Millennials in Motion

Ever meet people who can’t remember what life was like before mobile devices? It actually kind of makes sense, since cell phones (at least the type meant only for talking) have been around for nearly 20 years. More worrisome are the kids who can’t remember a time before social media. Has it really been that long? (Well, some of those channels are in their second decade.)

But you want to feel really old? Imagine what it’ll be like when you meet kids who can’t imagine when Facebook actually had words. And according to some, that time is a-comin’.

It was only a few months ago that, while announcing a raft of new features and capabilities, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made clear just how important video will be to the flagship platform. Turns out that was just a preview: Another Facebook executive, EMEA operations chief Nicola Mendelsohn, recently predicted that within five years Facebook “will be definitely mobile, [and] it will be probably all video.”

Ok, so maybe predicting the end of the written word is a tad bold, if not laughable. But it does point to a singular characteristic that is of vital importance to the banking (and perhaps every other) industry. And it has to do with the dreaded ‘m’ word: Millennials.

This is a demographic that is absolutely vital, and maddeningly elusive. To understand the problem, consider baby boomers: We know they represented upward mobility, heightened consumerism, a greater focus on health, and so on. The folks from Generation X, meanwhile, built on a personal identity shaped by being left alone after school, higher education, expanded ethnic diversity, and a lack of reverence for traditional norms and practices.

That’s simplistic to be sure, but there are definitely identifiable and generally agreed-upon characteristics for each demographic generation. It’s always been that way.

When it comes to millennials, however, it’s very different. Every aspect is incredibly dynamic—whatever the people in this category do today, they probably won’t be doing tomorrow. Preferences and habits can turn on a dime, and it’s up to the enterprises pursuing their business to keep up.

This helps explain, for example, why loyalty is so fleeting. According to Gallup’s most recent report, barely 25% of all millennials feel an emotional attachment to a brand. (Baby Boomers, by contrast, came in at 33%). More specifically, less than a third, 31%, profess any connection with their financial service provider. For what it’s worth, other industries have it even worse: only 20% have an affinity to a hotel chain or other hospitality provider, while 12% expressed engagement with airline companies.

Small wonder, then, that according to the most recent FICO survey, 22% percent of US consumers say they’ll move an account after a fraud incident, 14% have written a negative social media post about a fraud incident, and 25% of millennials in particular will write a negative post on social media about a fraud incident. This is the new normal.

Or consider the complexities related to enterprise software. This is a generation that’s perpetually wired—at ease with every emerging form factor and every application, as well as the changes they necessitate. Yet corporations in every industry spend billions on developing and customizing apps and tools, then find that they go largely unused. That’s primarily because these sophisticated tools automatically seem antiquated compared to the ease and user-friendliness of LinkedIn, Facebook and Siri.

In a different time, most business users would have understood why enterprise software is more complex than the average consumer app. Yet today’s prototypical professionals—who are far more comfortable with technology than their predecessors—reject tools that require a steep learning curve, no matter how expensive they were to develop, or how valuable they might be to getting the job done. Companies like Sapho are basing their business model on this very assumption.

Which brings us back to the question of Facebook video.

With 1.65 billion monthly active users (those who have logged in within the last 30 days) as of the last quarter, this isn’t just the most popular social network, it’s likely the world’s most commonly used application. Changes on the platform don’t occur in a vacuum—even a ripple here can cause a wave in every other channel and app.

So let’s say just a third of Facebook users—somewhere in the 500 million range—go all-video within the next five years. What will the expectations be of other tools and practices? What other kinds of software will have to go video too?

Sure, it’s entirely possible that Facebook itself won’t be around then, that it will have been supplanted by other platforms we haven’t even emerged yet. But that’s kind of the point—user practices will have changed no matter what the platform is, and enterprise capabilities will have to change with them. Are we ready?

Written by Jack Dougal

Jack Dougal

Jack Dougal is's resident news reporter. He writes regular blogs covering the latest stories and key developments in the global financial services industry.

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