I was at an Apple store recently, and found myself answering the question, “Are you going to pre-order a watch tonight?” My response came with no hesitation, “Are you?” Of course I expected the employee to react with over zealous enthusiasm engendered by years of blind love for a sometimes-superior product. Her answer, “I didn’t want one until I saw the discount we get, then I thought why not?” I then asked another worker nearby what she thought, and her answer was nearly identical. So I followed up with, “What do you think you will you use it for.” She gave the usual it’s good for fitness, it would be nice to see notifications, but more than anything I want to see what kind of apps will come in the future. I think my eyes were fully closed and I had begun entering a REM cycle of sleep by the time she explained why it would be so cool to have the amazing watch.
The Internet of Things is set to become 2015’s proverbial dead horse in the media, after Big Data’s thorough enough “beating” in 2014. Previous to Big Data, we’ve had Cloud, SaaS, and gamification, among others. Each have had their place in business, some less important than others, but their time in the media spotlight has taken a chronological back seat to what is “next” in tech.
So what’s after IoT? I think to figure out what we all will be talking about for the next 12-18 months, we should consider what the Internet of Things means for the future. First, let’s get clear on a couple things: the Internet of Things has been happening for a long time. Connected mobile devices, creating and passing data, either actively or passively, is not new. We just haven’t been ready for the amount of data we would be compressing, nor did we have the infrastructure in place to manage the transfer of that data. Now that we do, the Internet of Things deserves a real shot. Gartner is predicting that the Internet of Things will include 26 billion connected devices by 2020, and Cisco forecasts $19 trillion in economic value over the next decade.
You want to know how to sell things to Millennials? Make it simple. We are a generation of quick and easy consumption. From the way we interact, to the way we gain our news, it is all devoured in fragmented messages, in veritable hieroglyphs, and often in 140 characters or less.
Software developers should pay attention, especially to those who are building products for the next generations. For a personal research project, I looked at several commoditized applications in the mobile app market, to determine what caused one app to succeed over another. It wasn’t a perfect study because company personnel, marketing plans, investors, and networks couldn’t be compared effectively, but compared to most product markets the Apple App Store is a somewhat “fair” marketplace for competition. Anyone can submit an app, everyone has the same opportunity to add keywords and flashy descriptions, and every submission is given the same amount of screenshots to highlight their product.
In my attempt to look for a good apples-to-apples comparison, I decided to research mobile apps that read bar and QR codes. Many of these apps are free, use the exact same technology to read codes, and connect to a similar repository to return information generated by the scanned code. The glaring differences came in the user experience and interface. One application in particular opened straight to a camera like view and snapped a scan of a code as soon as it was in focus, no button pushing necessary. This particular app was being downloaded exponentially more times than competitors. It also had a very high quality app icon, and overall was pretty. The interesting trend I noticed is even if an application was feature superior, it often failed against the prettier/buggier yet far simpler counterpart, purely because it took longer to figure out or took attention away from the intended job to be done.
My point is that the apps that were far more feature rich became cumbersome to use. To my fellow Millennials, do you remember switching from Myspace to Facebook? Myspace was customizable and each individual page was a unique experience, compared to Facebook, which looked so bland and generic. What about your first experience with Google? Remember thinking, “What do I do?” During a CAD class in high school, a friend was looking over my shoulder while I searched for something and he said, “You have to try this new site, it’s way faster.” I switched from Alta Vista to Google after one use. It was too easy and straightforward not to. Why is the iPhone is still so popular with mainstream youngsters, despite heavy opposition from feature rich competitors? Why has the dating app Tinder become a social phenomenon, despite existing in an over-served market? Why did Instagram attract millions of users within months, and then sell for $1 billion? Simplicity.
While thinking of your upcoming product strategy, and in particular when thinking of how to target the millennial generation: eliminate features, emphasize design, and focus on the imperatives.
I can’t help but laugh when I Google “Millennial” and look for the latest news on my generation. Nearly every article is a new insight into how to motivate millennials, how to work with millennials, how to keep millennials happy, how to understand millennials, and so on. Are we that much of a mystery?
My response to the mysterious millennial conundrum is we aren’t the ones who are hard to work with. Sure we do things different than the older generations, and yes we jump jobs faster than any generation previous, but when it comes down to it, we get things done (and do a good job of it too) and that’s why other generations think they have to figure us out. Here’s a fact: Gen X-ers don’t really like millennials. They distrust us, try to peg us as lazy, and generally want to keep us in a preconceived box. So how do we work in an environment surrounded by detractors?
There are three parts to working successfully with the previous generations that surround us, but the bottom line is to maintain an attitude of respect and you’ll get it in return.
Part 1: Ask for help: I know this grates against the nature of the true millennial, considering we are a self-serving, self-important, self-motivated bunch, but this may be the most important way to get the older generation to stop thinking you’re a total jerk. Whenever you run into an issue that you know is only solved by tacit or tribal knowledge, find either the most outspoken/popular gen x co-worker and ask for help, or go my preferred route and ask the quiet, impersonal, never makes eye contact with you type. Your co-workers will either hear about you asking for help from the loud guy, or see and respect you approaching the scary guy.
Part 2: Say thank you: Following asking for help is saying thank you. I don’t just mean after you’ve received help, I mean after you’ve been hired, after you’ve been helped on a project, after you’ve been taken to lunch. A lost art among the younger generation is the handwritten note. Nothing says, “I can get along with oldies” better than the archaic form of communication known as handwriting. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but very much believe the underlying message.
Part 3: Don’t back down: The third part involves making educated, defensible decisions and sticking to them. There is a way to be firm in your opinion at work without being called any combination of arrogant, pompous, naïve, young, ignorant, or a variety of other adjectives. Use the generational advantage you have been given of ingrained tech savviness to find solid empirical, and expert knowledge to support what you say. Always be prepared with solid facts, and expert quotes. When challenged by co-workers, stand your ground but give reasons why you are so firm.
Sure, this is no foolproof, comprehensive plan for every situation any millennial will be in, but generally these three actions, done consistently, will garner you the respect you think you deserve.