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Aug 13, 2013
Nicole DeRogatis

Who are Gen Y?  Gen-Y are those born between 1980 and 1992.  They have grown up with technology, have baby boomer parents, are peer oriented, and tend to lack brand loyalty due to the multiple products and services available to them and ease of comparison via the Internet.

Is your goal to attract and increase your Gen Y customer base or to reduce the average age of your members?  That’s a lucrative goal to have because, “Gen Y-ers who are now struggling with college debt are set to take off financially in the near future with income set to surpass Gen X in 10 years, making them the highest earning generation in the U.S.,” says Missy Zakett, VP of Enterprise Banking for Western Union.  Gen Y are the wealth accumulators of the future!  So how can you market your products and services to this younger, tech-savvy generation?  Financial institutions will need to approach Gen Y in a distinct manner while understanding their needs.

1.  Appeal to Behaviors that Set Gen Y Apart

The most popular Gen Y products are credit and debit cards, student loans, and mortgage loans.  They are financial novices and a prime target for financial advice and assistance regarding how to build a future while paying off their debts.  A Gen Y colleague of mine, K4 Graphic Designer Grania Frueh, recently worked on an event in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati Young Professionals called Homebuyers 101:  A Bearcat’s Guide to Purchasing a Home.  The event offered free education on everything a first-time homebuyer needs to know, and they successfully reached their target market through an organization that they are familiar and comfortable with.  What if your financial institution sponsored this, paying for the event space or sponsoring food and beverage, giving you direct access to a Gen Y customer base and a platform to shamelessly pitch Gen Y products and offer free advice?!!  Make connections with those who can help you reach out to Gen Y in a non-intrusive manner and provide information they need on their terms.

Event Photo from Homebuyers 101: A Bearcat’s Guide to Purchasing a Home

Event Photo from Homebuyers 101: A Bearcat’s Guide to Purchasing a Home

2.  Rethink Social Media

Gen Y is a well-connected generation so online, mobile and social media technology is a must!  Most of you have already taken the plunge into online and mobile banking, but have you developed a strategy for the way you are using your social media?  A great way to appeal to Gen Y on this platform is to use social media channels for virtual consulting and financial assistance.  Don’t just claim you have the lowest loan rates; share a video of a Gen Y member or customer you have helped acquire a low interest rate loan.   Social media is the medium of choice amid Gen Y and their favorite method for researching and accessing info, so testimonials of those in their peer group are key!

3.  Don’t Ignore the Values of Parental Influence & Personal Service

Parental influence can be the single biggest driving factor behind the decision to open a bank account and advice on where and how to obtain loans.  Know your current customer base of baby boomers and capitalize on the time spent developing that personal relationship by educating them on products that may help their children.  Develop and enforce a strategy for doing so.

Jeff Klump, the President of K4 Architecture + Design says people still want to interact with a person and not a machine, and value personal service.  In fact, a bank CEO recently told Klump that 90% of his bank’s new business or new accounts still originate at the branch.  “Technology is definitely leading to the redefinition and transformation of the traditional branch facility for financial institutions, but people must remember that the technology is intended to make life easier and more efficient for the consumer, but it is not the ‘end all’ answer to banking, ” says Klump. “Branches are the physical embodiment of an institution’s presence and their signature within the community.”

4.  Easy Access is Key

Gen Y is a mobile population, whether they are away at school or moving to a new city for their first job – they don’t want to pay fees to access their money.  Many Gen Y value saving money over personal assistance…so pump up online options if you can’t have a branch or ATM location everywhere they are!

5.  Enhanced Customer Experience

Gen Y knows they have options; thus they are more demanding with greater expectations.  If not satisfied, they will go to a competitor.  Bad customer service can spread like wildfire via word-of-mouth on social media.  Among Gen Y customers, recommendations rank higher in importance than the reputation of the institution.  What can you do in addition to offering stellar customer service to enhance the experience?

  • Invest in branch innovation – “smart banking” branches with minimalist layouts,  interactive touch screen walls, self-service stations, check imaging, and video conferencing with bank associates are all popular features for Gen Y.   If you need help with this, contact K4 Architecture + Design – we specialize in facility remodels and brand refreshing!  Sorry, there is my shameless plug!
  • Make cool products that offer personalization & reflect their lifestyle – don’t have customizable credit & debit cards?  Get on board and offer what your competitors don’t!

6.  Ask for Feedback!

Want to know more about Gen Y and what they value?  Get the info straight from the horse’s mouth.  Gather a list of your current Gen Y customers and develop an Advisory Board Committee program.  Have the committee actually advise your board in person, which provides you with invaluable info about this customer base but also gives them real world business experience in return.  Start a website specifically for this customer base and accompany it with social media.  Supplement the committee with additional responsibilities such as maintaining the social media, participating in community events, and soliciting new customers, members, and future Advisory Board committee members for you.  What a great resume builder for this generation to have!