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Business Journal
Brands Aren't Winning Millennial Consumers
Business Journal

Brands Aren't Winning Millennial Consumers

by Amy Adkins
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Millennials are more likely to be actively disengaged customers
  • Millennials' engagement is highly dependent on technology
  • Brands must achieve excellence in every channel

Millennials represent the least-engaged generation of customers.

According to Gallup's report How Millennials Want to Work and Live, one in four millennials (born between 1980 and 1996) are fully engaged -- meaning they are emotionally and psychologically attached to a brand, product or company.

Millennials Have the Lowest Level of Customer Engagement
"Fully Engaged"
Millennials 25
Gen Xers 28
Baby boomers 33
Traditionalists 38

Millennials also have low levels of customer engagement across most industries that Gallup tracks. In the banking industry, for example, 31% of millennial customers are fully engaged. In hospitality, the figure is 20%.

Even more discouraging, millennial customers are also much more likely to be actively disengaged than any other generation of consumers. In some industries, millennials' level of active disengagement is nearly on par with -- or exceeds -- their level of engagement. In the insurance industry, 31% of millennial customers are fully engaged, and 27% are actively disengaged. In the airline industry, just 12% of millennials are fully engaged, while almost four times as many (46%) are actively disengaged.

Instead of creating advocates and "brand ambassadors" among millennials, many companies are creating brand destroyers who have a host of digital soapboxes from which to air their grievances. Millennials are highly connected with vast social networks and have their pick of open forums for sharing their dissatisfaction with a product, service or company.

When millennials are fully engaged as customers, they're more profitable and loyal than are other customers. In the wireless service industry, Gallup discovered that 95% of fully engaged millennial customers say they plan to stay with their wireless provider, compared with 10% of actively disengaged millennial customers.

These fully engaged customers are substantially more likely than other customers to say they would recommend their provider to others and are substantially less likely to say they consider price as the most important factor in choosing a wireless provider.

Digital Experience Has Greatest Effect on Millennials' Engagement

Companies inconsistently deliver on the key drivers of engagement across all generations.

But there is something about millennials that brands have an even harder time grasping -- and, not surprisingly, it's in the digital details. Millennials' customer journey is highly influenced by technology, more so than for any other generation. They view the online customer experience through a different lens than other generations do, and they value it more.

In the banking industry, the digital experience has become a key sticking point in engaging millennial customers. Compared with other generations, millennials are the most likely to use online and mobile banking channels. An impressive 73% of millennials report they would prefer to have a digital relationship with their bank (through mobile, online or ATM channels) rather than a personal one -- higher than the percentage of Gen Xers (58%), baby boomers (43%) and traditionalists (28%) who say the same.

Millennials not only express a strong preference for digital channels, but they also act on it. Thirty-seven percent report that they use a branch only if their transaction cannot be done another way, and 84% state that their relationship with their bank is primarily digital.

The profound disconnect in millennials' engagement comes from their lower levels of satisfaction with the online channels they use -- and want to use -- most frequently. Fifty-nine percent of millennials say they are "extremely satisfied" with mobile banking, compared with 64% of baby boomers. The gap is even more pronounced with online banking -- 55% of millennials are "extremely satisfied" with this channel, compared with 67% of baby boomers.

Given that millennials predominantly prefer digital channels over human ones, banks have significant work to do to improve this generation's satisfaction with their digital experience.

Ideal Customer Experience Depends on All Channels

The greatest challenge for businesses seeking to engage millennial customers is to deliver the convenience of multiple channels while maintaining a consistently positive experience across every channel. In the banking industry, Gallup discovered that 55% of customers who are perfectly satisfied with all channels they use are fully engaged.

But if customers give a less-than-perfect satisfaction score to even one channel, their engagement drops by 40 percentage points to 15%. This problem particularly affects millennial customers, who use more channels than any other generation and, therefore, have a higher likelihood of disappointing interactions with their banks.

For business leaders, the key to customer engagement for every generation is finding the balance between the traditional and digital aspects of their business. Gallup advises these leaders not to forget about person-to-person interactions, but to realize the world is increasingly digital -- and that companies are not meeting millennials' expectations for their online experiences.

Download Gallup's report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, to learn more about what enhances and destroys customer engagement among millennials and what businesses can do about it.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
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