Product Development in the Digital Age: How to Influence Millennials

Christie is the Founder & CEO of UChic. She's also a Millennial, the market her company targets.
Christie is the Founder & CEO of UChic. She’s also a Millennial, the market her company targets.

UChic is a mission-driven lifestyle brand whose products sales empower our teen girl consumers through scholarships. Our research found that 95% of young women in the U.S. lack the funding to pursue their dreams outside of the classroom. Knowing that these extracurricular experiences can change lives, we launched our company and foundation in 2013, and are getting set to launch our first product — the “Gracie,” a fashionable computer case for the classroom and beyond. The case, available right now through Indiegogo, will help fund the dreams of over 10 deserving young women with $1000 scholarships, kicking off the company’s on-going commitment to funding the dreams of young women through our product sales.

I was inspired to start UChic based on the success we’ve had in creating the best-selling guidebook to college written “for and by” young women — U Chic: The College Girl’s Guide to Everything (Sourcebooks 2013). Over 100,000 book copies have been sold since, and a fourth edition is in the works. Call me a Millennial, but I wanted to do more to empower our consumers.

What are the benefits of the Millennial consumer market when considering a new product launch? How does their involvement with brands influence their peers’ power to purchase as well as to the co-creation of products?

As a Millennial, I know first-hand how much our generation desires to have a “voice” in the world (that’s partly why I created UChic — to give my generation and younger a platform) and thanks to the technological advances we’ve seen happen over the past decade, we have more power than generations that came before us. From presidential campaigns to regime changes in the Middle East to new product design, Millennials are changing the course of “business as usual.”

From the research, we know that compared to older generations, Millennials have 200 more friends on Facebook and are more likely to use social media to express their feelings and opinions, which makes them more influential in their ability to spread the word farther and faster. As consumers, Millennials’ purchasing decisions are also more likely to be influenced by what their peers have to say, so it is critical for companies to figure out how to be a part of these conversations. One way to do it is to ask Millennials to help “co-create” the products they want.

What are the disadvantages of managing the expectations of Millennials when it comes to product development?

The desire for instant gratification in the digital age can make the millennial consumers’ expectation quite high when it comes to product development. If something goes wrong — and yes, even Facebook can get it wrong at times — Millennials are more likely to share their angst on social media. And because of their larger and stronger social networks, such despair can travel far and wide, becoming viral within a few hours of the first unhappy Tweet. Companies can manage these higher expectations by being transparent from the start on the product development process.

What are some of the latest tools and techniques for conducting cost-effective market research with Millennials?

Online surveys and community engagement strategies (i.e., posting questions on FB or Twitter) are some the best and most cost-effective tools around when it comes to conducting market research with Millennial consumers. From my research, Millennials like to weigh-in on the market research process; it gets back to that desire to have a voice or say in the world.

Whether it’s simply positioned as an “exclusive opportunity” to take part in a new product launch or tied to an incentive like a gift card, Millennials are open to being engaged in this manner. And better yet, figure out a way to follow up with them once the product has launched for additional feedback. Couched within a question of “Did we get it right?” should open the door for additional engagement and feedback that can be good for the bottom line.

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