Millennials are a quarter of the population, and they gain more spending power every year. For small businesses, this means it’s time to invest time and money in meeting–and preferably exceeding–their expectations. Think about it: these are people who have never had to wait for a tape to rewind.

So, what do they expect? A survey by Forrester revealed that web self-service use increased from 67 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2014. They also state that 53 percent of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they can’t find quick answers to their questions. Finally, they prefer to use chat services to find those answers. Online chat adoption among customers has significantly risen in the past few years, from 38% in 2009, to 43% in 2012, to 65% in 2015. Translation: having a static online presence isn’t enough.

If you’re looking to make the biggest impact for your investment, there are three specific avenues to pursue: an active online presence that is accessible through a smartphone, an app, and upping your “experience” factor.


Going Mobile

Is your website mobile-friendly? If not, make it so. This is not negotiable. Your business also has to be both present and engaged on social media, and you–the business owner–most likely do not have time to do this process justice on your own.

Microsoft’s new State of Global Customer Service Report says that 68% of 18 – 34-year-old consumers have higher expectations for customer service today than they had just one year ago (compared to 56% across all age groups and 47% of consumers ages 55+). Millennials want to not only see you but interact with you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram–at a minimum. Your business must post often and reply to comments and questions, and there should be someone always at the helm of an online chat button.

Just keeping up with this feels like a job in itself, so hire someone and make it one. It’s worth it.


Apps to the Rescue

Who remembers hiring a limo for prom? Global Express Limousine was cruising along making that happen, until Uber made an app for that. According to an article in the Washington Post, when Uber and Lyft came out, “Sales, which had once exceeded $5 million a year… dropped by nearly half.” In 2015, Global Express introduced a mobile app to win back its executive clients, and results were immediate, “Within 40 days, Global Express had racked up $250,000 worth of business.” RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation faced the same problem, and in response they did their best to mimic the most appealing parts of Uber’s model, like transparent, mileage-based rates and shorter cancellation windows, in addition to investing in a mobile app.

Alvin, our very own millennial intern here at Lendistry said, “If I have to wait 4 days for shipping, I don’t bother.” When millennial consumers can get whatever they want at the tap of the screen–food delivery through PostMates, custom clothes through StitchFix, free samples of eyeglasses from Warby Parker, and everything else with free two-day shipping from Amazon Prime, it’s just good sense to make a mobile app and free fast shipping part of your consumers’ experience. Amazon is investing in drone deliveries for Pete’s sake, so up your game.


Don’t Own It, Experience It

When millennials do cross the threshold of a brick-and-mortar location, they’re looking for more than traditional shopping or eating.

TELUS International says millennials want a business to be an experience:

“78 percent of Millennials would rather spend money on an experience or event than on buying something. Many retailers are beginning to re-position their message from ‘owning things’ to ‘experiencing them’ by building communities around their products. For example, retailers like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s organize concerts, yoga classes and beauty events to create memories and experiences that can help retain customers.”

So instead of pairing wine with fish or books with stationary, pair your business with another local business for an intriguing event.

Raising the bar to please one demographic will bring in new happy customers from unexpected realms. Millennials are not to be underestimated, and many are now opening businesses themselves. Besides, their baby boomer parents have smartphones now, too, and most of them know how to use them.