They were raised in the most child-centered environment ever. They had overly protective parents who nurtured them and provided for every emotional, educational and physical need and want. They were programmed with multiple activities since they were toddlers, so many are now masters of multi-tasking. They are self-confident and for good reason: they represent the largest generation in the United States.
Meet Generation Y or, as they’re now more commonly called, the Millennials.
This group is extremely important to business. As consumers, America’s 80 million Millennials will surpass Boomers in buying power within a few short years. It’s estimated that they’ll spend $200 billion annually by 2017 and $10 trillion over their lifetimes. Meanwhile, they already command a major role in the workforce – so it’s vital for companies to understand what makes these individuals tick.
Born between 1980 and 1994, Millennials have grown up immersed in technology. They’ve always known cable television, cell phones, laptop computers, video games – and the Internet readily available at home or at school. For years, their smartphones have bundled communication, entertainment, shopping, mapping and education all in one. All this has changed how Millennials communicate and interact, and given them a “must have it now” mentality.
Because Millennials embrace and align themselves with technology, they adopt new technology quickly. But they also expect it to work and have very little patience for devices or websites that are clunky or not intuitive. Millennials expect exceptional service and satisfying experiences, especially in websites they visit. They favor companies like Amazon.com that interact with them and suggest products they might like.
Most Millennials could not function without mobile devices . . . and no, that’s not overstating the case. Pew Research says that four out of five of them sleep with their cell phones, using them as alarm clocks. And once they’re awake, Millennials don’t typically use cell phones to talk. They text. But that isn’t all they do. Go into any restaurant at lunchtime and look around. Every Millennial in the room will have cell phone in hand…checking messages, purchasing products, surfing the Internet, checking social networks. And when they’re in buying mode, they’re twice as likely as non-Millennials to use a mobile device to research products and read user reviews while they’re shopping. If doing nothing else to cater to this generation, make sure to have a mobile-friendly website that lets Millennials experience the brand on their terms.
Oh . . . and old-fashioned marketing won’t reach this generation. Millennials ignore advertising, but have a strong desire to connect and share experiences with others. So they respond to social activities – unique events, viral videos, and social media. They’re more likely to shop, dine and travel with groups. They actively seek opinions of others. In fact, they don’t make a major decision until they’ve discussed it with people they trust. And they tend to trust their peers first and their parents second.
This desire for connection also explains why they’re so attracted to social sites such as Facebook and Snapchat and why they share opinions on Yelp, Amazon, and TripAdvisor. Millennials enjoy sharing dining experiences, interests and aspirations through blogs, Tumblr, YouTube, Vine and Instagram videos. They often take action on behalf of brands and share brand preferences in their social groups. However, in order for a brand to be relevant to Millennials, figure out ways to connect people to other people, thereby building a brand community.
Millennials focus on quality of life. They value staying close to family and friends, having free time for recreation, and working in creative jobs. However, they also want to make a positive social impact on their own children, communities and society as a whole. They are very environmentally conscious and seek to do business with companies that are ethical and share this concern. They are driven by the desire to make a difference. So show how your brand product or service can connect them with something bigger than themselves – and you’ll capture their attention and their loyalty.
Millennials also want to do something important with their purchases. Want them to embrace a brand? Explain how that brand makes people’s lives better.
But remember: Millennials aren’t just consumers. By 2018, they’ll make up 50 percent of the workforce. For business owners or managers, understand what Millennials want from their employers.
Reason: Millennials aren’t like other generations. Corporate loyalty isn’t as important to them as it is to their parents – and most won’t be satisfied to sit in one place forever. They have a different perspective.
For example, these tech-savvy multi-taskers don’t view managers as experts. Why should they? They can simply go to the Internet and get multiple versions of expertise. They view managers more as coaches and mentors. They value managers who are honest, have integrity, and treat them with respect. Coaching and positive reinforcement will keep Millennials engaged in their work.
On the other hand, Millennials are better than other generations at being team players and collaborators. Maybe it’s all that participation in soccer practice, baseball, music lessons and summer camps they had as kids! In any case, this generation seems to prefer team-based projects. And they especially embrace their work when there is a clear understanding of a company’s purpose and goals.
Even more than other generations, Millennials seek both employability and flexibility. They want to add to their skills constantly and in meaningful ways. It’s not just about the money. It’s about personal enrichment and fulfillment. They want flexibility in their jobs (flexible work schedules are highly coveted), but they also want opportunities to learn and contribute.
Millennials tend to get a bad rap. They’re often dismissed as lazy, entitled, narcissistic, “high maintenance” and disloyal. Not true. They’re just different from other recent generations. And if a company wants to make the best possible use of their skills, it’s time to understand that difference and respond accordingly to this huge segment of our population.
A 29-year advertising veteran, Kim Gresham is President/Owner of Anderson Marketing Group, the oldest and largest general market agency in San Antonio.