We’ve been looking into the phenomenon of membership disruption that has evolved due to the sharp changes in millennial values and lifestyles, as compared to previous generations, and what YMCAs can do about it.
The Selfie Era
The term “selfie” is a great description of more than just the obsession with taking pictures of one’s self. It applies to the general attitude of today’s consumers. The classic 1974 Burger King tagline “Have it Your Way” was a new concept at the time, but 40 years later, ‘having it my way’ is so expected that its meaning would escape most younger people. (On a side note, Burger King is now ditching “Have it Your Way” in favor of “Be Your Way,” to expand their philosophy beyond burger buying and align with core values of younger generations. This is a key strategy of successful brands.)1
Fight Fire with Fire
Technology is the method behind the massive shift we’re seeing in membership and other traditional models. It has transferred the “power,” so to speak, from brands to consumers. Word of mouth is faster than it’s ever been before. Online reviews mean more than what a brand says about itself. Clever social media campaigns are often the tipping point for popularity. (Think Oreos, Chipotle, YouTube’s #LikeAGirl campaign, and anyone using puppies to get views: Virgin America, United Way, Budweiser.)
It’s more than just being clever, though. Now, in the new world order of consumerism, millennials communicate directly with brands. This is called user-generated content (UGC) and it’s big:
- 84% report UGC has at least some influence on what they buy
- UGC is 35% more memorable than sponsored content
- 70% strongly believe other consumers care about what they think
- 90% of customers read peer reviews before purchase
This is why sites like Yelp, Air BNB, TripAdvisor and Rotten Tomatoes work.
From a membership perspective, it’s critical to understand that, despite the UGC trend, effective communication between consumers takes place on millennials’ turf. Called “the convenience generation,”2 they want:
- Self-Service answers – A whopping 69% prefer not to have to speak to an actual person when interacting with brands. That means they want to gather information about your service, register, and solve issues, any time day or night, without having to come in or call.
- Personalized, pertinent messaging – 44% will permanently disengage after receiving too many irrelevant messages.
Fight Fire with Fire: Personalized Communication
Besides adjusting your mindset and updating your program offerings, the way you communicate with and engage participants is critical. You may not even realize how you’re alienating them! The top 3 factors in personalized communication are:
- An Optimized WebsiteYour website is your store front…and more. Is it easy to navigate with calls to action clearly marked? Can consumers easily find the majority of what they need to know? Can they manage their profiles, accounts, registrations and changes online?
- Targeted and Segmented Communications This simply means that you only send messages that are specifically relevant to the recipient.Segmenting is most easily accomplished by having a recreation management software with communication tools that let you break up your database into any category for which you have a field (gender, age, history of participation, location, etc) and then target your messaging to be personal. For example, you don’t invite someone to Beginner Yoga who’s been in your Intermediate Yoga class for years. This type of personalization prevents spamming, reduces unsubscribes, and increases enrollment.
- Social Media Social media is definitely the turf where millennials want to interact with you. Having integrated social media tools in your recreation management software makes that job much easier!
It’s Not Just Millennials
Interestingly, millennials aren’t the only ones who fit the characteristics we’ve been discussing. Gen Z is, naturally, even more technologically savvy than Gen Y, but all the generations are actively operating their lives from their computers and smartphones. Their busy lives demand the same convenience and efficiency millennials crave!
As the membership disruption tide rolls on, you can’t afford to wait. How are you going to adapt?