Marketers have been re-designing their online campaigns for several years now, in order to honor and to appeal to millennials. After all, they are rapidly becoming the largest group of consumers, spending a huge chunk of their money online. Those that have done a lot of research on this demographic understand the marketing paradigm shifts that must be made if their companies are going to get a market share of this business. They have discovered the following:
They want experiences, not sales pitches
They want to be entertained, inspired, and given good information
They want speed
They want to share
They engage with visuals, especially videos
They want relationships with companies and to join the conversation
Site designers would do well to keep these things in mind as they create websites that will engage millennials as they browse a site and make decisions to stay and, ultimately, purchase. Here are a few key “rules” when designing for this demographic.
1. It Must Be Mobile
Responsive design has as its root taking a PC website and altering it to “fit” mobile devices. A “mobile first” design has as its root beginning with mobile devices and then altering for larger screens. This make sense, given that 80% of millennials have smartphones and use them for the bulk of their online experiences. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Tapping and swiping must be as easy as possible
- Putting too many layers of navigation will increase bounce rates. Many sites are going to a one-page design on mobile, because swiping is easier. If you have to use tapping, keep fat thumbs in mind – and those buttons take up space.
- Everything must load quickly – 1-3 seconds and that goes for every page.
- Your mobile site should look the same as your mobile app – consumers should be able to move from one to the other without being confused. And your PC site should conform as well, even though you will have much more on it.
Example: Huffington Post
Lots of millennials get their “news and views” during their commutes or hanging out in coffee shops and the like. And most of them want more than just news items. Huffington Post long ago altered its format to be far more than a politics and current events site. It realized that millennials want that content but they also want entertainment, news on technology, and more. They altered their regular website accordingly.
Their mobile site is somewhat a mirror of it PC site, but headline are shorter and easily scanned/digested.
And in the top left-hand corner are the categories for tapping – note they are good-sized.
User Experience = Dollars
There’s just too much competition not to understand the millennials’ needs. They have very little patience with their phones, and they will certainly bounce if your sites have glitches, are hard or take too long to navigate.
Probably just as important as speed is finding what they want quickly. The navigation has to be really simple and compact. Again layers should be no more than two, and smaller sites could use a one-page design – think restaurants with just locations and menus. What more does someone want when looking for a restaurant close by? S/he does not need photos of happy customer dining, or smiling waitresses delivering food. How simple can you make the search?
Millennials want to get in and get out but also to suspend what they may be doing for an interruption, such as a phone call. Any design must be basic enough so that they can return to what they were doing and finish their task.
Example: Southwest Airlines
Here is Southwest Airlines mobile site:
Simple, direct, everything organized for speedy navigation – just what millennials want.
This is not meant to denigrate Southwest’s PC site landing page – it is well designed for easy navigation and the ability to get things done quickly.
Lots of extraneous detailed information about other offers, though, will add clutter to a mobile site. If anyone is interested in special offers on their mobile devices, they can always click on “view full site” and see more. But if they just want to make a reservation or check flight status, these “others” are just distractions.
3. The Lure of Video
Millennials love getting information via video – marketers and designers must work together on this, but using video will engage, if done well.
Example: Dollar Shave Club
In 2011, Michael Durbin and Mark Levine launched Dollar Shave Club, a monthly subscription razor club – razors delivered to the customer’s mailbox, and one less thing that millennials had to worry about. It was a huge hit, and didn’t take long to reach 500,000 customers. One of the biggest draws was the explainer video on the landing page. It’s hysterical.
When the decision was made to go mobile, there were some design changes. One thing that remained, however, was that video. It wasn’t very long before there were another 100,000 customers added. You can listen to a podcast interview with CEO Durbin about going mobile and its advantages here. (Note: Unilever just bought the company for an estimated $1 billion).
If, as a designer, you have not looked at the website, you must. It is perfectly suited for a millennial audience in terms of language, options, and easy navigation, and even a blog called “Bathroom Minutes.”
4. Make Customer Service Self-Service
One of the things millennials do not want to do is email or hang on the phone with a customer service department. Anything that you and your client can do that will allow customers to solve issues and problems on the site itself will be highly attractive to this demographic. In fact, recent surveys show that they prefer this method. This is one reason why YouTube “how to” videos have become popular. There are several ways to do this:
- Have discussion forums on the site. Millennials love to share their expertise, ask questions of other consumers, and provide opinions.
- Have an FAQ section with a search feature so they can find their question or issue quickly.
- Incorporate tutorials and how to videos
As much as millennials would like to fire their cable companies, many of them do still have some services. Home Wi-Fi is one that is still quite common. On its site, the company has a full resource center with very detailed trouble-shooting help.
Millennials are willing to solve issues on their own and actually prefer to do so if instructions are clear, and it is easy to navigate to them.
5. SMS and Alerts
There should be a method by which millennials can set up to receive texts and other types of alerts on their mobile devices. They want to know when a product has shipped; when they have asked for an alert for a sale, etc. Checking their email for these things can be a pain, but getting a text is not. In fact, more and more, millennials are moving away from emails as a means of communication – instant messaging on social media and platforms like Skype and texts are becoming the preferred venues.
Millennials want speed, easy, simplicity, entertainment, and solid information. If, in your web design, focusing more on mobile than PC use, your client will end up with a site that is popular and, even better, recommended to others.