There is a basic truth about the millennial generation that most technology companies and higher education institutions don’t like to hear: they don’t care that much about features. To succeed with millennials on the market and in the classroom, technology must deliver simple connectivity. Period.
The biggest shocker for those who weren’t born between 1982 and 2004 is that expensive, extraneous features aren’t that important to millennial tech natives, as long as its intuitive, relatively inexpensive, and easy-to-use. Quality is great as an addendum, but ultimately, simplicity and familiarity will win every time.
It’s always dangerous to generalize, but, in my experience as a college professor of twenty-somethings, millennials think that much of today’s technology offerings are extraneous. What they don’t want is something expensive with bells and whistles they don’t need. They are a generation who is happy to watch a movie on a tiny iPhone screen rather than on a high-definition, 60-inch television and it’s because they want simple interfaces that allow them to get work done efficiently without a lot of training, or really any training. They want to pop it out of the box and start making calls.
Chucking College and University Bells and Whistles
Higher education institutions often make the mistake of investing in exorbitantly expensive products they don’t need. If the higher ed market really considered the generation it serves, it would make a better cost-benefit analysis.
For example, I use the completely-free Facebook LIVE in all of my classes, while my university has spent thousands of dollars on alternative solutions that are impossible for the average person to use and require an AV tech to launch. My students are familiar with Facebook. They are already on it in their daily lives. It’s free. And, let’s face it, sometimes college students don’t want to get out of bed and get dressed for class. So, Facebook LIVE allows them to never miss a class. As a professor, I am using the technology to adapt to them, instead of having them adapt to me. Remember, I’m the old person in the room, not them.
Millennials don’t want to have to learn something new that doesn’t feel instinctive–nor should they have to. And, ideally, technology shouldn’t need to come with instructions.
Today, if I were the CEO of a tech company, I would immediately buy every engineer an Amazon Dot and tell them to figure it out with no instructions. Even those who are much older wouldn’t have trouble operating it, then, I would say, “That’s how all our tech should operate if we want to meet the demands of the millennial and up-and-coming Generation-Z markets, simultaneously.”
(Next page: The technology that will keeping millennials engaged in class)
The Technology to Keep Millennials Engaged
If you want to keep millennials engaged with a particular technology, they should not have to be taught how to use something.
If they must be taught, the product should seamlessly and easily deliver that information to them. At no point, should they have to look for it.
Amazon does just that. For example, the Dot automatically opens an instructional video on the consumer’s phone–if they so choose. It doesn’t say, “go find the video” or “here’s the URL for a video.” It pushes the video directly to the consumer because it’s that simple.
Simplify, simplify, simplify to win with millennials and Generation Z, because if they can’t figure how to use something, they’ll just move onto something else.
To further make my point that companies will lose this generation overselling quality instead of simplicity and intuitiveness is the Apple iPhone. Ironically, the iPhone is the worst-performing consumer electronics product in the history of any product we’ve ever owned. Everything we own—our refrigerator, blender, car, waffle-maker, television, whatever-else-anyone-has-ever-plugged-into-a-wall—works at a far superior quality level than the iPhone.
But, ironically, the iPhone is the product that people use more than any other product, and they are willing to settle for far less quality–far, far, far from perfection. iPhone remains easily at the top of the heap as the most popular smartphone in the U.S., holding more than 43 percent of the market-share. Why? Because it’s intuitive, simple to use, and has brand evangelism on its side. So, the performance/efficiency trade-off makes it the perfect product for nearly everyone.
Technology for Millennials Should Feel Like Sweatpants
The best tech should work, for this generation, like slipping on a familiar pair of sweatpants. In essence, it should use the same operating system, but add additional features.
For example, everyone has a touch phone or tablet they love, so, you don’t reinvent the wheel. You make it better by adding 10-point touch. That’s how companies need to approach the millennial generation. They need to give them exactly what they’ve always had (because that’s what they want), but adapted with streamlined functionality that enhances what they couldn’t get on a regular Windows computer, or FaceTime, or Skype.
A company that does this well is InFocus with the Mondopad, which provides familiar interfaces for videoconferencing, whiteboarding and sharing data with a touch screen that allows the user to go beyond what they can do on their normal day-to-day technology with multi-point conferencing, while keeping it intuitive and simple.
The quality is there on the Mondopad, but more importantly for the millennial demographic, the product is easy to use. It further delivers on simple in that it’s expandable and already has a Windows 10 PC integrated into its platform. Windows is used by approximately 90 percent of all business computer consumers and having it already built into its product is very appealing to an audience that treasures familiarity in their tech.
InFocus is ultimately offering the millennial generation a mid-connect video conferencing system service that can be updated easily and inexpensively with incredible scalability for a reasonable price point. And, more importantly, it keeps everything in its native form–meaning, everything you use operates on the Mondopad like it does on your PC. That matters for this demographic.
When current millennial undergraduates begin in the working environment, they’re going to expect to see technology like Mondopads in every single room they walk into. If the technology is not there, they’re going to pick a different room to meet in.
Millennials are not expecting to be dazzled by the biggest, shiniest, and most complicated technology on their campuses or in the workplace. Quite the opposite. Technology is a familiar part of who they are. It’s as expected and perhaps as mundane as having their iPhones in their pockets. It doesn’t have the to be the flashiest technology, but it better be simple to operate.