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Millennials maximizing their online shopping potential

Reacting with gusto to the dramatically evolving patterns for spending money via the Internet, Millennials are spending like no other generation before them. New research indicates that those born in the ’80s and ’90s are outspending any other age group – both in stores and online.

 

Letting go of money

 

The study show that Millennials are the most likely of generations to drop $50 in the US or 50£ in the UK when they have a chance to so, no matter if shopping at home online or in person in the actual store. Generation Xers and Baby Boomers are not spending quite as much as the latest generation to have fully evolved into adulthood. Most likely, once Gen Z fully comes of age, this fully digital native batch will lead the pack in spending as well, as indicated by statistics on those born in the new century who have already joined the workforce and are spending like it.

 

Brand loyalty

 

By a small margin, young people of the Millennial generation are also most likely among the age groups surveyed to support particular companies when they felt their products, services and mission were aligned with their own. Millennials are also more likely to add more items into online carts when they are satisfied by the services provided by a company they like.

 

Subscription box boost

 

In the US, more subscription box business models for starting online income generation based around a particular niche were more popular than in the UK. The trend carried through for all generations. This popular multi-step model outlines how to go from idea to income, based on one’s Internet connectivity and networking skills for finding customers and giving them what they want.

 

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The rise of brand storytelling

Stories are more easily remembered than statistics and facts alone. Stories stimulate our neural activity. Stories also impact the brain’s sensory cortex. Such are just a few facts related to how stories do a better job than facts alone (but, of course, still very much need them). The union of facts and heart-stirring narratives is called brand storytelling, a phenomenon rapidly gaining currency among digital marketers, aka digital storytellers and content marketers.

 

The future of marketing

 

Brand storytelling capitalizes on and represents the nearly inevitable outcome of several trends, including buyers trusting information coming from fellow customers than from companies, the tendency to edit out advertisements from daily news feeds and streaming sites, the quest for authenticity in brands, decreasing brand loyalty, and the nature of the trend-setting, digital-native Gen Z.

 

Sponsoring values, not products

 

Advertisers are rebranding themselves as value-focused, which has always been be a tough sell. Creating interest in goods and services without blatantly looking like you’re selling them may not be a new challenge, but is an increasingly relevant one to meet in a world awash with information and multiple channels for exposure. Influencers are found attractive by their followers for their character and integrity, not their over loyalty to particular brands, let alone for being mouthpieces for sales and specials of the day.

 

There’s no publicity like free publicity

 

If the best stories write themselves, the most unscripted of plot twists can have the happiest of endings in terms of PR value. Which is to say, the best things in life are free. When a very obviously 21st-century coffee cup looking like it was from Starbucks worked itself into a bar scene from the premium streaming series “Game of Thrones” the gargantuan error generated for Starbucks what one industry expert valued to be no less than US$2.3 billion in free advertising. Some stories are too good to be true, and the great ones are too serendipitous to have been made up.

 

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And the innovators are…

Boston Consulting Group recently released its report “The Most Innovative Companies 2019: The Rise of AI, Platforms, and Ecosystems”. The companies at the top shifted slightly, and, ironically, are also those sometimes known for losing their knack for creative intentions.

 

Innovation means IT

 

The #1 position has been taken by Google, having replaced Apple at the top. The former #1 and new #3 has been in the news lately not so much for innovation and carrying on in the outside-the-box spirit of its late founder, Steve Jobs, but for a future focusing on streaming original series for fans of the brand. Apple has also been on the defensive in terms of sales of smartphones and other gadgets, with competition stiffening with the up-and-coming Huawei. The top 10 positions on the list of innovative companies were dominated by tech firms, which gives a good indication of how IT provides need to be on the ball and changing all the time, lest market shares and the advantages of leadership slip away. Just ask Nokia.

 

A Google will rise

 

Even the new #1, the world’s most famous search engine, will not impress everyone with taking over the top slot, as this can be seen as the inevitable position of a behemoth controller and provider of information that insists on getting its way. The king of SEO will be seen as innovative by size and influence alone, no matter what effects this may have on daily life, for good or otherwise. Amazon, an online good provider making bold plans for a whole new bricks-and-mortar shopping experience, placed second. Notable at #4 is bundling giant Microsoft, also no stranger of bullying competitors and customers with offers they can’t refuse.

 

Another fly higher

 

Meanwhile in other barometers of success, another firm worth mentioning is Singapore Airlines, which has long been the world’s most awarded airline. The carrier credits its successful campaigns and popularity with travelers by taking the approach that localization is hardly synonymous with translation, and that nuanced, contextual understanding of and respect for local audiences is essential in forging the right connections. The company’s latest tagline, ‘Making Every Journey Personal’ says it all about what happens when you live up to your own PR.

 

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Waiting for information alignment

Many key trends look ready to coalesce in ways that should make data more easily accessible and better organized. Only that for every innovative step forward, more questions and disruption is caused as well. What’s new? Well, plenty, actually. Voice search, led by the rise of Alexa and Google Home, is ready for big-time liftoff and will have interesting ramifications for SEO – which remains something both unquantified and essential for businesses. The same goes for video, which is becoming more popular on websites but is just as susceptible to the unpredictable, shifting nature of SEO.

 

A world of opportunity for storytellers

 

For public relations professionals, this presents the usual challenge and opportunity: for those with the right message and networks for amplifying messages, the rewards are great. Deeper, better content that connects meaningfully with buyers, in particular niches, remains essential and is more important than ever. Beyond the reach of big data and reaching target audiences, developing a rapport still matters, and remains built on trust and experience. This takes a proven track record more than algorithms and mere potential. What matters is data maturity: it takes time and energy to isolate trends and optimize today’s great opportunities for message sharing and profit.

 

In search of truths

 

This need for authenticity and balance in a world more marked by chance is well represented in the rise of the digital platforms for many traditional media that now have more online that hard-copy subscriptions. The successful shift has solidified and raised the standing of classic institutions such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Classical influencers still have their role in times threatened by fake news, and big data, which gives even larger importance to the need for veracity.

 

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Digital marketers, are you listening?

Podcasts have become widely popular in a short amount of time in the US. About 75% of trendsetting Generation Z – people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s – pay for a streaming or music service, compared to six out 10 among the not all that older Millennials (a third of whom say they listen to at least one podcast daily). Commuters and workers are coming more and more to value multitasking and making efficient use of time. This is indeed the Information Age, as a new study among on the popularity of podcasts in the US indicates.

 

Giving reason to radically rethink ideas related to digital distraction and shorter attention spans, Millennials are focused more than other age group on education podcasts, and along with Gen Zers are 5 percent more likely to play podcasts for motivation related to professional development than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The two younger generations were also more likely to listen to podcasts of 26 minutes, compared to older generations. Significant majorities in all generations believed that podcasts helped them in terms of intellectual growth. Older generations still saw them more as gadgets associated with downtime rather than the platforms for learning they have also become thought of among younger Americans.

 

Spreading the word

 

Most podcast fans want to share, but desire easier technology allowing for sharing snippets of sound rather than links requiring some fine tuning to get to the best sections. Spotify, Apple Podcasts and web browsers were cited as the most popular platforms for podcasts. Nearly a full tenth of the entire adult US population listen to at least one podcast a month, a trend that has shown significant increase. Good listeners are indeed out there, for anyone sharing the right messages…

 

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Marketing, automated

When you’re curious about what chance there is of rain, snow or something even more dramatic falling down on you, it’s good to know weather reports are reasonably reliable. While the forecasts for marketing trends may not yet be as accurate, they are getting better at indicating stormy conditions best avoided. Still in its infancy, this technology is called predictive analytics, and uses AI to help marketers forge ahead more confidently with strategy based largely on future customer behavior, in ways that would have looked risky just a few years ago.

 

PR, scientifically

 

The science takes a variety of statistics and facts about current trends to build models that are getting better at giving a good indication of how consumers will spend their money, based on analysis of past behavioral patterns. The big idea is that this will help save a ton of money on splash-out marketing campaigns and help PR agencies and their clients improve ROI numbers. Six out of 10 entrepreneurs questioned in a recent study said that think predictive analytics is an extremely significant trend, while nearly three-fourths of them said it would more definitely be so within two years.

 

Why predictions matter

 

Beyond lucrative applications for predicting the wants and needs of buyers of all kinds of products and services, the technology will be useful for prioritizing and qualifying leads, focusing publicity and campaigns on more targeted audiences, and more efficient introduction and testing of new items in the market. Predictive analytics is one more indicator of how big data is changing and enriching the information landscape in countless ways.

 

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The shifting but significant nature of SEO and social media

Recent research shows that while almost two-thirds of small businesses have social media accounts, just over half of them have a social media marketing strategy. While that may not be as dangerous as buying and driving a car without getting a driver’s license first, there is plenty of room for more prudence on behalf of firms of any size attempting to make best use of their online potential. Even when you don’t know all of the terrain that lies ahead, roadmaps are useful.

 

Social media marketing coming of age

 

Over 55% of these businesses with a social media presence have an in-house team managing these webpages, while 37% of them use social media software to help maintain their social media accounts. The most popular ways in which these firms are tracking the success of their social media presence is engagement (24%), leads/conversation (24%), clicks to other websites (18%) and audience growth (16%). There remains significant reluctance to jump into new waters without a sense of what lies beneath.

 

Don’t forget SEO, even if it’s mysterious

 

Even more perplexing than attempting to optimize usage of social media is managing your website’s SEO, since, well, we’re not quite sure exactly what it is or how it works, actually. Over 60% of small companies place greater importance on social media marketing than SEO planning. Just over a third of small businesses have an SEO strategy, although about a quarter of them plan to have one by the end of 2019. This lack of planning is perhaps understandable when considering the shifting, unreliable nature of what SEO is, and how search engines like Google define it. But it pays to pay attention and be ready for what comes next, when some kind of calm and standardization comes about after the stormy conditions defining the online world of today.

 

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Who’s your CSR czar?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been with us for around a quarter century now, but is rooted in philanthropic concepts as old as time, which go to the heart of what society could or should be based on. The tendency to want to be seen as doing good and being fair-minded has long been a concern to leaders of businesses, nations and other institutions. Not least of which since it helps justify their continuing to retain power and influence, for – at least in their minds – the greater good.

 

The authority to help out

 

While CSR is still seen as secondary to the overriding purposes of many firms, it easily aligns with their overarching mission statements, which describe companies’ ideal societal impacts, beyond profits. At a minimum, companies facilitate the betterment of the lives of employees and their dependents. Meanwhile, governments tend to see themselves as providers or at least enablers of the SR part of CSR. But as big data comes about, transparency increases and bottom lines and product origins become more traceable, CSR in a wider sense of ethics increasingly affects not just local environments, but carbon footprints felt globally.

 

The Gen Z factor

 

People with little to know knowledge of the last millennium or life before smartphones are now coming of age, shopping online, and expressing tendencies to spend their money on companies they see as taking stands on issues and sourcing products and services in ethical, sustainable and documentable ways. Several multinationals like Netflix, Google and IBM have reached out to young consumers who have expressed interest in supporting companies aligned with their progressive, modern values. Many brands are shifting to move away from certain segments of the public and more overtly marketing and positioning themselves to take better advantage of new demographic realties.

 

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Influence through the ages

While there’s tendency to look at modern, IT-focused folks these days as something like minions, overly reliant on our smarter-than-us smartphones and losing the ability to think independently, the truth is humans have never been all that hard to persuade. We are easily influenced, and influencers have long been toying with our perceptions of ourselves and how we might ideally perceive ourselves. But while we may not be fully in charge of our own destiny, we can at least be alert enough to retain significant influence in deciding who we let influence us in the digital age.

 

Incognito by nature

 

Two years ago, the US government called on social media influencers to be more open about who they are and who their sponsors are. The relevant regulating board noted that “clarity counts” in its advice for the industry to self-regulate, calling into question vague attributions such as #collab, #ambassador or #spon. Yet the lack of clarity and anonymity of those posting messages provides them the cover of security when whistleblowing is called for – not to mention good old-fashioned privacy.

 

All’s Well that Ends Well

 

This play by William Shakespeare’s play includes the advice of one character to another that if you “eat, speak, and move, under the influence of the most receiv’d star” the chances of career advancement and steering clear of trouble are higher. But while a full fourth of the master wordsmith’s many plays include the word “influence”, rarely is the word presented in a positive context. “Influence” derives from the Latin words for “inflow”, and indeed in many ways being influenced is as natural as breathing. But we must be on guard. Cautionary tales abound, and the truism “buyer beware” retains significance in the digital era. Be mindful of the influence that blows your way, and be careful of what you take to be truth.

 

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Who do you think you’re influencing?

In a wild west town called Influence, self-made people with genuine followers are everywhere, as well as a fair share of hucksters, charlatans, and big-talking wannabes. Some deliver what they say they can. Many don’t. Oftentimes, the truth is somewhere in between, and companies need to be shrewd in sizing up the good, the less than good, and the genuinely influential aspects of people contacting them and interested in forming ‘partnerships’… Meanwhile in the Philippines, one resort was so fed up with dodgier influencers looking for freebies that it decided it was high time to take a stand.

 

Even in paradise, please try to ‘actually work’

 

The Banana Beach Club resort in the surfers’ paradise of Siargao won many admirers (and a few critics), when it fired out a sharply barbed missive worded like this: “Help out there. We are receiving many messages regarding collaborations with influencers, Instagram influencers. We kindly would like to announce that White Banana is not interested to ‘collaborate’ with self-proclaimed ‘influencers’”. Kindly, but firmly, the resort zinged, “And we would like to suggest to try another way to eat, drink, or sleep for free. Or try to actually work.”

 

The Siargao way

 

Noble-minded but less followed influencers may not be welcome at the Banana Beach Club, while brash-sounding pros who actually provide results will find doors open, at least a crack. A word of advice to those asking to collaborate but less than capable of bringing home the KPIs: companies are genuinely interested in those delivering real digital influence. But if your PR experience is more big ideas, and less of a track record, be ready for rejection. That being said, it never hurts to ask.

 

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