Millennials are likely the most studied generation in history and according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, there are plenty of them to study — 80 million plus (the largest cohort size in history)! So how do you describe this generation and who are they? Loosely defined as those born between 1982 and 1999, they also are known as “teacup kids” — for their supposed emotional fragility; “boomerang kids” — always winding up back at home; “trophy kids” — everyone’s a winner; and finally the “Peter Pan generation” — who’ll never grow up.
According to a recent Pew Research study, the Millennial generation is now forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Ranging in age from 18 to 33, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry — and OPTIMISTIC about the future. In a nutshell they are detached from institutions and networked with friends. They are also America’s most racially diverse generation.
Millennials are also the nation’s most stubborn economic optimists. No other cohort of adults is nearly as confident. Some of this optimism therefore may simply reflect the timeless confidence of youth.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce research points out that Millennials are full of contradictions (which of course may be present in the youth of any generation). However, according to Jason Dorsey with the Center for Generational Kinetics, Generation Y (Millennials) is actually fracturing into two distinct groups: productive members of society and those that can’t seem to find their way. Additionally, while many consider the generation to be technologically savvy, they are actually technology dependent. A wired, connected world is all that Millennials have ever known.
So how do you make a connection with someone who doesn’t want to be communicated with in the more traditional ways? They don’t want to talk. They want to interact by text/email within their social network of friends and family. Becoming part of their trusted network is critical to acquiring and keeping them as a customer.
Reports on Millennials’ annual purchasing power vary widely between $125 billion and $890 billion. A more accurate estimate is probably $200 billion of direct purchasing power and $500 billion of indirect spending, largely due to their influence on the spending of their (mostly) Baby Boomer parents. With Millennials’ peak buying power still decades away, as a service industry, we need to establish a relationship with this consumer force now.
Perhaps the largest opportunity to currently market to Millennials is that we must understand and use social media. As social media platforms evolve and grow we need to be on top of the latest trends. The majority of the generation uses social media to not only connect with friends and family, but with companies, services and specific brands as well. You may want to begin reallocating part of your marketing budget to support a larger digital presence.
When building your social media presence, keep in mind this generation will look at advertising that has been placed around engaging content. Engagement is higher among this group than other generations for television and websites.
With the Internet and social media, the number of sources for information has increased dramatically. When gathering information and making buying decisions, this generation relies on recommendations from peers and friends more than from experts or advertising.
The Millennials’ relationship with technology has completely changed their relationship with most everything. Brands and companies that used to be engaged in one-way conversations with consumers are now faced with a multi-faceted, 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week dialogue with their customers and that dialogue continues among their customers. They have the confidence to stand up for what they believe and the technology and network to voice their opinions. With Millennials, you and your company know where you stand, sometimes minute to minute. This generation is also 2.5 times more likely to be early adopters of technology.
Millennials are Mobile.
They use mobile devices to read user reviews and explore information on social networks. More than 75 percent report they sleep with their phones! Having grown up with mobile and digital technology as part of their everyday lives, they switch their attention between media platforms 27 times per hour. This tells us that we need to engage them quickly before we lose their attention.
Connecting with a Cause.
This generation also connects to a company or brand though affiliation with a cause. This is more important to them than previous generations. A company that shows it cares is attractive to this generation. There may be a marketing opportunity right in front of you when you are supporting causes in your communities.
Tapping into this generation as they begin their adult lives is important for us as we want to establish life-long relationships with them as our customers. It all comes down to trust. The trust is deeper and more intense with this group, but the greater availability of information also can destroy it faster. Once you lose a Millennial and break their trust, it is nearly impossible to win them back. Keeping positive relationships is critical.
For the first time in history we are marketing to and servicing four generations of customers — all with distinct buying habits, media choices and ways they find and use our services. Reaching the 80 million plus Millennial generation may be a challenge if you are not prepared. That being said, the opportunities to grow your business by protecting the health and property of these folks are right in front of all of us.
Author’s note: The following sources were used in writing this article:
- The Millennial Generation Research Review/U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
- Millennials in Adulthood/Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends
- Jason Dorsey, Center for Generational Kinetics
The author is chief marketing and strategy officer for Arrow Exterminators, Atlanta, and can be contacted at email@example.com.