Designing for Millennials
Millennials are currently the largest generational cohort in the United States, making up more than 30% of America’s workforce. The generation dubbed the “me me me generation” by Time Magazine, who lived through two financial crises and a horrific live terror attack, have now settled down, found successful careers, and have immense buying power—an estimated $4 trillion in 2020 alone.
Millennials are fiercely loyal to brands they love, are willing to pay more for well-made products, and love to buy online. Designing for Millennials should be a top consideration for companies bringing products to market today.
In a previous post, Designing Apps for Different Generations, we looked broadly at how your generation influences your relationship to technology throughout your lifetime. Each generation has shared experiences during their formative years that help to shape collective values. These values, in turn, influence motivations, preferences, and expectations when it comes to technology. As you develop products aimed at this generation, understanding these values can provide insights to consider when designing for Millennials.
Background on Millennials
Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, experienced an upbringing unlike any other in history. The oldest Millennials spent their childhoods in a pre-Digital world, but this generation was quickly characterized by the rise of the internet, the dot com boom, and the surge of technological advancements that came along with it. Also called ‘digital natives,’ Millennials have been fundamentally shaped by technology regarding how they learn, work, socialize, buy, communicate, and play. The internet became the trusted authority for learning and information and is crucial to how Millennials approach solving problems. This sudden disruption has caused a disconnect between Millennials and previous generations.
Millennials and Technology
Millennials are a highly tech-savvy group dependent on tech in many facets of their lives. This demographic is the first group to be connected to their peers and leverage their social media networks for many purposes. Social media helps them stay in touch, join with brands and companies, access news, ask for peer recommendations, and even connect to job opportunities, to name only a few. They value their lifestyles and relationships first and make life and career decisions based on those factors.
When it comes to communication, Millennials prefer text messaging or direct messages over a phone call. In the workplace, platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow teams to connect and collaborate remotely and in real-time, giving Millennials the work/life balance they desire. Generally, Millennials are more open-minded and civic-oriented than previous generations thanks to access to diverse worldviews on their Internet browser. Collectively, this group wants to have an impact and contribute to the greater good—70% of Millennials volunteer regularly.
Digital Products for Millennials
This generation has grown up with the internet at their disposal, and they expect transparency from companies and their products. They know quickly if something is providing value, and if they’re not sure, they’ve created a system of accountability through ratings, reviews, and online forums that will tell them.
When Millennials reached a prime spending age, there was a shift in the way that Millennials spent their money compared to previous generations. Millennials place a high value on experiences over things, which led them to leverage technology to fuel the experience economy. In short - Millennials are ditching the fast cars and expensive purses their parents purchased upon adulthood, preferring to spend money on concerts, events, travel, and more. Digital products would do well to recognize their desire for connection, fun, and flexibility and provide a solution that enhances their real life.
Considerations When Designing for Millennials
When it comes to designing digital products and content for Millennials, keep these four considerations in mind:
Speak Their Language
Speaking the Millennial language is both a messaging and experience consideration.
Consider Byte, an at-home teeth-straightening system similar to Invisalign, which originated in the mid-90s. Byte has identified Millennials as their target audience and makes it clear through their messaging. Clever copywriting hits on the Millennial desire to work from home and customize their experience, even backing it up with a review that hits on Millennial-beloved products and pop culture.
In addition, a digital product can define its user experience so it effectively communicates to the right audience. Millennials have been through the full evolution of digital experiences, so they instinctively recognize and act upon smooth interactions. With a single gesture, they’ll be quick to close an app or ditch a digital cart if they start to sense a stickiness in the product or in the offerings themselves.
A company that wishes to speak the Millennial language needs to deliver upon the digital interactions they’ve come to expect. Instant and transparent communication with your user is key—like delivering an automated email after purchase. Companies wanting to encourage brand loyalty can go a step further in creating digital moments of delight that will stick with Millennials: free or two-day shipping, reward programs, loyalty points, free flights, and personal assistance are examples of the personalized shopping experience millennials seek.
Millennials have integrated technology into almost every facet of their lives, but recognize their limits. They make a conscious effort to spend time away from their phone. In a world that capitalizes on every minute you spend within a platform, a digital product can spark loyalty by showing Millennial users it compliments or adds to their quality of life.
Let’s consider a few ways that companies are incorporating Millennials’ desire to have control over their time and digital energy.
Instagram users can monitor the time spent looking at their feed. A chart breaks down daily usage and lets users set a ‘daily reminder’ or time limit before receiving a notification from the app. Android and Apple have similar system settings abilities that encourage digital time-outs.
Dating app Hinge targets a Millennial audience—even more specifically, an audience who wants to find someone special and settle down (unlike Tinder). In its recent “Designed to be Deleted” campaign, its tone of voice is optimistic—sending its dating pool the message that they ultimately want you off the app and in a relationship.
Consider some of the small design and messaging considerations Hinge implemented in their successful dating app to drive the message home:
- Illustrated characters and animations that erase UI elements
- Use of casual, optimistic tone of voice
- Friendly color palettes, round UI elements
- App-icon characters that emphasize the ‘deleting’ message
Access vs. Ownership
Millennials kicked off their adult life at the start of the Great Recession. In contrast to their baby boomer parents - Millennials aren’t looking to have a vacation house by age 40. They might not own homes at all. Millennials prioritize personal and professional growth as keystones of success. This group is trying to maximize time and resources to live a full, healthy, happy life—using technology along the way. Millennials are getting married later, renting longer, and have been a pivotal part of creating the gig and share economies.
To Millennials, access is often better than ownership. The flexibility and breadth of experiences offered by on-demand apps like Spotify, Lyft, Netflix, Rent the Runway, and countless other products have permanently rewired Millennials' expectations and preferences.
These ideas can give you a sense of the necessary nuance required in designing apps for a Millennial audience. Taking their needs and preferences into account when developing a product can significantly broaden your market potential.
Many digital products may be solutions for users spanning multiple generations. Check out our background articles on designing digital products for Gen X and Baby Boomers or learn more about designing for all.
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To attract customers to your digital product or platform, you’ll need to provide an experience that stands out. At a minimum, customers have baseline expectations and experiences you need to keep up with—but they’re looking for more than that. Technologies that provide personalized data experiences and real-life value will be the ones to delight companies and users alike. Owning your customer’s digital experience means understanding your user’s journey from beginning to end. By anticipating every touchpoint your user experiences, you can craft solutions that meet their needs at the right moment. Ultimately, digital products that do so will find loyal customers that keep on coming back. Here are some considerations you may stay aware of along the user’s journey as you create your customer’s digital experience. Seamless, Frictionless UX and UI Users expect a smooth and seamless digital experience from start to finish. That means everything from anticipating and displaying the content they need to automatically unlocking the door they’re walking up to—all without a glitch. One of the quickest ways to get your customers to thank you is by providing them with a seamless payment experience. Digital and contactless payment tools like Venmo, Cash App, Apple Pay, and Google Pay are easy options that users rate highly. These tools enable a connected user experience for quick payment within your app. Making it easy to pay is a win-win for everyone from a user experience and user interface perspective. Users are hungry for one-stop shopping enabled by the digital marketplace, and frictionless payments connect to your users’ digital wallets. An ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT) opens up even more opportunities to influence your customer through a seamless experience. For example, consider how an app like Turo changes its customer’s experience of arriving at the airport in a new city. Turo’s customers can skip the rental counter and walk right out to their weekend ride with a digital key, eliminating hassle on their weekend getaway. Time saved delivers real-life value to your user, and many will repeat the experience if it goes smoothly the first time. Data/System Integrations Better insights drive better business decisions. App and system integrations enable interoperability to help guide business operations and provide the right solutions needed in today’s market. Integrations can be a lot more exciting than you’d imagine at first glance. Here are two significant ways to use data integrations to help your customers: Bring people and data together, so your customers feel connected to what matters most. Then, you can serve up their favorite products and content on the platforms where they already work and play. Customize your customers’ experience to their set preferences to experience more comfort and continuity in their daily lives. For example, you can hide technical complexity and offer a seamless experience. Using this combination of approaches, you can deliver a level of personalization to your customers that feels authentic and unique to them. Imagine getting home and having the heat turned to the right setting, the lights dimmed to your preference, and your favorite playlist queued. This hyperconnected experience is only possible when devices and systems share data and “talk” behind the scenes—and the result is significant to the user. Provide Tools To Solve the Problem Owning your customer’s experience involves using experience-driven thought to anticipate your user's needs and behaviors at every step of their customer journey. Innovative companies are taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to anticipate the needs of their users and provide the data, insights, and tools they need to solve the problems they encounter. This approach benefits both sides, as customers are able to more quickly get to their solution, and companies reduce their customer service costs. Examples include interactive chatbots and virtual assistants. AI can answer a question, point you to resources, schedule a meeting, and do much more in these instances. Data itself is a crucial tool we provide users in many of the apps we create. For example, we’ve created products that allow users tools and insight into their home mortgages, enabling them to make the data-driven decisions that are best for them. By informing users of their current interest rate and when market interest rates are down, we provide timely refinancing suggestions and the tools to get it done within the product. We also developed a marketing platform that enables prominent technology vendors to arm their channel partners with tools to manage marketing campaigns with automated personalized content and analytics. Ultimately, we help consumers save money while increasing their brand loyalty and the likelihood they’ll become trusting, repeat customers. Set the Stage for Loyalty and Repeat Business Personalized experiences set the stage for loyalty and repeat business. The end of the user journey should feed into the next one—creating a cycle for brand loyalty from buyers who trust and want to reengage with your products continuously. Consider the stage set by Withings. Consumers have multiple entry points to buy across several connected healthcare products—all leading them to download the Withings app. When users buy their first Withings product, they gain experience with the app and develop trust in the brand. Their experience is uniquely personalized, aggregating their health data in one place and integrating it with native iOS and Android health apps. Once users have seamless, connected data built into their native health ecosystem, Withings devices are top of mind when they’re ready to buy another connected healthcare product. Loyalty and personalization is a dynamite combo that enables brands to target at the segment level with broad-based recommendations. Customers receive offers targeted not just at customers like them, but as individuals with uniquely relevant products, offers, and communications. InspiringApps & BrainTrust This content is a collaboration between InspiringApps and Brain+Trust.
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Three decades ago, when viewers watched Knight Rider covertly fight crime in an AI-driven, sentient sports car, artificially intelligent vehicles were a work of fiction, but the future is finally here. Consumers aren’t just driving with the help of interactive dashboard navigation; they’re also working, shopping, and living in a connected world thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and connectivity that’s stronger, faster, and more reliable than ever before. From house lights programmed to dim at a specific time of day to a wearable personal assistant in watch form, technology expansion and improved software integration have improved our lives with convenience and efficiency in our day-to-day world. We’re more connected than ever. Connectivity creates opportunities for companies to improve operations, encourage a good customer experience, and boost revenue. However, with exponential growth in available data, businesses must consider privacy, security, and transparency to their bottom line. Benefits of Connected Data The majority of data businesses collect is harmless and even necessary for a good user experience. Consumer-provided data, also known as first-party data, enhances app personalization that many consumers appreciate, creating a more useful digital product or application. Tech giants like Apple and Google collect data to connect services—maps, mail, searches, and app integration—seamlessly, which is much more efficient than asking users to submit their data anew for each program. While laws protect highly sensitive or confidential user data, other information—including search history, location, usage, and browsing history—is passed to businesses and advertisers. Companies use this data to personalize their experience across the IoT and serve up highly relevant ads. Third-party data is why you see ads for the exact product you researched. It helps cut through the clutter and gives consumers the information they need. Consumers can enjoy unique possibilities as data collection grows, and software and apps use it in more sophisticated ways. Using browsing data, app companies can anticipate needs based on time of day, location, or date (imagine an app that tells you where to eat based on your past restaurant experience—an end to the “where do you want to eat” conversation). It can help small businesses reach more of their target market to thrive. Data collection and analysis can even keep us safer by predicting criminal activity through early warning systems. The future is developing quickly. Here’s what consumers and business leaders need to know about data privacy and security in today’s connected world. Data Privacy For two decades, data privacy was an afterthought for many companies. Data harvesting gave unprecedented access to customer insights and market analysis, and many built their business through third-party data. Consumers primarily offered their information without considering how companies would use it, while companies considered data a trade secret and operated outside government oversight. Today, consumers are more protective of their data and have become increasingly distrustful of sharing their private information. Data collection practices needed to change, and we’ve witnessed a shift toward more transparency and more choices for consumers in the last few years. Your User and Their Privacy Data privacy, at its core, revolves around transparency. Consumers need to know how you collect and store their data and why, when, and what data you collect. Typically outlined in a privacy statement on a company website, privacy policies create trust between a company and the consumers they serve. Data collection is a balancing act. Consumers have noted that companies who ask for too much information, create complex or confusing privacy policies, and use inaccurate information about themselves used in marketing topped the list of what leads to distrust. Companies should be acutely aware of how they ask for information from consumers and empower the users by giving them back control over what they share. Relying on first-party data and collecting and storing it ethically shows respect for your consumers. When consumers know a company has their best interests in mind, they are more likely to continue building trust with the company for years to come. Current in Big Tech One of the most powerful shifts in consumer privacy came in an iOS upgrade for Apple products aimed to protect users’ data. The iOS15 upgrade included the option to mask IP addresses and block third parties from tracking email opens, an iCloud-based subscription that prevents sites from tracking Safari users, and an email address “cloaking” feature that provides a fake email address. Google upped the ante by announcing they would phase out third-party cookies by 2022 and were not planning to build alternative options to track users as they browse on Google products. After some backlash from the online advertising industry, Google created a Privacy Sandbox initiative to create website standards that access first-party data while still protecting users. The switch to a first-party data-driven world has considerable implications for development and marketing alike. Developers will have to get more creative with asking customers for their data—email forms, surveys, location data, and browsing behavior. Marketers will, in turn, use this data to identify consumer insights, which means they’ll have to be more in tune with their customers’ needs and continuously iterate to discover what works. Advertising may be more challenging as marketers won’t have a chance to rely on platforms like Facebook or Google to find their ideal customers. Data Security Consumers expect companies to use their data responsibly and protect it from bad agents—scammers and cybercriminals who collect and expose data for profit. Data breaches increased 68% in 2021 from the previous year—the highest total ever. Despite the attention to data protection, more than 294 million people were affected by these cyberattacks, which focused on smaller, targeted attacks on smaller businesses. Data privacy and data security go hand in hand. As companies work on compiling first-party data and building trust with their customers, cybercriminals will more heavily target individual companies protecting this data. Our ever-present connectivity, including smart cars, smart homes, smart devices, and the overall IoT, brings another dimension to data privacy because there are more access points for cybercriminals to steal personal data. Now is the time for development and cybersecurity professionals to double down on protecting this data. As your company builds software and digital products, ensure they are secure by design. Develop fool-proof security measures to prevent theft, detect theft early, and respond to security threats. Create code review policies, audit trails, and vulnerability scans to find security gaps. Consumers are accustomed to the ease and personalization of their apps and software integrations, and companies rely on the information these consumers provide to make informed decisions that benefit their customers. The connectivity ecosystem is a delicate balance between too much and not enough, but the future of data is in good hands. InspiringApps & BrainTrust This content is a collaboration between InspiringApps and Brain+Trust.
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