Designing Experiences For Gen Y

We just published a research report that I’ve alluded to in earlier posts called “The Gen Y Design Guide.” The research examines how Gen Y (ages 18 to 27) are different from older consumers and defines a set of implications for designing experiences. Here’s the executive summary from the research…

Gen Y consumers are a unique breed. But what exactly makes them different from their elders? Our research unearthed nine attributes of Gen Yers’ social, emotional, and mental makeup that shape their perception of interactions. To reach these young consumers, we’ve identified four design approaches: immediacy, Gen Y literacy, individualism, and social interactivity. To truly engage Gen Y, firms should create a Gen Y advisory board and apply Gen Y design approaches across touchpoints.

To get a sense of the world of Gen Yers, just take a look at the lyrics from a top-rated song “Crank That” from Soulja Boy:

Soulja Boy Crank That

What?!?! I have no idea what that means, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to know.

Our research uncovered the following key attributes of Gen Yers: 

  • Socially Fluid And Highly Networked. Having gone through high school, college, or a first job, many Generation Yers are breaking away from their families and forging their own paths and networks. We found three characteristics that define Gen Yers socially. They are continually connected, speak their own language, and are influenced by peers.
  • Emotionally Searching For Their Identities. Adolescents and early adults are at a period of self-discovery, shaped by their environment, education and activities, and social culture. That’s why they seek recognition and fame, enjoy absurdity – and humor with an odd slant, and embrace a variety of subcultures.
  • Mentally Fickle And Creative. Few Generation Yers can remember a time when technology – from DVDs to PCs – did not play an important part in their lives. Having grown up with deep exposure to media and devices, they skim text and information quickly, are easily bored, and are expressive and creative.

Based on the unique characteristics of Gen Y, we defined four design approaches for appealing to them:

  1. Design approach No. 1: immediacy. To overcome Generation Y’s fickle attention and broad use of media, firms need to hook Gen Yers in by quickly exposing value and then keeping them interested over time.
  2. Design approach No. 2: Gen Y literacy. Because Gen Yers are so influenced by peers and their own communication style, firms need to speak to them authentically and on their level.
  3. Design approach No. 3: individualism. Diverse and expressive, Generation Yers respond to experiences that allow them to personalize and customize their interactions.
  4. Design approach No. 4: social interactivity. Since Gen Y consumers are very social, firms should consider enabling them to communicate and express themselves.

The bottom line: If you want to attract and engage Gen Yers, stop treating them like Boomers. 

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

7 Responses to Designing Experiences For Gen Y

  1. Great summary Bruce. I recently finished a series of focus groups with Gen Y’ers for the banking industry and I would agree with most of your points. Re: your “No. 2: Gen Y literacy. Because Gen Yers are so influenced by peers and their own communication style, firms need to speak to them authentically and on their level.” It was very evident that this group has a very sensitive “marketing radar,” and if companies are not authentic/genuine in their communication with Gen Y they will shut you off very quickly, and they will not be in any hurry to let you back in to their ‘trusted’ circle. On your No 3. – I noticed they were more concerned with being able to do whatever tasks they needed to do quickly, more so than personalization.

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  4. Brett Hummel says:

    I think you have done a great job summarizing Gen Y’s characteristics. I do not know if you have considered this, but as a Millennial myself one of the most important things I value is having an organic structure. Millennials today have been taught and grown up working and discussing issues with adults, teachers, and authority figures not just hearing lectures. As a result I believe that products that seek to integrate young people into their brand as a contributor and not just as a customer will have greater success than those that do not.

    While not totally immune to advertising messages, I feel like our generation filters and disregards almost 95% of the messages that we are bombarded with. It therefore becomes incumbent on marketers to shift from telling us what is cool to actually listening to what we think. Gen Yers feel that the brands and items they buy reveal something about who they are and will respond much better to a company’s message if they feel integrated or a personal attachment with a brand or item.

    I think you your fourth point touches on how we like to organize, but I believe the desire for an organic structure goes even further: Millennials want a partnership with the brand they buy from.

    And yes you really do not want to know what the song means because I am sure that your company would make you take the lyrics down.

    Have a good one.

    • Bruce Temkin says:

      Hi Brett: Glad to hear from a Millennial! I think your comment about “organic” is a good one. Brands need to look for ways to include young consumers in a dialogue. Thanks for joining in the conversation.

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