Mary Meeker released her widely anticipated annual Internet Trends report last month, prompting senior marketers from across the spectrum of the industry to mine the report and its findings to understand what it means for our sectors.
What’s apparent in the report both for our clients and us is the primary focus on future-proofing existing brands. This means ensuring that your products or services are geared towards new generations such as Millennials and Gen Z, who will form the backbone of tomorrow’s global economy.
In the last U.S. Census, Millennials overtook baby boomers as the country’s largest population segment, while in Europe and the rest of the world the spending power of this generation is increasing. Knowing how to communicate and engage with this consumer base is a challenge that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Here are five key trends from Meeker’s report that could help marketers understand and target this demographic.
1. Visual Conversations On The Rise
Millennials and Gen Z are understood to have shorter attention spans and switch seamlessly between screens and methods of communicating, so visual marketing is much more likely to grab attention and be shared.
Meeker’s report shows that while Facebook is still a leader in terms of usage among 18 to 34-year-olds, this age group is also spending significant time on Snapchat and Instagram. Individually, these consumers spend roughly over 1,000 minutes per month on Facebook, and 350 minutes a month on Snapchat and Instagram. Meanwhile, this age group is spending just over 100 monthly minutes on Twitter – which isn’t surprising and helps explain Twitter’s revenue problems.
Imagery on messaging apps is also increasingly important. Conversations are becoming increasingly visual, with the widespread availability and usage of emoticons and integrated keyboards, which allow users to embed information and images into their communications.
What does this mean? Clearly, long text messages, ads, or posts aren’t going to resonate with this generation. They buy into punchy messaging with images and video. If brands want to be heard, they need to grab people’s attention and learn how their target audience uses visuals to communicate.
Make no mistake, the rise of imagery will fundamentally change the way we communicate with each other. Staying on top of this trend has to be a priority for any business that wants to communicate effectively with its customers.
2. User-Shared Video Is Growing Fast
The rise of Snapchat as a social platform has also meant a rise in user-shared video. Views of videos on the platform hit 10 billion per day in the first quarter of 2016, compared to just one billion views a day in the fourth quarter in 2014. Brands are capitalising on this growth through sponsored filters. Brand activation by Taco Bell and Gatorade during the U.S. Super Bowl are great examples. Users could use free filters to transform their faces into pieces of branded content.
Brands are quickly seeing the benefits of becoming part of this conversation and giving consumers something back in the form of free personalisation.
Snapchat Discover also appears to be reaching young mobile consumers for news; the Reuters Institute’s 2016 Digital News Report says that more than 20% of Buzzfeed’s traffic comes from Discover, while for Cosmopolitan it generates three million views every day.
This is great news for brands. Not only does video content have much more share-ability, but it also enables brands to engage with consumers for longer periods of time, giving them a larger window through which to get messages across. So long as you make sure you respect the platform and produce videos that people genuinely enjoy, this trend will be a hugely profitable opportunity.
3. Instant Messaging First
One striking finding from Meeker’s report is the different forms of communications each generation prefers. There’s definitely no one-size-fits-all model for brands.
Some 64% of baby boomers prefer communicating via telephone; and Gen Y now prefers to use the internet and social media. Given that this is where people are spending most of their time, it makes sense for brands to ensure customer and support services are adapting accordingly.
This is most pertinent for ecommerce platforms, serving as a way to tackle basket abandonment because the checkout is too complex, or to resolve issues with real-time guidance.
Meeker highlights the example of hotel group Hyatt, which started offering CRM through Facebook Messenger in November 2015. Within a month the company experienced a 20X increase in engagements via such messages.
The rise of messenger apps as a customer service tool will also coincide with wider use of automated chatbots. Take UK newspaper The Guardian and its recent experimental Sous-Chef chatbot that sends out cooking recipes depending on the commands received from the user. A smart idea, it is hoped this experiment will extend the news publication’s food and recipe content beyond its website.
For CMOs, the insight is clear: messaging apps allow brands to engage with their customers on a more human level, and on a platform that their customers are familiar with. Brands should be looking at ways of utilising these apps and services to strengthen the relationship they have with customers and to provide a more seamless purchase journey.
4. Curators And Sharers
In her report Meeker defines Millennials as curators and sharers of content. Through their heavy use of Facebook and Twitter, they are used to accessing news and content via the filter of their friends and contacts, then share content that appeals most.
Away from social media, they select what TV content they want to watch and when, whether through Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and more. In the U.K, the BBC moved its BBC3 channel online to align to the way this generation watches content.
This demonstrates how the power has shifted in favour of this consumer base and highlights how it’s increasingly difficult for brands to get their messages across to this generation. Brands and marketers need to offer engaging content that Millennials will want to curate and share with one another. If your content is boring, irrelevant, or offensive—you won’t become a part of the conversation.
5. Creators And Collaborators
While Millennials are happy to share content that is created for their interests, Gen Z prefers to create and collaborate. This ties in with the rise of Snapchat and Instagram, as well as other platforms such as Periscope and Facebook Live. These apps have in-built editing tools, and Gen Z is using them to create content and for it to be seen by large audiences.
In essence, Gen Z just wants to be heard. Giving consumers the ability to personalise or customise an experience allows them to be part of the conversation whilst producing something they want to share with others.
One of the most famous user-shared videos this year is Candace Payne’s Facebook Live video, where she puts on a Star Wars Chewbacca mask purchased from U.S. retailer Kohl’s. The video has now reached 2.9 million likes, 158 million views, and 3.3 million shares on Facebook. Kohl’s was only mentioned twice in the video, but that was enough for it to become the leading app in the U.S. iOS store, with demand for the Chewbacca mask dramatically increasing.
Kohl’s and Hasbro have been quick to capitalise on the attention and have used Candace to garner further attention and goodwill from her followers through subsequent videos. This is an interesting case study for brands to pay attention to, as mobilising your fans and brand ambassadors is a great way of tapping in to Gen Z’s desire to create.
Data and reports are a wonderful way in which we can identify and spot growing trends, and Meeker’s Internet Trends report is, perhaps, the most in-depth and valuable report for the digital industry.
The overarching message is clear: Millennials and Gen Z are completely altering the way the marketing industry works. Brands need to change to meet these new demands, understanding the new language that future consumers are using and the platforms that they communicate with. For brands who can adapt quickly and appropriately, the benefits are there for the taking. For those who don’t, the battle to stay relevant over the coming years will be fierce.