Are You Heeding the Millennial SOS?

By Martha Barlett Piland

Nearly every bank says it wants to attract more millennial customers. Yet many bankers are going about it the old way—by making assumptions and generalizations about what this audience wants and needs. Millennials are 30 percent of the U.S. population today and the most diverse generation yet. And while it’s fair to consider them “digital natives,” their current age range (23 to 38) spans currently several distinct life stages. The youngest are only starting to initiate careers and adult responsibilities, while the oldest may be established professionals with homes and families of their own. To understand how best to serve them, you’d better ask. If you listen, what you hear may be a signal to change.

Survey data collected in 2019 from the approximately 200 members of the Banktastic National Millennial Advisory Board gives us a new window into what millennials really need—and might not be getting.

Better than the storied St. Bernard with brandy, here are three ways your bank can come to the rescue.

1) Locations really do matter to millennials.

Many bankers assume that millennials never want to set foot in a bank—that they prefer to do business solely on their mobile devices. But that’s simply not true. Millennials want the option of both in-person and mobile transactions. Sometimes, they want a seamless transition from one to another.

The Banktastic study revealed that 43 percent of those who switched banks said location was an important factor in their decision. Feeling a sense of security by having a bank location nearby was a recurring theme from respondents.

“Location is important for convenience. Although a majority of bank transactions can now be done online, a lot of people, including me, feel more secure when [it’s possible to] go to a bank physically and do some of [the]transactions there.”—Advisory board survey response

“Having a close-by physical location gives comfort in the sense that if something goes wrong or I have questions, I can go in and talk to a person face to face and handle whatever it may be.”—Advisory board survey response

This is a challenge for bankers seeking for efficiencies. Your branches are still important.

The remedy: You probably need to evolve your branches, but don’t plan on eliminating them any time soon.

2) Millennials have real concern about their financial future.

Nearly 75 percent of those queried worry that they will not be financially secure in the future, and they say they want education from their bank.

They are hungry for—and ready to attend—webinars, seminars and lunch-and-learns. They also said emailed information would be welcome.

Topics they crave:

  • Financial planning
  • Budgeting
  • Finding the best credit card
  • Buying a home or vehicle
  • Protecting against identity theft
  • Saving for children’s education

“Lots of areas of the financial industry are complicated…Explain how different processes work like APR interest. Or how a loan gets approved or denied. I’d love to see TED talks on these issues. People deserve to be informed.”—Advisor board survey response

Surprisingly, 19 percent said they’d like help with using online banking tools. Again, don’t assume that because they’re millennials that using your app is second nature to them. It may not be.

3) Snail mail is still relevant to millennials.

While emails and texts are welcome ways to learn about new products, 50 percent of participants said they would like to learn about valuable products and services through direct mail or a letter.

Data from a U.S. Postal Service study takes this further:

  • 77 percent of millennials pay attention to direct mail advertising.
  • 90 percent of millennials think direct mail advertising is reliable.
  • 57 percent have made purchases based on direct mail offers.
  • 87 percent of millennials like receiving direct mail.

A printed piece has the benefit of a longer shelf life than an electronic communication, so if it’s done well, you have the chance to have your message visible longer.

Caution: the direct mail approach that worked for older generations isn’t the one to try with millennials. Make sure your messaging is on target. Use variable data printing to customize mailings so they speak personally to the recipient. (And the same goes for emailed communications—you must tailor it to your audience.)

Amplify your bank

There are more than these three ways to answer the millennial call, and there’s no time like the present to spring into action. Start listening. Then build marketing and customer experience strategies that help your desired audiences know you hear them and that help is on the way.

Plan and activate well, and you and your millennial customers will both have a happier, healthier future.

Martha Bartlett Piland is president & CEO of Banktastic, a firm that helps financial organizations build better ROI by aligning their internal and external brands. She’s a national speaker on branding, marketing, business development and advertising. She’s presented at more than 100 events and conferences and has served on three different bank advisory boards. Martha is a regular contributor to ABA Bank Marketing. She’s also an inventor, author and illustrator.

Her second book, Beyond Sticky, is available at all major booksellers.