would be able to understand with little effort. Then observe people navigating the site and modify the navigation that they find difficult. Remember, this is not about engineering. It’s about common sense and logic.
Entertainment/stimulation – With the introduction of YouTube and a number of similar sites, young consumers are expecting a bit of humor, fascination or wonder with every message. One community college, for instance has developed a cartoon character that walks students through the registration process. Another organization has a site filled with individuals that narrate the visitor’s path through the offerings available. Mouse over an icon and up pops a person to provide a whimsical explanation of the product.
The key are engagement and instant gratification. Remember, emerging consumers are texting their friends, surfing the TV, participating in a conversation, listening to their favorite music, and oh, by the way, searching your site for what they need. You got that?
Speed – If it takes more than three seconds to load whatever you’re providing to a visitor, you are probably toast. The multi-channeling mind has little, if any, patience for the concept of “buffering.” Granted, both you and they can be uploading and downloading on a fiber-optic T-1 line, but it’s still you’re fault if they see nothing but an hourglass toppling end-over-end. Solutions? Smaller pictures. Fewer effects. More engaging content and less complicated pizzazz that loads before the meat of the message. Streaming video? Sure, but cut your clip length by two thirds and reduce the size of the image. Remember, if you’re buffering, you’re beaten.
If your efforts are to be successful in tomorrow’s “big click,” among emerging consumers, you need to begin today to engage them through the technology that dominates their everyday lives.