How to Engage Millennials on Mobile (Not Just Kittens and Corgis)

We are all well aware of millennials. Every article written in the past couple of years seems to be about them. I am one; you are one; crikey, the person next to you might even be one too. And yet marketers are still intimidated by these supposedly smart, self-absorbed creatures with the attention span of kittens (just as ruthless too) and the spending power of King Midas.

Take a look around on the train home, or while you’re waiting in line for your coffee tomorrow morning. Where are all those tired millennial eyes focused? Of course, their smartphones. We live for these magical 6 inch rectangles. One moment we are working or socialising or attempting to cross a busy road, and the next, without realising it, our hands slip into our pockets, unlock a screen and hypnotise us in a world of infinite content.

Okay, ‘infinite’ may be a slight exaggeration, but it introduces a good point - there is a massive amount of competition vying for limited attention on these small screens. Hence the stampede of campaigns, like door to door salesmen interrupting your nightly streaming binge every couple of minutes. Sooner or later you’ll turn off the lights and put a thumb-tack on the doorbell. Or in this case you’ll delete the app or use an adblocker.

So...how do we target them? How do we engage with them? How do we avoid their scorn?

A Great Mobile Experience is Essential

Sure, you can send countless emails and let them sit unopened in the dreaded ‘Promotions’ tab in Gmail. I know that I rarely look at emails these days that aren’t work related. I do, however, spend a ridiculous amount of time in various mobile apps, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they are the key to our problem. eMarketer recently published the bombshell that apps are dominating mobile, with app time increasing to 86% of smartphone time compared to 14% for mobile web. This is both good news and bad news.

The bad news: how many apps have you downloaded recently, and how many of those apps do you still use on a regular basis? I bet the answer is ‘not many’ to both of those questions. You’ve got my sympathy vote though, it is hard and expensive to get people to download and use an app. The good news is that if you get your mobile experience right, you will be able to understand and interact with your users in a personal, contextual and timely way like never before. Now for more bad news - if you get your mobile experience wrong your app is up a certain creek without a paddle. We’re a picky bunch, and if something isn’t to our liking we’ll go elsewhere. This is a large part of the reason that 25% of apps are only opened once after they’ve been downloaded.

Once you have invested in creating a great app, and then pumped even more into user acquisition, don’t spoil it by unintentionally pushing us away. Like previous generations we are more likely to form attachments to brands that speak to us; just don’t bombard us with irrelevant notifications in the middle of the night. Make sure when you send a push notification that it goes to a person who it is relevant to, and at the right time. Be helpful when we first open the app by guiding us through it with a brief welcome tour or, even better, tip overlays which point out useful features at vital times to reduce friction (our attention spans are shorter than a Corgi’s tail, remember). When asking for our permission to be sent push notifications, make sure you let us know what value we’ll get from it, and reassure us that it won’t be annoying. We’re savvy to your methods, marketers, so you’ve got to do something different to convince us these days!

The above are just a few examples of techniques which are easy to implement, but make a huge difference to your app experience, and it should not be forgotten that a great mobile experience is not just key, it is imperative.