The future of mobile: How enterprise brands can help millennials make a difference

By Jonathan Crowl

Millennials have grown up in a world saturated with technology, and they’ve now reached a stage in life where they can harness that technology to make a positive impact. Mobile technology has demonstrated particular strengths in shaping this transformation. Thanks to social networking, remote work, the IoT and other solutions that bridge the physical-digital divide, creating a better future isn’t just a dream for millennials — it has become a call to action. The future of mobile will align with these goals.

According to research from Bentley University, the millennial generation represents an unprecedented shift toward greater social responsibility. More than 90 percent of millennials care about a company’s social impact and its reputation in helping to make the world a better place. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed say they care about working for a socially and ethically responsible company.

This is blurring the line between for-profit initiatives and nonprofit ventures, forcing enterprise brands to consider their role in improving lives around the world. A failure to recognize opportunities to make a positive social impact may not only risk the business of this coveted demographic, it can also make it harder to effectively recruit talent. Millennials expect enterprise brands to make contributions back to the world, and this mobile-savvy generation is most engaged when mobile solutions are at the heart of this strategy. Consequently, companies are brainstorming ways they can leverage mobility to engage millennials through social and global transformation.

The future of mobile: Millennials and the enterprise

If you want to join millennials in creating a better future with mobile, the first step is understanding where your audience’s interests intersect with the mission of your brand. Are you a beverage company that can better align yourself with clean water initiatives in developing countries? Are you a hardware manufacturer looking for ways to inspire young students to pursue careers in construction, especially ones in underserved communities?

The problem should be identified before the solution. When building a new mobile solution or experience, bear in mind that millennials are incredibly purpose-driven. They’re more concerned with the end result of their actions, rather than the process behind those actions and the resulting transformation.

Once the global and/or social problem is identified, the next step is figuring out how to enlist millennials in your enterprise efforts. The right solution might be the creation of an advocacy-minded mobile app, a communication platform that connects activists with each other, or tools to collect millennial data that can be used to build solutions and strategies that improve their respective communities.

It’s important to consider the role of collaboration and community when taking a mobile approach to addressing big-world problems. Millennials believe that collaboration and organization are critical to change, and they understand the importance of partnering with businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to get results. In many cases, there might be a social element to incorporate into these mobile strategies, even if the primary objective has nothing to do with social networking. Instead of isolating millennials on an individual level, seek strategies that will enhance community and cooperation in striving to serve the greater good.

This approach to enterprise-minded global service is an extension of simply improving the world through informed consumerism. Consumer activities may be folded into this drive to create a better future, but for millennials, it must also be geared toward an experience and a way of engaging beyond simply spending money on a particular brand. Mobility must offer something tangible to bridge the gap between millennial aspirations to improve the world and the real-world needs brands are aiming to address.

Giving consumers a greater sense of purpose

For enterprises, the task of teaming with millennials to create a better future is a complicated and often abstract venture. A for-profit organization can’t invest significant resources without being able to justify these efforts in terms of how they serve business goals. At the same time, there is a limited body of work to reference when understanding how mobility can be leveraged to both serve the greater good while building a better relationship with millennial consumers.

There are, however, some examples worth referencing when attempting to create your own business strategy. Fast Company points to New Majority Community Labs, an organization that uses big data to enhance on-the-ground political and social organizing strategies. This is an example of demographic data serving two purposes at once: While businesses can learn more about the communities they’ve targeted on the enterprise side, they can also serve the social good by unlocking that data to be used for community organizing and development.

As CNBC notes, increased access to technology has led to a surge in millennial entrepreneurship, and could be an opportunity for enterprise brands to build partnerships and relationships with millennial startups that aren’t among their industry competition. By collaborating and sharing resources to solve real-world problems, each business can also benefit from the skills and expertise offered by their respective partner.

Brands could also consider a sponsorship approach to mobile innovation that makes a positive social impact. That’s what Toyota accomplished with a national competition it launched soliciting solutions to social inclusion issues. Competitors were instructed to use design-thinking strategies to develop solutions that leveraged mobility to serve the greater good. This not only created good publicity for Toyota, but it exposed the brand to innovative ideas championed by millennial students who understand mobility as well — or better — than anyone else working at the company.

Millennials want to change the world in part because they know they have the tools to make a difference. For this generation, mobility is empowerment. By partnering with millennials and soliciting both their expertise and passion to make a difference, enterprise brands can be at the forefront of the future of mobile and build a better organization that makes meaningful contributions to the global community.