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How To Sell To The Generation That Has Grown Up With Touch Technology

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Marketing

The generation currently edging towards the 20-year-old mark has, in the minds of marketers, generally been tacked on to the back-end of the “Millennials.” But not only is this demographic swath bigger than the Millennial one (27% of the population is now 19 or under vs. 20% aged 20-35, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2012), it has radically different expectations of how e-tailers should interact with them as consumers. This is Generation Touch, and they represent a big, but potentially rewarding, challenge for vendors vying for their dollars.

Touch technology has been around for decades. Most of us had encountered it via an ATM transaction by the mid-90s. But the real game-changer came with the first iPhone, in 2007, followed by hundreds more touch-centric devices. The child who was five in 2007 is a teenager now, and has grown up with the expectation that screens are things you interact with – things you touch and stroke, that respond and come alive under your fingertips. This is hugely significant. In her recent book, “Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy,” author Kit Yarrow argued that the touch experience is actually changing the way our brains form neural pathways. “Because of our use of technology our brains are adapting so that they literally think differently than we did a decade ago,” she said. We’re looking at a coming wave of consumers whose brains have developed that way from birth.

Touch is already becoming king, across the board, when it comes to e-commerce. Big-box retailers are reporting touch traffic at 50% of all online interactions. Target TGT +0.25% recently said two-thirds of its online traffic comes from tablets or smartphones, and predicts this will rise to 75% in 2015. For retailers who serve the teen market, that figure may have been reached as early as the 2014 holiday season, according to our research. In order to engage in a meaningful conversation with Generation Touch, e-tailers have to design the e-commerce experience differently.

How, exactly, are members of the Touch Generation different? For a start, they’re not about one screen, or even two; they’re likely to be using many – smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop. They don’t need to be tech-savvy, because technology has become so intuitive that many barriers have been eliminated. They’re not passive users of media; they’re makers, gamers, designers of their own personalized, online experience. They’re also increasingly brand ambivalent, prefer to communicate via images rather than text, and eagerly embrace new technologies.

More than anything, Touch Generation buyers expect their devices to deliver a seamless, exciting experience that is lightning fast and glitch-free. Baby Boomers may have tolerated an agonizingly slow phone modem, but the Touch Generation has no patience for that. A recent study by Walmart discovered that, when the time it takes for a page or window to load jumps from 1 second to 4 seconds, the rate of conversion to a purchase declines sharply.

Designers of commerce experiences need to broaden their scope and change their thinking to serve these new demands. The classic combination in advertising agencies used to be a copywriter and art director working together. As digital became a more important platform, that team grew to include user experience. Ideation was followed by creative and wireframes before being thrown “over the wall” to the developers to figure out how to make it work. However, given the expectations of Generation Touch, that’s not good enough anymore. Development needs to be part of the mix from the beginning, contributing to ideation and helping deliver a final experience that’s as well executed and engaging as possible.

Successfully designing commerce experiences for Generation Touch, and leveraging a “touch-centric” design approach relies on three key elements:

•             Think in terms of customer experience, not design process. That cutting-edge shiny object you created is worthless if it wasn’t designed with the customer’s needs and desires firmly in mind. Visual design, motion design, interaction design and presentation design must be married with a deep understanding of the customer in order to be effective.

•             Design for performance. Bake in technical collaboration from the beginning of the design process. The technology is there to do many amazing things, but if those features chug along instead of instantly popping on the screen, the consumer will flee. Make sure you have the server capacity to serve the traffic you expect with lightning-fast load speeds.

•             Think cinematically. On both small and large screens you should aim for a sense of narrative and drama. The Touch Generation wants to explore, discover and invent. The subtlest elements can add up to an experience a user loves without even being able to articulate why.

Right now – while your competitors are still figuring out what to do about the Millennials – is the time to align your development processes around the needs of Generation Touch by creating narrative, interactive environments that function and scale beautifully. If you can delight this highly demanding audience, pleasing those Millennials will be a snap.

CRC Section: 5 Evolutionary Changes That Will Impact Contact Centers

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Change is afoot, but what’s driving that change should come as no surprise. The trends listed below are a response to the times. New technologies, new security concerns and a required focus on customers, employees and the bottom line will shape top contact center initiatives.

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