Meet the Linksters – the post Gen-Y generation

By my daughter Meagan Johnson

Businesses today are well aware of the importance of attracting Generation X and Y consumers to develop a younger clientele that will fuel growth into the future. There is another prime target market on the horizon that will soon populate your customer base and employee roster: the Linksters. No, “Linkster” is not a synonym for “golfer.” Rather, it describes those born in 1995 or later (sometimes called Generation Z) who have almost always known a world that is linked together via technology.

While Gen Y (those born between 1981-1994) was the first generation to embrace technology and social media, Linksters take connectivity to a whole new level. Technology dominates their lives, and as a result, many Linksters:

• Are growing up in a house with no landline (family members all have cell phones)
• Attend a school with no textbooks (everything is online)
• Have had little training or experience in cursive writing (school assignments are typed)
• Are not dependent on bricks and mortar or in-person interactions (anything can be done online, including shopping, banking and interacting with friends)

There is a common marketing approach known as “market of one” that refers to creating a level of customization so that your consumer feels unique and valued. For Linksters, customization does not go far enough—they want personalization and enjoy expressing their personal brand in everything they do and have. The difference between customization and personalization may seem like nothing more than semantics, but if you can grasp the subtleties you will gain insight into what motivates Linksters.

One way to think of customization is choosing from an array of options offered by a company. For example, if you are buying a new iPhone, you can choose white or black, how many GBs and which service provider you prefer. That is customization. When you get home with your purchase, you can set the sounds and signals to your preferences, add photos as wallpaper, choose which alerts to display and decorate the outside with a case, stickers or other embellishments. That is personalization.

The oldest Linksters are just turning eighteen. This gives savvy businesses time to develop strategies to attract this group as they move into peak earning, borrowing and saving years. For example, if you are a bank or credit union, you might already offer a choice of designs for your debit and credit cards. This level of customization is probably appreciated by a lot of your customers, but what about adding a personalization option? Could customers design their own cards through an online program or by uploading photos or artwork? For employees, could you allow latitude in dress code (including piercings or tattoos), music played in the office or access to social media during slow times just to name just a few ideas? Here’s the litmus test: if what the young person does bothers you for some reason, ask yourself if it is negatively impacting cost, quality, safety or member service. If not, consider letting it go.

As with any generation, Linksters have unique wants, needs and desires. Companies that can tap into the mindset of this group will benefit in terms of productive relationships and loyalty in the years to come.

Meagan Johnson is known as the Generational Humorist and is a Partner at Johnson Training Group. She is the co-author of Generation, Inc., a guide to managing friction between generations in the workplace.

Learn how to maximize employee and customer relationships across multiple generations from Johnson at CUES Directors Conference, December 8-11, 2013, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. Register now for this impactful educational and networking experience.

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