The term “digital natives” is credited to author Marc Prensky, who in 2001 wrote about the pressing need for different teaching methods for engaging students who had grown up with digital technology. Prensky observed that these K through college students (who would now be 26 – 40 years old) had spent twice as much time playing video games as they had reading during their lives. As a result, he theorized, they “think and process information fundamentally differently.”
Effectively engaging digital natives requires a different approach. In his ground-breaking essay, Prensky offered some important perspective that we have applied to digital channel engagement in financial services.
Digital natives like visuals, and graphics are best when presented before text rather than after. A good practice is to use pictures to communicate the story – such as a chart that visually depicts savings account growth over time – with accompanying text.
Random access is preferred. A product page that offers up a number of ways to engage – product information, educational content, payment calculators, hyperlinks to a variety of next steps – is very appealing. To non-natives, pages such as these can seem cluttered, but it’s exactly the kind of experience that digital natives seek.
They like their experiences to be gamified. An exploratory journey that presents a series of steps will pull the digital native in, allow them to determine the path, and then deliver a “reward” in terms of best-fit product options.
These engagement preferences, Prensky argued in a follow-up essay, are due to physiological differences in the brains of digital natives. They have been wired differently based on their exposure to digital content throughout the formative stages of their lives. It’s not that they can’t pay attention to content that is more structured and linear, it’s that such content is not interesting or appealing, and they disengage.
If you’re reimagining your digital channel approach to better engage post-millennial digital natives, we can help. Reach out to your account executive to start a conversation.