Yes, Millennials Make Phone Calls

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As discussed at December’s BIA/Kelsey NEXT, millennials are what’s really next.  Suddenly, they* fully occupy the coveted and buying-empowered 18-34 demographic. This makes their behavior and proclivities a core design principle for marketers everywhere.

But with this generation’s rise has come a fair amount of misconception, led mostly (as it often happens) by link-bait headlines and the media’s obsession with story angles that are sexy vs. accurate. It turns out Millennials are buying cars and are capable of work ethic.

The latest area where millennials have been invoked is conversational commerce and chatbots. You can read the background and definitions in our recent coverage. The claim is that millennials hate picking up the phone and only communicate via messaging apps.

The latter is true to some degree and can be seen in Facebook Messenger’s 900 million users, as well as the exploding popularity of messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, Kik and of course Snapchat. But this will be a death sentence for another medium: SMS.

Phone calls could in fact be boosted through commerce-oriented messaging threads. As I discussed last week with Marchex‘s John Busby, there will be many cases where an chatbot can’t answer a question or fulfill a request, resulting in a handoff to a live agent.

This also means chatbots will end up supporting call commerce by reducing clutter in the lead flow. In other words, if there’s a call volume reduction, it will be at the low end (directions, hours of operation), potentially boosting the value of high-intent calls.

Back to millennials, there’s evidence that their aversion to phone calls could be yet another media/blogosphere concoction. Marchex’s own data indicates that they’re making phone calls, just like they’re buying cars and homes — a surprising outcome even to Busby.

Busby further explicated the data and its implications at the recent BIA/Kelsey NOW. The relevant clip is embedded below. Stay tuned for much more on this topic… I’m in the thick of a refresh of our industry-defining call commerce report of 2014.

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Related: We’ll discuss messaging apps and chatbots next month at BIA/Kelsey ENGAGE with a day-2 panel featuring Kik, Pingup and a growing list. Use code ENGAGEMB for a discount.

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*I use a third-person plural reference to millennials, only because I am two years past the cuttoff (1980) for being a millennial myself.

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