This article will serve to illustrate the key insights from Millennial 2020 in Singapore which will serve as guides for corporations navigating the unfamiliar terrain engendered by the Millennial consumer.

The Millennial 2020 Summit in Singapore was held from the 7th to 8th of September at the Art Science Museum. It was an event that brought together over 1,500 global corporate and start-ups to deliberate about the modern sophisticated and technologically-savvy Millennial consumer – one born in the years 1980 to 2000 who will inevitably revolutionize the ways in which brands and consumers interact in the marketplace. More than 130 world class speakers and companies such as Forbes, Unilever, Pizza Hut, ONE Championship attended the event.

The most important factor that separates Millennials from other consumers could be summarized in one word: mobility. Mark Liversidge, Chief Marketer of Asia Pacific of HILTON, states that ‘age, geography and influence are irrelevant to defining Millennial’s – for us, it’s all about being mobile’. Mobility has transformed a multitude of industries including that of travel. Mark shared the following statistics:

    • 50% mention that smartphones makes their actions and thoughts more spontaneous
    • 76% of respondents report that their mobile device is the most crucial thing to have while traveling (before their camera and their loved one!)
    • Thai people spend 3.8 hours sightseeing when traveling, and 4 hours on their mobile

These data reveal a strengthening dependence of the consumer on the mobile phone not limited to that of travel but also other industries by virtue of the fact that Millennial’s place an increasing importance on mobility. This means buying, selling and the transmission of information on-the-go, all from the comfort of their own smartphones and mobile devices.

An emerging sub-trend that resonates with the notion of mobility for the Millennial is that of m-commerce with young, middle-class individuals as the key target audience for m-commerce growth.  Chatbots grow in popularity within the e-commerce space as a means to provide instant customer service. Siddarth Junjhunwala, CEO of Events2Mobile, acknowledges the importance of such chats since ‘75% of digital time is spent on them’. Chatbots help in mapping experiences in reality to that in the digital world, essentially changing the customer service experience to better serve the mobile-minded Millennial consumer.

Another distinctive personality trait of Millennial’s that companies should pay attention to is their need for authenticity and purpose. Millennial’s are well aware of environmental, political or economical issues and they want to be change agents. An example of Millennial’s’ support for brands with a purpose is the case of Unilever’s leading brands 30% greater growth than the rest of its ventures by virtue of their sustainability – this ultimately contributed to nearly half of Unilever’s total growth in 2015. Millennial’s are also sourcing for opportunities to interact with local people, which is shown by AirBnb’s prolific growth.

Unilever promtion on sustianable brands millenial

Figure 2 – Unilever aspires to be one of the front runners in promoting sustainable brands.

Untapped markets in the region abound as well – the Muslim and the female markets bring about much potential for companies to leverage on. In the Muslim market, 50% of the Muslim population are Millennial’s. As such, startups such as Tripfez, a startup targeting Muslim travelers, is one of the many that aims to capitalize on this potential. Lara Hernandez, Vice President of Sales and Distribution in Asia, Middle East and Africa of Inter continential Hotel Group, notes that ‘by 2020, the  female travel opportunities will grow by 400%’.  Such confident projections illustrate the possibilities within these two markets.

Millennial’s seek to spread their personal branding stories, by sharing unique and personalized experiences, while traveling or in their day-to-day life. Brands need to provide these experiences. Faeez Fadhilillah, CEO and co-founder at Tripfez, mentions that Millennial’s ‘like to show off and search for experiences which are new.’  They are hyper dynamic and omnipresent says also Paul Loiz, Marketing Director APAC for Unilever. In addition, 80% of Millennial’s are influenced by peer reviews, friends’ comments as well as the word of other bloggers. So brands can no longer live in an ivory tower. They need to engage, excite and reward their customers in a timely and concise manner. The Oreo Color filled by Oreo serves as a befitting example of this by engaging consumers to customize the original packaging of their iconic OREO cookies on their website. Millennial’s shop online and expect greater value and a customized user experience as compared to purchasing the product offline.

Oreo's customized cover pack millenial

Figure 3 – Oreo’s Color filled Initiative allows consumers to design the packaging of their products to their own liking.

By ‘investing in R&D to understand customer engagement strategies against competitors’ as Amit Dewan – Global Consumer Insights of Mead Jhonson –  states, companies are able to further progress their level of customer interactivity. He pointed several ways in which companies can achieve this:

  • Customize product or service through different channels
  • Understand the current customer journey
  • Connect the community by use of loyalty metrics
  • Showcase testimonials to ease in the next wave of customers
  • Capitalize on messaging apps and social media platforms
  • Deliver content with empathy in order to build a strong and lasting brand

Technologies such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Messaging Apps or AR/VR also offer new opportunities to enhance the customer experience. Manish Gupta, the CIO of the alcoholic beverages company Diageo, highlighted that AR/VR can enhance the customer experience whereas the customer acquisition comes with product quality and loyalty.

With now more Millennial’s in the workforce than Generation X, some participants in the event brought up the issue of a mismatch between Millennial employees and corporations. What creates this gulf are the unique attributes of the Millennial’s; they look for a sense of purpose, career growth and opportunities to lead and for flexible learning, detest stability, enjoy collaboration and require instantaneous appraisal. In parity with customer experience, companies would do well in placing a greater emphasis on employee experience since a motivated and diversified talent pool would be a considerable competitive advantage for players in the market.

In the workplace, Millennial’s aim to voice their opinions and act in synchronous with their values and beliefs. ItoM’s intrapreneurship program (Idea to Market), which gave rise to the successful Oreo Color filled initiative in coordination with Alibaba, enabled employees to voice and test their ideas through a lean startup-like toolkit. These projects allow Millennial’s to have a new and personalized experience with the product.

In retrospect, Millennial’s 2020 in Singapore served to inform and educate both small start-ups and large multinational corporations on the new-age consumer – one that places emphasis on convenience, efficiency and above all an embracement of continual change. Companies should maintain vigilance in the midst changing landscapes in the market and priorities careful re-calibration of their business strategies to stay relevant to the Millennial consumer.