Mobile Payments: The Key to Millennial Consumer Engagement?

September 13, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Millennials are still, and will continue to be, the center of disposable income, and as such, the primary concern of retailers the world over. Much has been made over the shopping habits of millennials, and their increasing—some might say unique—focus on mobile devices and online shopping. A new report suggests that one big move is focusing on millennials and debit cards to drive more interest and more engagement.

One particular point where this is showing up is at the gas station. Almost completely resistant to online shopping—Amazon will start delivering gas for cars about 20 minutes after the sun freezes—finding a way to connect to the online-heavy millennial market was a bit of a challenge for gas vendors. Yet a study noted that millennials—especially high-income millennials—would be more willing to visit gas stations that not only offer an app, but also offer “convenience, loyalty and savings.”

Since 65 percent of those high-income millennials—making between $75,000 and $150,000—make at least one gas purchase a week, and 58 percent of others with lower incomes doing likely, there’s clearly a lot at stake here for gas stations.

Another report from mobile rewards / payments provider ZipLine revealed that “private-label debit programs” could be a useful way to help turn millennials into brand ambassadors. ZipLine chief marketing officer Kristen Bailey noted “Millennials are the real drivers of adoption when it comes to mobile payments and rewards programs in general, and more and more of our merchant partners are looking to us (to connect to millennials).”

While it’s vital to get the millennials engaged in most any retail setting, the problem with such engagement is that millennials are so unique in the market. By many reports, Generation Z—the generation to follow the millennials—behaves a lot more like Gen X and even the Boomers do. The millennial market is so unique that setting up long-term operations to pander to their interests is a development with a shelf life. However, some developments—like adding in mobile payments capability at the gas station—should have much more endurance overall.

Only time will tell how the millennials handle mobile payments and customer engagement efforts, but this unusual generation may make for some difficult planning going forward.