Are you ready for your next customer?

If you’re not active on social media your business is already behind the eight ball. So much trade is now generated through non-traditional media and online word of mouth that we no longer ask when the tipping point will come, we ask when it came.

The simple truth is that any company shying away from the digital world is going to struggle to survive in the real one.

That is the message delivered by Paul Sykes, managing director of Audatex, who was speaking at the third IBIS Middle East, held in Dubai earlier this month.

91 – the percentage of UK Millennials owning a smartphone

 

100 – the number of times they’ll check it each day

We’ve all heard of the baby boomers and Generation X. But, when it comes to business and customers of the future, a far more relevant demographic has emerged – Generation Y.

Generation Y, also called Millennials, is a wholly different proposition to what has come before. They behave differently, have different buying habits, and expect different things from businesses.

The key change is their intimate relationship with the online world; more than 90% of Millennials in the UK already own a smartphone and those that do check their handsets up to 100 times a day, spending more time with their phones than with their partners.

But while Generation X still tends to regard the internet as the start and finish of the digital world, Generation Y takes a wholly different approach. For them, it’s just one small facet of their online portfolio.

Compared to Generation X, they spend less time browsing because they know what they want and where to get it. They have grown up with the internet as part of their lives and are now savvy and efficient navigators.

Instead, their time is largely spent on apps or social networks. The average Generation Y’er dedicates more than 30 hours each month to apps, and the top companies have already cottoned on to this with many making their apps more intuitive than their websites these days.

Social networks are also a second home for Generation Y. Nearly 90% use social networks and, increasingly, the information they glean there informs their business decisions. Paul states that 70% won’t buy anything without taking advice from peers and getting feedback from social networks, while 89% tweet about businesses and brands. It’s up to businesses to make sure they’re present in those communications channels.

Paul said, ‘Businesses can’t control that content. They need to embrace it as a communication channel.’

With the incredible amount of technology being built into cars (sophisticated infotainment platforms include 21m lines of code compared to just 1.7m in a fighter jet) the influence of Generation Y – and Generation Z which is growing up behind it – is only going to increase across the automotive industry.

By 2020 they will be involved in 60% of all accidents and no company can afford to ignore them.

Paul believes there are three things companies should do:

Employ youth

If we can’t speak the language of our customers, we must find someone who can. Employing someone from Generation Y to manage social media output is a no-brainer.

Paul said, ‘It’s all unseen, so if you don’t employ young people to follow this and make the changes, you won’t even see this going on. You should employ at least one of these Generation Y guys and to address this. You should have a social media strategy, and ideally have a Generation Y person running it.”

Select technology partners

Although there are many platforms and it can seem like a never-ending maze, Paul believes there is a trend towards increasing convergence.

He said, ‘One of the key things to do now is to choose who you work with, who your technology partners are and what your strategy is – and I don’t mean your digital strategy, because digital should be part of all your strategies.’

Gamification

This isn’t about playing games, it’s about making the routine more intuitive and fun. Waze (the world’s largest traffic app enabling members to share real-time traffic information) and Uber (essentially a cashless car ride service provided by the community for the community) are two examples, and Paul believes 70% of organisations will have soon introduced at least one gamification solution.

Paul concluded, ‘We don’t need to change things now, we should have started three years ago. In 10 years 80% of core business will be Generation Y. The way we do business now will be wholly inappropriate then.’