The last 40 years have seen unprecedented changes in how we communicate. Just about everything from the telephone to TV has become pocket-sized and the internet has changed the way we work and live. But since the arrival of Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1996), perhaps the greatest shift of all has been in how -- and how much -- we rely on visual communication. 

More than ever before in human history, we communicate with each other in nonverbal, visually driven ways. We share our daily lives with friends and family by posting photos and videos. We retweet memes and spend hours a day watching YouTube or streaming video. Even when we're using a text-based medium, like chat apps or text messages, we sprinkle our copy with emojis

What I've come to call the Visual Generation -- the group comprising Generations Y (millennials) and Z -- aren't just digital natives. They're visual natives, having grown up learning to communicate in fundamentally different ways than their predecessors did. 

Let's take a look at five reasons it's essential to customize your marketing for the Visual Generation.

1. They're in the majority. 

Generations Y and Z comprise nearly two-thirds of the entire global population -- 31.5 percent and 32 percent, respectively, according to Bloomberg

Chances are, then, no matter what business you're in, you need to reach this audience. That means you need to learn to speak their language. 

2. Their communication style will drive the future of marketing. 

Traditional, text-based marketing is no longer viable. Visual content is the new king. Why? Because marketers need to communicate the way their customers prefer to communicate, or risk losing them. 

Your customers are already speaking visually and showing a preference for visual over text-based content. And with new communication technologies like virtual reality getting better all the time, this isn't likely to change any time soon. 

3. Visual communication connects with audiences better. 

Visuals don't just reach the brain faster and more naturally than text. They also communicate complex information in a more effective way. 

In fact, compared to text alone, text combined with visual elements sees an 89 percent improvement in comprehension. So if you want to ensure your message actually makes a meaningful impression on your audience, visual communication can help. 

4. They speak a universal language. 

There's a reason that publicly displayed signs tend to feature iconography with little or no text accompaniment. Whether you're being warned that the floor is slippery or that you're in a duckling-crossing zone, icons can get the message across -- no matter what language you speak. 

We live in an increasingly global world, and many brands want to expand their customer base as much as possible. But you can't translate every piece of content into every language. 

Strong visual communication makes its message clear without the audience needing to read a word. Share a video with emotionally compelling footage, an infographic with powerful stats, or an interactive game or quiz, and your audience is likely to understand a great deal. That, of course, offers you more opportunity to reach more people. 

5. Visual content sees higher marketing returns. 

Motion graphics boost marketing returns by an average of 80 percent. Visual interactive content a stunning 70-percent conversion rate. When brands produce high-quality, compelling visual content, their audiences reward them for it. 

So while it might seem difficult to invest your time and money into producing custom visual content for your next campaign, it should be well worth your while. 

The Visual Generation is here, and the way they communicate is evolving all the time. Learn their language and stay on the cutting edge of the latest innovations -- it's no longer a choice for the successful marketer.