Engaging Gen Y Customers

Image: Engaging Gen Y Customers

Attracting Gen Ys to Your Brand

A few weeks ago I worked with a client to explore how their business and current product offering could be modified and enhanced to better attract and engage Gen Y customers.  For this organization, they recognize that if they don’t engage a younger customer group their business will be at risk of not surviving.  It is a serious business challenge for them and requires a new mindset to evaluate what they currently do and how it can be enhanced to tap into what Gen Ys value. It’s important to understand this cohort if you want to engage them and build them as loyal customers.

Who are Gen Ys and What do They Want?

Generation Y makes up close to 30% of the population in both Canada and the US. Gen Ys represent a $200USD Billion dollar market in North America and influence over half of all economic spending.  As a cohort, this generation is influencing brands by requiring not only functional and emotional benefits but also participative benefits (Hanover Research).  What this means is that they expect to be engaged with the brands they purchase and be rewarded for their participation / interaction with that brand.  Loyalty programs are one example of receiving a benefit for being a repeat customer.

What Gen Ys Value

Gen Ys expect brands to engage them just as much as their employers do.  As a cohort, they have a strong desire for:

  • Flexibility / choice
  • Ability to contribute
  • Fun
  • Open communication
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Recognition
  • Corporate social responsibility

What this means for your organization’s products and/or services is that they need to provide younger customers with the ability to communicate with you, provide suggestions, be rewarded for purchasing your product and understand how you demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

Younger customers are asking your brand to:

  • Engage them through dialogue (online, social media, etc.)
  • Make it social – help them share the experience with their friends
  • Reward them for being a customer
  • Be true – deliver on your promises
  • Act on their suggestions – solicit their feedback

How Brands are Responding

There are several examples of how brands have responded to the expectations of Gen Ys by adjusting their products to tap into what motivates this cohort.  For example,

  • Lay’s Potato Chips
    • They engaged younger customers online to create their own flavour, have others vote on it and the winner’s choice goes to market.  All entries received recognition and rewards (free product) for participating.
  • Chipotle
    • Focuses on local, fresh, organic ingredients with an emphasis on not being big business.
  • Red Bull
    • Supports high octane sporting events and uses articles, videos, games and music to appeal to younger audiences and accumulate social media likes and shares.
  • ZipCar
    • Uses mobile apps to make it easy to pinpoint the location of other ZipCar users and simplify the sharing process between users. Focuses on how car sharing reduces a person’s carbon footprint.

Engaging Gen Y

There are a number of ways to engage Gen Ys and attract them to your brand, including:

  • Shifting from traditional marketing and advertising to more social media
  • Taking a collaborative approach, requesting feedback from customers and acting on this feedback
  • Leveraging the vital marketing power of Gen Ys through websites, mobile apps, videos, social media, etc.
  • Providing choices and options that are individualized

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.

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