by Julia Ahlfeldt (@JuliaAhlfeldt) If millennials were hard to engage, Gen Zs are even harder. So what, then, can brands do to protect themselves?
Generation Z is the most-educated and -connected generation in history and have an unprecedented power to make or break brands. They expect agility, want personalised products and services, and rate great experiences over price. They also tend to be fickler about brand loyalty. Gen Z’s have so much choice, and know how to find what they’re looking for, that they can switch and choose what they like, when they like it.
Brands must offer phenomenal experiences across every touchpoint in their customer journey. I realise phenomenal is a strong word to use but, if Gen Zs’ experience of a brand is not seamless and engaging, they will quickly find one that is.
Keep them keen
Customer-lifetime value is a term brands and their managers are very familiar with. It is, after all, the commercial holy grail as it costs seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain one. But it’s got a whole lot harder to keep the next generation of consumers keen. Price, product, placement and promotion aren’t the only key differentiators; experiences are, too.
Gen Zs expect websites to be responsive and easy to use. They demand personalisation to the point of individualism. They want information at, quite literally, their fingertips. And they expect a brand to be engaging and conversational in their interaction.
How brands can deliver
One word: data. Most brands are sitting on mounds of it. Collected by clever CRM platforms, and operational systems, brands have access to information about their customers’ wants, needs and actions, yet few are able to extract it.
All of this data is difficult to sift through. That’s where AI comes in. Machine-learning-enabled data analytics allows businesses to make sense of massive amounts of data in real time. This type of supercharged information processing underpins innovations such as chatbots, predictive marketing and virtual reality. These innovations unlock a world of possibility for engaging, personalised experiences that are also seamless.
Brands who get it
Common examples and customer experience frontrunners are Apple, Uber and Spotify. Yet smaller brands are also catching on and creating brand interactions that tick all the right AI boxes.
Take the Sephora app for instance. This mobile app allows customers to use the selfie function on their mobile phone to ‘try on’ different makeup looks. The app taps into the novelty of augmented reality (which is only made possible through AI). It’s fun and engaging, provides the ultimate personalised experience, and also creates awareness about products that the customer might not have otherwise tried out.
Another great example of where a brand has integrated AI into its experiences is MultiChoice. It has a call centre of 1500, all there to help customers resolve queries. To improve this experience, the video entertainment brand uses IBM’s Watson Assistant to support its call-centre agents through a virtual assistant chatbot called Tumi. Through her AI capabilities, she delivers a speedier service to subscribers in an increasingly tough operating market.
As Gen Zs’ income levels rise along with their age, brands — from clothing to insurance to multimedia entertainment — will need to have a far firmer grip on what their customers want, and create experiences that deliver. It’s likely that those who invest in technology and AI early enough will be the ones that will win.
Julia Ahlfeldt (@JuliaAhlfeldt) is a certified customer experience professional (CCXP). For more must do’s and don’ts on how to keep customers returning again and again to buy from your brand, listen to her podcast, Decoding the Customer. She contributes the monthly column “The CX-Files”, which looks at current issues from a CX perspective, to MarkLives.
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