It wasn’t that long ago that a cell phone was the hottest technology in the world. The ability to open a portable phone and make a call anywhere, at any time, was astounding.
More recently, we’ve passed a point of regression. Millennials are actually shying away from making phone calls. Why is that … and what’s replacing them? Hint: You don’t have to go as far as you may think.
Millennials Want to Text
Though voice calls aren’t at risk of going extinct anytime soon, millennials — who make up an overwhelmingly vast percentage of the mobile phone market — prefer not to have to speak on the phone. To be more exact, they would rather text.
According to a recent survey we conducted here at OpenMarket, when given the choice between being able only to text versus call on their mobile phone, a whopping 75 percent of millennials chose texting over talking.
In fact, millennials overwhelmingly prefer to receive text messages from businesses, as well, instead of phone calls, which they regard as intrusive. According to Nielsen data from a few years back, the average monthly voice minutes used by millennials fell from roughly 1,200 per month in 2008 to 900 minutes a month in 2010.
During this same period of time, texting among 18 to 24-year-olds more than doubled, climbing from just 600 per month to around 1,400 texts per month. Now, the Nielsen data isn’t exactly brand-new, but it does illustrate that this isn’t a new trend or phase that is likely to fizzle out.
For the past eight-plus years (at least), millennials have increasingly shunned voice and gravitated towards text messaging. If you run a business that may be largely dominated by Baby Boomer thinking, an affinity for SMS may seem strange. After all, phone calls are quick and easy.
But you have to remove yourself from your own biases and think about this from the perspective of your customers. Millennials are unique and clear about what they want … and what they want is to text. So moving forward, it’s in your best interest to move in that direction.
Four Reasons Millennials Love SMS
Before delving into some of the ways you could adapt your marketing strategies to respond to the general popularity of texting, take a look at some of the reasons millennials have fallen in love with SMS.
You’ll want to understand the logic behind this preference so you’ll be better able to target the right individuals with the most effective marketing strategies.
- Convenience and Ease of Use
Millennials are all about simplicity and ease of use. This generation has grown up with more technology than all the previous ones combined. They’re conditioned to think in terms of which technology affords the most conveniences, and the simple answer is SMS.
It’s not so much that millennials feel an intense antipathy toward talking on the phone. They still spend time talking, but they’d prefer to do it with parents and close friends.
It’s not a mode of communication they positively associate with brand interaction. Instead, they view unsolicited business calls to be nothing more than pestering from telemarketers.
- Easy to Remember
Phone conversations can be difficult for millennials to recall. “What time did they say we were supposed to meet?” “How much did she tell me the tickets cost?” “Was the address 113 or 131?”
Hours after a phone conversation, details like these tend to slip away. But with SMS, everyone has a readily retrievable transcript of the conversation. An individual can go back and see that the meeting was set for 5:30, the tickets cost $25, or the address is 113. There’s less pressure on the recipient to remember everything.
- Less Stressful
Text messages are less stressful than phone calls. The latter may require the person to come up with answers on the spot — or remember specific questions he or she wanted to ask.
By contrast, a text message gives the recipient time to think and respond on his or her own time. It’s a more organized experience that involves less overall pressure.
- Trumps Voice Mail
Because millennials prefer not to answer phone calls from numbers they don’t recognize, most calls from businesses go unanswered. As a result, companies sometimes leave a voice mail. And millennials hate voice mail.
Voicemails take too long to retrieve and understand; they’re impersonal, intrusive, and sometimes confusing. Worse, if there’s information the recipient needs in the voicemail — such as an address, callback number, etc. — the person has to write the information down on a piece of paper.
With a text message, the crucial data is already written out for the recipient to see and use. So that’s why SMS trumps voice mail for most millennials.
How Businesses Can Respond
This raises the question, as a business how are you to respond appropriately to millennials and their preference for testing? The only reasonable answer is to satisfy their desire by adopting marketing strategies that place an emphasis on text over talk.
According to our research, 75 percent of millennials think receiving texts for things like appointment reminders, payments, deliveries, promotions, and surveys is helpful. Nearly two out of three millennial customers like to receive product offers and coupons. More than half believe it’s helpful to receive texts that address account activity, order alerts, and other general reminders.
You may be wholly unfamiliar with SMS, but it’s not something you can ignore if you hope to engage millennial consumers via modes that are most comfortable to them. SMS is a high-returning marketing channel, and companies should respond by adopting strategies that leverage text messaging and the many benefits this technology has to offer.