To achieve success, get a 14-year old to test drive your app or site

I’ve often been astounded by the little things my 14-year old mentee (I do some volunteer work as a mentor in Washington D.C.) does or says about a mobile app that are really insightful. As seasoned marketers, we sometimes like to think of ourselves as knowing quite a lot, but when it comes to understanding what is useful, interesting, and helpful on a mobile app, and in marketing to the younger generation in years to come, I’ve decided it’s best to run it by a 14-year old who lives and breathes technology. Here are some useful tips I’ve learned from her – as she invariably grabs my smartphone whenever we meet so she can tweet, play games, etc. – that can be applied pretty much universally to any mobile or online product.

It’s all about the pictures.
An app that allows you to post pictures, view pictures, and comment on pictures is most interesting. Think of real estate’s ‘location, location, location’; with mobile apps the equivalent is ‘pictures, pictures, pictures.’ Instagram has become a bigger hit among the younger crowd than Facebook because it simply focuses on pictures. That’s really all they want to do – view other’s pictures, and post ‘selfies’ of themselves in poses that I think are supposed to be either funny or sexy – and end up being a bit of both – funnily sexy. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to either laugh or grimace at these pictures, and think like an older person, ‘thank goodness we didn’t have Instagram when I was a kid.’
Groupon is an app that she likes, mainly because it’s really easy to scroll through all the deals and look at their pictures. When she commented that she likes the Groupon app on my phone, and likes to scroll through the deals, I knew Groupon would be on the upswing again – and sure enough, due to its great mobile ecommerce, Groupon has been doing better in stock price. Here’s a recent article that proves it.

Email sucks.
I asked her if she ever uses her email, as I’d like to correspond with her on email. She says maybe she checks it once in a while, but only when her teachers (AKA old people) are sending her stuff. Apparently email is just too old and slow (kind of like my generation’s snail mail letters, I guess), so not surprisingly all of her peers either text, tweet, or Instagram to correspond with each other. Good to know – always have some sort of instant texting component to your app or marketing, and send push notifications/texts if possible. Also, figure out how to collect those cell phone numbers now, and create brand presence on Twitter.

Make videos and songs easily viewed or heard on a smart phone.
These kids are using their phones like TV’s – they expect everything to be viewed and heard on their phones without interruption. A video that is ‘buffering’ and keeps stopping is ridiculous to them. If you choose to have these interactive components, make sure they work seamlessly. One time I was trying to show her a video from a mobile site and she lost total interest when the video had to ‘think’ for a bit, before continuing.

What I’ve learned is this younger generation, I’ll call them “Generation Z,” has expectations that are way higher than Gen X or even Gen Y. We ‘older’ generations cut companies a lot of slack because we remember times when things weren’t that fast. These kids don’t have any experience with that. SO if you really want to create an outstanding customer experience, do things the way a 14-year old would like them and guess what? All us ‘older’ folks will love it too – after all, who doesn’t like to look at pictures instead of boring text, or not have their videos stop mid-stream? Go back to your inner child (or create an impromptu pre-teen focus group) and you’ll get a lot of useful customer experience feedback for your product, no matter what it is.

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