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Marketing to Millennials: Reaching the Customer of the Future

This article originally was published in Credit Union Journal

By Meredith J. Deen, COO at FMSI

The millennial generation, by many estimates born between 1982 and 2000, will soon be coming into preeminence. This group—the credit union (CU) customer of the future, is at least as large as the baby boom generation (some experts predict immigration will swell their ranks to more than 81 million).

Statistics show this group has postponed many life decisions, such as marriage, children and home ownership, longer than earlier generations. Nevertheless, the oldest millennials are now in their 30s and are beginning to make those life decisions, which can result in new revenue streams for CUs. That stream will only swell in the coming years.

Marketing to millennials will require a different strategy than for their baby boomer parents. These individuals grew up in an era of social media and the Internet. They prize different values and want to do business in different ways. So, how can CUs win the hearts of this group, now, and retain it as they age into their prime?

Millennial Mindset

To market effectively to millennials and keep their business, CUs must get to know them. For example, even though millennials are very digitally focused, several surveys (including one from TD Bank), indicate nearly half these customers (49%) prefer branch interaction when they make financial decisions.

They may make deposits on their phone and withdrawals at the ATM, but when it comes to the services CUs depend upon for revenue, they want to speak with a knowledgeable, live person. This is great news for CUs, if they can keep this generation happy in between and during visits.

Based on our research and the experiences our clients have shared with us, we have determined that millennials want to use (and be reached through) digital media when they are outside the branch. When they come for a visit, they want a productive, technically empowered experience where they feel appreciated.

We asked one of our CU clients that has been successful marketing to millennials to share a few of their strategies. Here’s what Beverly Wagner, VP of Member Service at AltaOne Federal Credit Union, said:

“AltaOne Federal Credit Union has conducted research on millennials in our field of membership and determined the majority of them prefer convenient, online tools.” Some of the options strategies Alta One has used successfully include:

 

  • Mobile apps
  • A free personal financial manager
  • Online banking such as bill payer, mobile check capture and online account opening 

Wagner continues, “AltaOne also appeals to young adults through our robust social media presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, which engage our members and feature AltaOne’s active involvement.”

In the Branch

In taking this approach, of course, CUs will be empowering their millennial customers to meet their own needs almost exclusively outside the branch. They are building relationships, but how can they get them to come inside?

To ensure those 49% of members come to the branch when they are ready to make financial decisions, CUs can use digital channels—Facebook and Twitter, for example—to promote value-add products such as loans and investment services. Email promotion can also be effective. According to a 2015 report from Statista, 92% of millennials use email, whereas 74% and 72% use text messaging and Facebook, respectively.

To bring millennials into the branch, CUs should adopt high-tech platforms and strategies that ensure the visit will be enjoyable and fruitful. Options include digital appointment-setting mechanisms that let them confirm, in advance and from the comfort of their PC or mobile device, a time to see a specialist. Another option is a digital lobby sign-in system (tablets are popular), which gives millennial members confidence they are “in the digital queue.”

If digital lobby sign-in systems can be tied to member service sessions (with details stored in databases), they will allow the CU to leverage important details, such as discussions of upcoming life events and needs, that they can use outside the branch. If a CU representative discovers, for example, that a millennial is graduating or getting married on a certain day, the CU could congratulate him or her via email or Twitter in recognition of that event.

At all levels, interactions should be respectful and friendly, and they shouldn’t just be about selling. It is also important to disseminate relevant, well-crafted messages on an appropriately timed basis, both inside the branch and out, to avoid being dismissed as untrustworthy.

A Millennial Future

Millennials require a different way of thinking than was prevalent when baby boomers (and their parents before them) relied on the branch for everything. However, that doesn’t mean the conversation can’t be productive, today. Speak to this new breed of customer through their channels, gain their trust by understanding them and meeting their needs, and you’ll be pleased with the results.