Millennials as a U.S. generation are the same size as the Baby Boomer generation and almost twice the size of Generation X. These younger shoppers will achieve a spending power of an estimated $2.45 trillion in 2015. They are also a huge force in the workplace.
Fiercely independent at an early age, this is the first generation to have grown up with technology as a pacifier. The most racially diverse generation, they see one world, one community.
Research confirms that Millennials march to a different tune. One that is creating great challenges for grocers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers as both sellers and employers. Unlike previous generations, Millennials are blurring lines that didn’t exist a generation ago about where they shop — and the rules for work and play.
The U.S. Millennial generation
1. TECHNOLOGY — A 5TH SENSE FOR MILLENNIALS.
Millennials are almost constantly engaged with technology — to the point of distraction. They usually have more than one form of technology within arm’s reach. One-third of Millennials would forgo a higher salary to work at a company without limits to technology access, and 56 percent won’t accept a job where access to social media is prohibited at work. One statistic stands out in offering perspective on the importance of technology to Millennials — about 50 percent would give up their sense of smell before they’d give up access to technology. How does this interrelationship with technology affect their shopping habits?
Impact: “Research shows when it comes to shopping, Millennials want seamless transitions between in-store, online, mobile shopping and order online/pick-up-at- store transactions,” said Richard Spoon, ArchPoint Consulting CEO. “They’re looking for digital synergy in their modes of shopping.” Millennials are more than twice as likely as others to use the Internet to create grocery lists. In store, 61 percent of smart phone owners use their phones to compare prices while shopping. More than half also use a phone to find coupons, access their shopping list and find recipes.
2. DO YOU “LIKE” ME?
Millennials look for community. Being a part of something larger is inherent in their approach to life. Being loved by many is a driving factor for most Millennials. The average number of friends in a Millennial’s Facebook network is more than 300 as compared to about 85 for Baby Boomers.
Impact: They make decisions they believe their friends will think important. Nearly three-quarter of Millennials believe they influence or inspire the purchases of their peers and those in other generations.
Millennial primary grocery shoppers are 80 percent more likely to like a brand that uses social media and 40 percent more likely to check out a brand they like on Facebook or Twitter. More than half of teen girls say when they discover a new brand or trend they tell a best friend or sister with about 80 percent preferring texting or phone calls to spread the word. Millennials don’t like to shop alone and often bring another adult along on most outings. Millennial men do more shopping than in previous generations, and they prefer company for bigger food buying expeditions with 56 percent taking along a companion when they purchase 16 or more items.
3. MILLENNIALS SEEK TRUTH.
They actively cull through the noise to find the truth. Millennials have grown up in a time when information is abundant, but truth is rare. If you are caught trying to deceive them or not telling the truth, they will not knowingly do business with you again — and will likely tell many, if not all, of their “friends”. (They are major believers in social justice and want companies they support to have a record of and continue “doing the right thing,” as defined by their community.) Authenticity is critical for the brand.
Impact: Truth is defined by the communities they’re in. It’s not an underpinning principle. Baby Boomers determine truth based on what they perceive as right or wrong. Right or wrong shifts based on perceptions of Millennials’ community more so than historical principles. They investigate companies and products and then develop trust. “Instead of peer pressure, Millennials buy based on peer trust,” Bradley Nix, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Black Pearl Intelligence, said. Black Pearl Intelligence creates actionable insights and strategies for major brands based on proprietary scientific methodology that quantifies social media trends.
Millennials make smart purchases by tapping into the insights of shoppers who have made similar purchases. User generated content on company websites influences more than 80 percent of millennial purchases. Overall, the influence of new media on millennial shoppers is two to three times higher than on the average shopper. For Millennials, change is a constant.
4. MILLENNIALS FUSE WORK AND PLAY.
Millennials believe they’re entitled to play (or shop) part of the day during work and largely understand the need for work, occasionally, to interfere with their play. In a study by MTV, 70 percent of Millennials believe they should have “me” time at work — compared to 39 percent of Boomers. Their philosophy is, “If the work gets done, why should it matter?”
Impact: Employers and those selling to Millennials must understand how to strike a happy medium with Millennials. Employers might designate one day a week, companywide, as meeting free and create a more creative, flexible work environment. Grocers and consumer packaged products manufacturers must understand the diverse Millennial market segments and their needs for convenience and value. “As an industry, we’ve got to recognize that Millennials have blurred the lines between conventional channels. Now, more than ever is the time to study ways to augment store offerings and give Millennials a reason to return,” said Jesse Edelman, ArchPoint COO.
In 2012 Black Pearl Intelligence conducted focus groups on convenience stores with Millennials and found they prefer highly organized, aesthetically pleasing stores where they can quickly find products and leave whether they come in at 4 p.m. or 4 a.m. As one Millennial said, “I have my credit card and everything set up so I can scan and go, and I want the cashier to be as organized as I am.”
5. THE GREAT RECESSION SHIFTED MILLENNIALS’ EXPECTATIONS.
Millennials finished/are finishing their education only to enter the worst economy in decades. The combination of their financial commitments, lackluster global economy, layoffs and corporate downsizing combine to create huge distractions even for the employed. The road ahead is grim as the youth unemployment rate continues to lead all other segments and is climbing. The unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds in January 2013 was 13.1 percent. For December 2012 it was 11.5 percent, while the unemployment rate in November 2012 was 10.9 percent.
Up to 46 percent took a lower-paying job and are often too economically stressed out to fully focus on their work. 24 percent of Millennials fear losing their job — versus 9 percent of Baby Boomers. For many, pay scales lag, playing havoc on productivity. Nearly 50 percent of Millennials say that owning their own business is a top life goal.
Impact: Millennials need constant reinforcement. 80 percent of Millennial employees want recognition and feedback regularly, and 50 percent want it at least once a week. They like immediate feedback to see if they are doing a good job and how they can improve. That instant feedback loop — think video games — applies equally with their connection to the products they buy. Research shows that tiny, regular rewards make a big difference at work and in all other dimensions of their lives.
6. HEALTHY IS A MUST.
Millennials plan for and believe they want the healthiest option — almost every time. In one study, more than half of Millennials ranked the purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables extremely or somewhat important as compared to 45 percent of Baby Boomers. For fresh meat and seafood, 48 percent of Millennials considered those purchases important versus 41 percent of Baby Boomers. Other studies indicate younger shoppers are willing to pay more for the healthier, specialty and ethnic foods that they prize.
“Millennials love to share their passions, their favorite foods and other products online,” Suchi Gopal, chief science officer and owner of Chatmine Technologies, whose integrated data mining system supports quantifiable insights into consumer behaviors. “They will also use social media to spread the word about negative experiences. Companies need to strategically manage the dialogue with consumers before the conversation gets away from them.”
Impact: Every product has to clearly communicate health benefits good and bad, and every product line needs a healthy option. On a practical level regarding employees, keep in mind Millennials’ passion for healthy when ordering lunches or rewards.
7. BRANDS MATTER, BUT NOT IN ALL CATEGORIES.
Millennials are brand loyal in the categories that matter to them — especially food they believe is healthy and personal hygiene options. More than 60 percent of Millennials say they don’t focus on brands but on price. That compares with just 46 percent of Baby Boomers. “A Millennial’s concept of brand loyalty is conditional,” Nix said. “If your brand isn’t on the mark all time, picky Millennials will go elsewhere.” Some categories with high brand loyalty include yogurt, shampoo and for those with children — laundry detergent.
Impact: Does your product or service matter to Millennials? If it doesn’t, your brand value will erode — and they’ll base their decision solely on price. Plus performance.
8. IT’S ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE.
Millennials are consumers, but they are more interested in buying experiences than previous generations. Only 3 percent think advertising is boring, and 80 percent want brands to entertain them — with the ability to co-create products and services as the most popular way. They want the ability to participate in customizing products and want their shopping experiences to entertain and delight.
Impact: Very few companies can afford to be in all the places where Millennials consume information. It’s cost prohibitive. A scattershot approach in a multimedia age is highly wasteful. A better idea is to laser target to ensure hitting the bull’s-eye. Be sure to include Millennials as part of the social media and shopping experience. Don’t forget about traditional media, specifically television. More than half of Millennials indicate TV is the first way they hear about products and services. “Consider cooking shows with online blogs and in-store kiosks and demonstrations,” said Spoon. “Surround Millennials on all fronts with the information, connectivity and authentic experiences they crave through packaging, products and promotions. Allow Millennials to express themselves and put their stamp upon the product within the boundaries of their price/value needs.”