4 keys to unlock the millennial puzzle in mobility
Millennial is defined as "a person reaching young adulthood in the 21st century", which essentially refers to anyone born from 1981 onwards and up to 1997 for most demographic research purposes (Pew Research). This timeline is significant because it coincides with the exponential growth phase of technology and more recently, Industrial Revolution 4.0, characterized by cyber-physical systems as per the World Economic Forum. Not only are they officially declared to be the largest among all generations currently in existence; but also (based on a report from travel website Protrav) millennials are 65% more likely than Generation X and 375% more likely than Baby Boomers to travel on business today.
As a result, Millennials – or Digital Natives as they are also called – shape the market for travel and related products not just in the present day but also for the next couple of decades or more. The challenge lies not in reaching them, but in sustaining their attention and gaining their trust. In a developed market like the United States, it is estimated that 94% of the members of this generation use social networks like Facebook and 66% actively share their experiences by posting updates. The significance of this behavior is amplified by the fact that 52% of smartphone users start using their mobile phones within just 15 minutes of waking up, as per Deloitte's Mobile Consumer Report.
- Social interdependence
Being well connected to their peers and friends networks, they depend on each other heavily for information about everything related to purchases, including those related to travel. Rather than commercial messaging, advertisements or travel agent sales pitches, they tend to be influenced better by peer reviews, blog posts and social networks. In fact, the Nsight for Travel report suggests that 76% consider friends' recommendations as top influencers for travel while only 18% consider travel agent advice. A lot of travel related research by millennials will therefore be disguised as typical activity on a social network. This makes it more difficult to identify a prospective customer's exact position on the pipeline and to measure engagement. Providing delighted customers a platform to instantly communicate their opinions, or prompting them to do so on social networks, will have a substantial impact on future business.
- Constant connectivity
The same report from Nsight suggests that 55% of millennial travelers will not book a room which doesn't offer WiFi connectivity. This is indicative of this group's desire to always remain connected no matter where they are. For travel providers, this presents prospects for constant upselling or presenting highly targeted content based on current locations or recent purchase choices. However, this also translates to an opportunity for these travelers to write instant online reviews of whatever services they are using. This means the reputation of a brand could hinge on individual and/or exceptional experiences, whether good or bad, which will also have a ripple effect on the socially co-dependent generation.
- Changing financial priorities and models
There is no question about the fact that millennials are more willing than previous generations to spend money on travel for the sake of the experience, or to gain exposure to new worlds. In fact, they may prioritize such an expense above other typical ones, and also have easier access to finance, be it in the form of easier credit or own disposable incomes. But they tend to be more hands on when it comes to the finer details of a travel plan, scouting for deals and accepting spontaneous tradeoffs between costs and luxuries. The fact that today's traveler has access to mobile/online payment methods (as opposed to depending on one wad of cash they brought from home, or looking for an ATM in a rural vacation spot) also makes it easier to take purchase decisions on the fly, and to act spontaneously on new information or an ancillary offering. This is one core reason for the rise of what is called 'bleisure' – trips combining business and leisure.
- The rebellious consumer
Millennials love to use their smartphones, largely owing to the sheer convenience. It is therefore, not surprising that usability is paramount on their list of priorities. Research from Think With Google suggests that while smartphone users download apps for taking advantage of loyalty programs and other specific transactions, a website generally remains the preferred option for engagement. This is indicative of a millennial customer's mindset that goes against captive apps which promote singular brands and insists on being given choices – such as through an aggregator. This makes the market extremely competitive for travel providers, who will have to showcase clear value propositions that make sense to the millennial customers.
Millennial consumers like to live – and engage – on their own terms especially when it comes to travel. Think with Google estimates that 51% of smartphone owners use their device for travel-related activity, but the position of such activity on the engagement pipeline is where there is some ambiguity. A viable interpretation is that the very initial research of any travel plan (exploring destinations, looking at options, etc.) happens on a mobile device due to convenience, but the subsequent stages (making the actual booking, paying, etc.) may be carried out on a laptop/desktop – which is why the research by Skift mentioned in the previous post showed a trend against mobile devices. The mobile device naturally comes into play once again when the actual trip begins, whenever the traveler needs information on the move, or for typical social network activity.
Mobility offers great power to both sides of the market - the traveler as well as the astute marketer of travel services – but to invoke Spider Man, "With great power comes great responsibility". Millenials are an unforgiving generation when it comes to bad user experiences. Considering the intense level of customization they crave and the wide spectrum of priorities, "good" and "bad" won't have very stable definitions. The margin for error is wafer thin in this market, but if done right, the returns will more than make up for it!