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Four Generational Marketing Imperatives for Engaging Millennials and Gen Z

Almost every brand across industries is courting millennials and Generation Z consumers

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  • Written by  Wilson Raj, Global Director of Customer Intelligence, SAS
Four Generational Marketing Imperatives for Engaging Millennials and Gen Z

Almost every brand across industries is courting millennials and Generation Z consumers. Banks are no exception – and for good reason.

Millennials currently comprise an estimated 50% of the global workforce. At 73 million strong, they are currently the most populous generation in the U.S. – one million greater than the 72-million post-war baby boomers, according to research by Morgan Stanley.

It won’t be long, though, before today’s emerging teen and 20-something consumers eclipse millennials in number and buying power. Gen Z is projected to supplant millennials by 2034, climbing to an estimated 78 million people in the U.S. and comprising the nation’s largest generation ever.

The 2008 recession and post-pandemic effects have shaped Gen Z’s views on managing their money – making them more pragmatic, savings-oriented and risk-averse than their millennial predecessors.

Both generations embrace new attitudes and demands for the brands they value, including digital convenience and authenticity.

Digital generations

Millennials and Gen Zers are evolving digitally. According to the same Morgan Stanley research, just under half (47%) of 16- and 17-year-old smartphone users employ mobile banking services. Among the 18- to 19-year-old cohort, that figure jumps to 71%.

This digital evolution isn’t limited to just the younger generations. According to SAS’ Experience 2030 global research study, 29% of the 2,000 consumers polled use three or more banking, finance or payment apps. Almost half (45%) of these consumers expect their use of such apps to increase over the next five years.

To remain at the financial forefront, banks must excel at delivering what wins consumer loyalty: a seamless digital experience, excellent service, and improved financial well-being – all on the consumer’s terms.

Empathetic personalization will be a crucial way for banks to demonstrate value to their millennial and Gen Z clientele and earn their long-term loyalty.

Four digital marketing imperatives to foster trust and engagement

Banking products and services for millennials and Gen Z will be digital-first (online, mobile, apps, video) and focus on the core needs and motivations of these younger generations. They want timely education, easy access, proactive advice – all wrapped in empathy.

  1. Educate: Help inform and frame the situation for the customer. Younger consumers crave services that surface relevant and contextual information. Alert messages via a mobile app or text can make customers aware of predicted activity on their account, alert them when a free trial of a subscription service like Grubhub might have ended, or warn them about duplicate charges and other suspicious activity that might indicate fraud, etc.
  1. Ease: Help simplify things and guide customers to what they need.Automated, digital services can offer customers an aggregated view of financial position, advice on what to do about it, and the encouragement to act. This can help millennials and Gen Zers budget, save money, build credit and make better financial decisions. Banks are using AI and machine learning to help younger customers seek extra money that can automatically be set aside as savings. Some examples:
  • USAA’s mobile app presents information and services that are relevant to the customer’s individual situation – like purchasing a car, saving for college or making home improvements.
  • AI-powered chatbots like Bank of America’s Erica helps younger consumers get account information (like how much they spent on groceries or entertainment last month) and perform tasks, including sending payments through P2P payments apps, paying bills, and locking lost or stolen cards.
  • Rocket Mortgage uses personalized video to walk customers through their annual escrow statements and clearly explain what they need to know.
  1. Advise: Extend customers’ options and advise them on what they may need. Services that appeal to Gen Zers are those that help improve their financial health, such as building up an emergency savings fund. BBVA has a personalized financial health testing and recommendation tool that provides real-time advice. For example, a young consumer who spends a higher-than-average amount on Lyft or Uber fares might be presented a budget and savings simulator that shows how financing a used car can save them money.
  1. Empathize: Show care and concern for the customer.Gen Zers and millennials want to feel valued and appreciated. Banks can foster connection through customized, genuine experiences. In yet another example, BBVA shows it cares for expectant parents by helping create personalized financial plans before their baby’s arrival. An insurance provider in the UK helps new customers better understand the products they purchase and how to get the most out of their accounts with personalized onboarding videos. Banks are using AI to personalize language and imagery that taps into different emotions for each customer or prospect.

But a word of caution: Build trust by verifying consumers’ permission to engage digital banking offerings. Work toward personalizing customer experiences but be privacy-aware – lest banks cross the line into the creepy zone. With data management and predictive analytics, banks can learn customers’ privacy preferences and expectations to win their trust.

Go even further

Banks can deepen engagement with millennials and Gen Zers by putting contextually relevant services at customers’ fingertips while enabling them to make payments easily and seamlessly with their smartphones.

Go even further by providing value above and beyond financial products and payments with digital wallets. Alipay and WeChat Pay in China and Paytm in India are driving digital wallet innovation by offering more than just digital payments. They also deliver special offers, augmented reality (AR) coupons, loyalty programs, digital receipts, package delivery status alerts and identity management.

The blending of AI assistants, analytics and the ability to provide expert advice and predictive suggestions about money management is a combination that makes sense for brands and consumers.

Technology notwithstanding, banks’ growth opportunities with these younger generations will still come from an age-old approach: providing value.


Wilson Raj is the Global Director of Customer Intelligence at SAS, responsible for the marketing of SAS’ AI-powered marketing solutions. Data-inspired and creatively-driven, Raj has built brand value, engagement and loyalty through expertise in strategy and analytical marketing.

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