Millennials & Money

Crowd DNA's business and strategy director, Sarah Brierley, on how the financial services industry can tune up its offering to meet Gen Y and Z demands...

Comprising nearly a quarter of the UK population, millennials are a significant part of the financial services market. Crowd DNA’s expertise comes from a wealth of experience researching this dynamic audience for the likes of Channel 4, Converse, MTV, Sony Music, Red Bull, Twitter and, recently, a huge global study for Facebook.

We get social media, too. Our work has seen us examining the changing way that young people are using social media all around the world. We’ve started to see how these evolving behaviours are affecting attitudes and behaviours around financial services – an impact that will be ignored at a finance brand’s peril.

Millennial disconnect

Financial independence is among the most important future goals of young people today – second only to being happy. In fact, millennials rank financial independence higher than being part of a loving family, having a close circle of friends and discovering their interests & skills.

Hand in hand with financial independence is of course the use of financial services. But it seems that financial services brands are struggling to connect with young people – a recent survey by BNY Mellon and the Saïd Business School found that 58% of UK millennials believe they haven’t seen products targeted at people like them; they’re also more likely to turn to their parents for financial advice (48%) than their bank (24%).

So where does this leave brands?

We’ve examined millennials’ changing social media habits and come up with five implications for financial services brands wishing to engage this young audience:

  1. Utility apps

There’s been a huge rise in simplified single-purpose apps in social media and beyond – in fact, many larger apps are breaking up their functionality into smaller single-purpose apps (think Facebook’s Messenger or Instagram’s Hyperlapse).

What single-purpose apps can your brand provide millennials? The key to success here is offering an incredibly useful function as simply and effectively as possible – so the app becomes a frequently-used ‘must-have’.

  1. Everything is gamified

Being ‘always on’ breeds a culture of instant gratification among millennials, and products like Facebook and Candy Crush go a step further, using a clever system to hook users into habit-forming behaviours. The theme here is reward: millennials have grown to expect rewards – whether implicit or explicit – for everything they do.

How can your brand make millennials feel rewarded? – for engaging with you, for desirable behaviours (eg saving), for loyalty, and so on.

  1. Selective sharing

Millennials have become selective in their sharing, using simple, single-purpose apps to communicate with carefully-curated groups. They will follow/friend/speak to some brands on social media – but not all of them, and financial services brands in particular need to be careful how they engage with millennials on social platforms.

But despite the caution required, social media is a vital platform for financial services brands targeting millennials: it’s where friends share experiences (good and bad), advice and recommendations for anything and everything. Millennials can be powerful advocates but formidable detractors too. Brands need to do their best to ensure they’re being discussed positively online.

How can your brand identify and leverage its millennial advocates online? How can you best communicate directly and indirectly with millennials online?

  1. Meet the parents

Millennials turn to different ‘experts’ for different problems and decisions.

Unlike for many categories, such as fashion, where friends and social media rule, parents are a key influencer for young people making personal finance decisions.

So in addition to communicating to millennials, financial service brands should find ways to help parents advise their children. Ask yourself two questions:

  • What messages do millennials need to hear from your brand?
  • How you can best equip parents of millennials to guide their children to your brand?

Visual vocab

Communication among millennials is shifting to a vocabulary that relies on imagery over text. Using images to communicate is speedier, easier, more impactful and ideal for the mobile phone screen; images cross language barriers, they are more likely to get positive responses on social media and they’re easier than words to ‘get right’. The rise of Instagram, selfies, emojis, Snapchat and Vine all reflect this trend.

So young people now think in terms of showing, not describing. How can your brand adapt to millennials’ communication preferences? How can you tell your brand’s story visually and in a mobile-friendly way?