Chris Gorell Barnes, founder of Adjust Your Set
demystifies how businesses can build ‘relationships’ with millennials
Courting used to involve boldly approaching a stranger in a nightclub. But has digital has transformed all that. These days, opportunities for successful relationships are just swipe away. And the same applies to businesses and brands.
If the secret to business growth is developing customer lifetime value through nurturing stronger B2C relationships, we have the Internet to thank in spades for bringing us closer to consumers. Digital platforms and social media mean we can engage with customers as individuals, communicating with them in a more personal – and personalised – way than ever before.
Cynics, however, pour scorn on the idea that businesses can have ‘relationships’ with customers, insisting people use digital to interact with genuine friends, not corporations masquerading as pals. Fortunately, the latest research from Adjust Your Set’s second Youth State
report suggests the cynics are wrong.
Youth State research was commissioned to gauge the ‘digital wellbeing’ of 16 to 24-year-olds by updating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with a digital twist. The survey revealed that the nation’s emerging customer base is happy to engage in a little ‘romance’ with the businesses that serve them.
In fact, the research shows that 16 to 24-year-olds are hungry for these relationships. When questioned about the impact of digital connectivity on real world relationships and on which relationships were most enhanced by digital media, the business-consumer relationship was rated as third most improved.
Young adults value online relationships with businesses because, in our era of digitally-led heightened transparency, they want and expect to see the cogs behind the scenes. Online relationships help them feel empowered by facilitating a fast track to insider intel whilst also fostering a priceless sense of trust; the secret behind relationship longevity.
Even more crucially, though, this age group recognises that befriending businesses will result in valuable content. Millennials, being digital realists, understand the content they receive in return for cosying up to businesses online is a marketing exercise. But if the content is useful or entertaining, the underlying motive isn’t important.
One Youth State respondent cited sportswear company, Sweaty Betty, as the ultimate creator and giver of brilliantly executed and useful content. She couldn’t praise their free exercise videos highly enough.
This is testament to the power of branded content; something that 21-year-old Alice summed up as: “For me, it’s a feeling of getting a chance to get something from a company without ever once having to pay for it.”
The end user receives something useful and free, while the business finds a successful way to extend its marketing, illustrating how branded content is as a low-cost way to build advocacy and transform marketing into a value-added service.
Young guns who’ve only just started earning genuinely appreciate online relationships with businesses that reward them. But – crucially – the content cannot be ‘interruptive’: it must not be forced down their throats, come across as blatant advertising or serve no useful purpose.
Youth State respondents only rated content that offered something useful. So making an online equivalent of an advert is pointless because relationships only blossom with the right type of content. Millennials inherently understand the value exchange that’s going on here; and businesses need to keep up.
Digital platforms are the perfect place for businesses to woo young customers into online relationships. This delicate rapport will crumble if companies act like stalkers by taking the interruptive approach. But a spot of courting via beneficial and engaging content creates a strong value exchange between both parties. And such double-sided satisfaction is surely the Holy Grail of marketing.