In an always connected world, it’s hard to imagine that businesses used to only communicate with their customers in-person or by telephone.
The channels where customers interacted with brands were limited and primarily controlled by the business.
Then came the internet – or more importantly, the rise of social media. This fundamentally changed the way we interact with one another and how we interact with brands. With the rise of digital transformation, customers are now interacting in more channels than ever before.
Social media, whether you like it or not, is a staple. Today, we use social media platforms to document our lives, interact with others, conduct business, learn about the world around us, and so much more.
And new generations value these social connections and interactions more than ever.
Just how important is social media to young customers? And how can telcos best leverage this new channel to reach this demographic?
Who are Gen Z and Alpha – and Why Do They Matter?
Born between 1995 and 2010, Gen Zs live a hyper-connected, on-demand lifestyle that centres around their devices. With a 97% device penetration rate, the Z’s retail expectations are radically different from any generation before them.
Immediately following the Zs are the Alphas. Born between 2010 and 2025, these kids are already more tech savvy than the average adult. As the children of millennials, these kids are exposed to cutting-edge technology at home, and most have their own device by age 4.
Not only have these generations grown up with technology, they’ve also grown up in the ultra-sharing and instant world of social media.
Although Alphas may be a little young to be fully active on social media, their older peers are fully connected. Let’s explore the social world of Gen Z!
How Does Gen Z Use Social Media?
According to a Global Web Index study, Gen Z spends an average of three hours a day on social media and favors Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
They use social media to network, find entertainment and follow their favorite brands. According to the same Global Web Index Study, 43% of Gen Zs follow brands they like, and 30% follow brands they’re thinking of buying from.
Even more interesting is that Gen Z has adopted social media as a search engine – 52% use social media to discover products and brands (Global Web Index, 2019).
When we consider the fact that Gen Z searches, follows, and spends time looking at brands on social media – it’d be silly to ignore it.
In Leslie Ghize’s article, What the Futurists Are Saying About Retail, she talks about the changing relationship with brands across generations.
Ghize refers to Gen Zs as “brand celebrators”. When a brand resonates with their personal lifestyle and image, Gen Z will act more like a brand ambassador than a traditional customer.
And how do they celebrate? They post on social media!
Being Social in 2019
So, we have an idea of how Gen Z uses social media, but how do companies use social media?
1. Relationship Management
Social media, first and foremost, is leveraged as a tool for connecting with existing customers and nurturing those relationships, as well as meeting new customers. Today, some telcos use social media to respond to customer comments, address complaints and questions. Social media allows businesses to communicate with customers in the channels they chose.
2. Brand Awareness and Culture
Social media is also a great platform to promote brand awareness and display some personality. Social media allows creativity, is highly visual and far reaching. These channels offer the opportunity for brands to talk about who they are, express their culture, and align with their customers. Netflix is a great example of a company that uses social media to creatively interact and promote their brand.
3. Advertising and Selling
Social media also acts as a platform for advertising. Brands can sell to customers on various platforms. Retail brands are making it easier for customers to shop and streamlining the path to purchase thanks to social media. Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters does a great job of this. From an Instagram photo, a customer can click and go directly to their website and order the item displayed in a matter of seconds.
A Social Future for Telco
Considering the changes we’ve seen already, how will social media take retail a step further?
One of the biggest capabilities of social media is an easier and quicker path to purchase. When we consider the instantaneous nature of social media, and how digital transformation can enable an omnichannel experience, there is a lot of opportunity to enable telco transactions from this channel.
With the Urban Outfitters example above, we see how easily social media can lead to a transaction. With other current retail trends like location-based advertising (check out Whole Foods), we see how relevant advertising can be.
An example that is 100% achievable by telco is a hybrid of social media and location-based advertising.
The potential is there for brands to harvest data on what customers are interacting with, then use that information to design personalized offers that appear on social media – whether the customer is in-store or walking down the street.
Imagine this telco journey:
You’ve been looking at the new iPhone – maybe you’ve even liked a few of the photos Apple has posted on Instagram or retweeted the announcement.
You’re sitting in a café on high street, you post a photo of your tea on Instagram, and as you are scrolling through your feed, you get a personalized message from your carrier through Instagram messaging, offering a new deal on the latest iPhone. From the message, you have the option to access the carrier’s mobile app and directly purchase and ship the device to your house – or book an appointment with a sales rep next-door.
This journey is not that far off!
This tactic targets their handheld device (the gateway to their entire world) and the ads seems more authentic – it’s timely and relates to the customer’s current activity.
As we consider the capability of social media, we also need to keep privacy concerns in mind. We know privacy is important to Gen Z; 62% worry how personal data is being used, 62% use private browsing windows, and 51% use ad-blockers (Global Web Index, 2019).
Businesses will need to be transparent with Gen Z about how their data is being protected.
Finding the sweet spot of responsibly collecting information to generate the right offers is crucial for Gen Z, as 49% say there are too many ads on the internet, and 48% say too many ads are annoying and irrelevant (Global Web Index, 2019).
There are many possibilities with subscriber data and usage statistics – telcos are in a unique position to capitalize on these.
Time to Get Social
Social media is only going to grow and become more capable – while staying user-friendly. Social platforms provide telcos with the opportunity to create seamless experiences from a device.
Using social media properly can be very advantageous, as we’ve discussed – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t risk.
The more channels you use, the more journeys you can enable and therefor the better your customer experience can be. It’s imperative that telcos undergo their digital transformations so their retail infrastructure can integrate with other systems.
Transactions are already happening in these channels. If you can’t support this channel – you’re already behind.