Millennials are NOT that Complicated

By Sarah Timmins
Social Media Manager
World Council of Credit Unions

Credit union leaders are increasingly realizing that millennials represent both the biggest hurdle and membership growth potential for credit unions everywhere. The extensive amount of coverage and research on millennials that flood news feeds and social platforms poses the assumption that we (millennials) are so persnickety in our banking and mobile needs that we actually threaten financial institutions. Marketers are dying to just “figure us out.” Not to mention, the world’s given us quite the reputation on and off the web. Check out Google’s current top three most searched terms about millennials:

The truth is, we are hybrids of so many different social, political and economic shifts that we are more diverse than we are homogenous. Frankly, the more people generalize or treat millennials like they are some foreign species, the harder it will become to successfully form an honest, loyal relationship with them.

We don’t hang out like this:

And most of us don’t take selfies all day, like this:

We are also well aware of how things used to be. Many of us did not use computers until junior high, and were already teenagers when the first smartphones came out. Just like older generations, we stood in awe as new innovative technologies released for the first time—over and over again.

Like every other generation, we have endured a significant amount of change as we approached adulthood. The digital revolution has produced new rules and expectations of communication. New technologies, political scandals, economic downfalls, advancements in gender diversity and gay rights were all issues we frequently discussed amongst ourselves in and out of school. Moreover, “we were impacted at a young age by the events of 9/11, dot-com busts, corporate scandals, market crashes, and wars in the middle east” (Armour, 2005). The list goes on and on. The point is, the significant amount of social and economic changes we have withstood has left many of us with no choice but to embrace—if not pursue—change.

Generally speaking, these changes give us a natural flair for inspiration when we are introduced to new technology, ideas or products. We’re commonly referred to as “early adopters” in comparison to older generations. In fact, we are 2.5 times more likely to be early adopters than any other generation. If new technology or financial “disruptors” can make us more connected, thrilled, engaged or keep our lives as convenient as possible—the more the merrier. It’s as simple as that. We split dinner bills and utility expenses. We share Uber rides, we pay back our parents, and we’re over the idea of “IOUs.” For these reasons and many others, we are all about small, quick, peer-to-peer digital payments, and there is no going back. The annual transaction value of online, mobile and contactless payments will reach $4.7 trillion by 2019, up from over $2.5 trillion this year, according to Juniper Research. Compared to the 50+ age group demographic, millennials are over ten times more likely to consider using peer-to-peer lenders, according to FICO.

For credit unions, the key is deciding which transactions are routine for millennials, and which are not. Why are they using mobile banking? For what, and how often? Mobile banking technology must be used in different ways depending on the nature of the transaction. This, in turn, helps guide your design team to produce mobile banking features that are practical for this generation.

Speaking of technology, the constant flow of stimuli we encounter every day has us—and other generations—craving simplicity. We are intentional with how we use the web, and want to be able to get things done on the go. We are research-oriented and take peer reviews seriously. If we need a new product, many of us scan through Facebook, Yelp or Amazon user reviews before making a decision. Why? Over time, our experiences have led us to assume “that marketers have negative intentions and that their sole intention is to deceive consumers into making purchases” (Kinley, Josiam and Lockett, 2010). In a nutshell, we trust our peers to give us the most reliable information. For example, when we like our credit union, we refer others. According to FICO, close to 60% of millennials have recommended their financial institution to friends in the past.

In addition to reliance on our peers, we tend to be emotional about money.

This should not be a surprise, given that most of us experienced some type of side effect from the global economic recession and the skyrocketing cost of higher education. Due to our own struggles with finances, many of us turn to alternative banking providers in order to find the lowest possible fees and most convenient access. Like other generations, we seek to build a better financial future for both our families and ourselves. A recent article in The Financial Brand noted how emotions play a significant role in what products consumers seek to satisfy their physical and physiological needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory that most people in financial services are familiar with, especially because three out of the five levels inherently relate to money. The article makes an important point that the creation of new digital technology and making it readily available is really only half of the challenge. Building something that is aesthetically beautiful, with empathy and intention built in for the user, will grow your member relationships. In the end, when technology is coupled with empathy and designed for the human experience, it’s invaluable to every generation.

“When did the banking industry decide that a consumers’ emotional experience is secondary to the devices it supports, the channels they promote and the payments they process?”

“When did the banking industry decide that a consumers’ emotional experience is secondary to the devices it supports, the channels they promote and the payments they process?”

Which brings me to my final point: credit unions are (unfortunately) not effectively reaching us.

I am confident that if my generation was simply aware of the differences between banks and credit unions, and if credit unions better prioritized the convenience of their services, we would see a surge in credit unions’ young adult membership growth. Credit unions hit the bulls-eye in terms of representing the socially responsible choice for banking, but they miss the mark in getting the word out. An estimated 81% of Gen Y consumers use Facebook every day (Schawbel, 2012), but banking marketers are underusing or even misusing social media. This is essentially “wasting social media’s potential to facilitate as a communication medium for the targeted ads marketers need to develop in order to lure Millennial customers.”

Credit unions can no longer depend on their aging membership—Baby Boomers and Generation X—to maintain growth. Take it from Simon Sinek, who has said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

Credit unions need to show millennials what they believe in, just as much as they need to show millennials what unique products they offer. Instead of looking at us like we’re a generation from outer space, please consider how recent events, technology and societal changes have shaped us into the generation we are today. When you take a step back, we really are not that complicated.