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To keep up with the Millennials, connect with them on their terms

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Millennials and the IoT

Earlier this month, we took a look at some of the ways Internet-of-Things connections are changing the dynamic of digital signage for customers, employees and people in general. This week, we’ll look more broadly at how these connections are helping companies appeal to the millennial generation, which has been immersed in high-tech from an early age and carries much higher expectations for sleek design, easy access and authentic connections.

More importantly, millennials now represent the largest, most diverse and best educated generation in the U.S. They hold between 21 and 25 percent (depending on who you ask) of the discretionary purchase pie chart for all consumers, which is estimated to be more than a trillion dollars in direct buying power. But they themselves are not influenced easily: Most decisions, even small ones, require peer affirmation before they get made.

The need for marketers to connect only gets amplified. Which is to say, any provider expecting to gain from this cohort will be constantly challenged to attract them.

Can the Internet-of-Things help?

The short and simple answer is, “Yes.” There are, to be sure, a number of moving parts that must be accounted for and considered, but as a starting point, let’s take a look at some of the connected technologies and applications that are available today and how they might be put to use to appeal to this up and coming – yet mysterious – cross-section of consumers.

A logical place to start is with the soon-to-become-available Apple Watch. Even though sales projections for Apple Watch remain conservative overall, there is a strong likelihood that Millennials will make up the bulk of its buying center. If there’s one constant with them, it is that they have proven to be 2.5 times more likely to be an early adopter of technology than older generations. In studies, 56 percent of Millennials report that they are usually either one of the very first to try new technologies or are among the first group to try a new technology.

(Incidentally, 35 percent of non-Millennials say they will “usually wait a year” before trying a new technology, and 22 percent admit that they wait until a technology has become mainstream and well established before they take the leap. Millennials see themselves as frontrunners, as a rule. It’s part of what sets them apart!)

It seems a wise investment for marketers, then, to begin to look toward technologies that would be able to communicate to customers via their Smartwatch (Apple or otherwise). And in the world of retail, where marketing reigns supreme, a good place to start is with the digital sign which, via embedded M2M, could become a lynchpin to a new era of personalized shopping.

Consider this: a shopper strolls down the street in a retail district (think, Rodeo Drive in L.A. or Newbury Street in Boston), when all of a sudden his or her watch alerts them to a killer deal in the store they’re just passing by, good for the next 5 minutes. And when they look over, the signage displays a captivating item that they just have to have.

Sure, there are some things to iron out here, such as whether the shopper is a match for the particular store making the offer, or that the item on display will speak to the shopper in a desirable way. But this brings us to another fascinating aspect of the millennial mindset: They will trade private, personal information for perks if they believe that trade will result in a desired benefit. In that respect, a brand will have already “qualified” any potential shopper to which it would communicate in the above scenario: the Smartwatch just gives them a means to boost the experience.

Remember also, one of the things millennials love more than anything is being able to brag to their friends about an “uncommon” experience they just had. The retailer who first opens this candy box for its millennial customers stands to get an organic, social boost from this factor, and will undoubtedly increase the visibility and value of its brand, on the spot.

On a wider scale, it remains to be seen whether Apple Watch will wholly “bring the watch back” as a necessary accessory, but the implications it holds for better connecting people to the things they use every day – retail services, healthcare, food and drink, their employer – is real. Keep an eye on these pages for further exploration of how Smartwatches could deepen the experience of the Internet-of-Things across a myriad of daily activities.

Topics: IoT