The 2019 United States population is estimated at 238 million. Of that, 119 million, or 55%, is comprised of Generation Z and Generation Y. Considering the enormous impact of these millennials on product and service consumption, it is critical to understand these consumers from multiple dimensions, including their needs, sentiments and culture. By doing so, enterprises can comprehend millennials’ inclination to technologies and develop informed marketing strategies to evoke their interest, offer a complete brand experience and generate sales.
Organizations have started realizing millennials’ impact in the digital economy and have already included the “millennial consumer” as a key stakeholder in their digital business and technology strategy. To successfully acquire and retain these customers, enterprises should apply design thinking and platform thinking.
Design Thinking is a human-centric approach to problem solving, with empathy as the main driver to understanding the problem from a customer’s standpoint. Applying design thinking instills a culture of identifying multiple solution options, rapid prototyping and adopting a “fail fast” method.
Platform Thinking is reimagining the way capabilities are built, be they in-house or from the partner ecosystem. This approach combines design thinking and rethinking the way software is delivered via digital platforms that enable ecosystem integration and new ways to innovate at speed and scale.
This article, the first in a two-part series, will discuss how to apply Design Thinking skills for millennial customers. The second part will focus on how to apply Platform Thinking skills to realize outcomes by adopting a digital platform.
Design Thinking is a five-step process:
This is the core of human-centric design and sets the stage for a strong customer experience foundation. Here, companies must understand the customer in multiple dimensions. For millennials, the enterprise must know who they are demographically, what they do and why, their sentiments and emotions, and what they expect from similar products and services. The company then leverages that understanding in relation to a product or service. Organizations may gather insights thru several techniques, including surveys and interviews.
In this step, we distill the customers’ needs based on the outcomes from the Empathy phase. This translates to developing multiple points of view and creating a clear problem statement that makes sense. In this phase, an enterprise will define the millennials’ needs, pain points and challenges. This audience is hyper-connected, mobile-minded, driven by social media and is incredibly tech savvy. Convenience is the key driver for an engaging digital customer experience for millennials. Organizations should consider these broad areas when defining their platform, product or service.
Here, the goal is to generate several ideas that address the problem and move beyond the analyzed data/insights by reimagining how the product or service might solve the customers’ problem.
To illustrate this, consider some millennial use cases in the banking and retail industries.
- Opening a digital bank account from social media
- Social media is the primary way millennials interact. To attract and acquire millennial customers, leading banks have enabled digital account opening capabilities directly from social media platforms. They’ve achieved this by integrating with services that provide social-login credentials that enable the opening of a bank account from the customer’s preferred social-media platform. Personal details from the social login is automatically populated to the KYC form, while the data is protected in ways that adhere to regulatory requirements (such as GDPR).
- Using augmented reality in the retail consumer industry
- A retailer who is a pioneer in adopting digital technologies leveraged augmented reality to provide an enriching digital customer experience for millennials that allowed them to see how makeup looked on their face before making the purchase. Millennials used the app to select the makeup color and then positioned the phone in front of their face. By using facial recognition and AR technologies, the selected color appeared on the customer’s face. This increase immersion helped the brand increase its revenue, and the collected data was leveraged to drive personalized recommendations for other products, resulting in cross-selling opportunities.
In this step, the ideas generated during ideation will be realized by developing prototypes, storyboards and user/customer journeys. This may involve a role play or a walkthrough of the journey maps as scripted on a sticky note. As an example of this process, consider this mockup:
This step should result in gathering continual feedback from customers and gaining a sense of how the company (and its product or service) has empathized with the customers’ needs.
To conclude, applying Design Thinking with empathy and convenience as the drivers will enable a connected, personalized, and engaging digital customer experience for millennials. Many development tools exist (Google, Apple, etc.), transaction platforms are prevalent (e.g. Uber), technology platforms are everywhere (Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM, etc.) and experience-generation platforms abound (e.g. AEM and custom-developed experience platforms). These resources, if utilized strategically, can be seamlessly integrated with a digital platform to foster an organizational culture of open innovation and transformation while positioning the enterprise to engage millennial consumers for years to come.