Millennials are set to become the largest adult generation in history, outnumbering Generation X roughly 3 to 1.
Why does everyone care so much? Forbes recently reported that they’ve got buying power of $170 billion per year. In consumer dollars, that’s kind of a big deal.
Every consulting firm and their dog is writing a report on how millennials are different to their predecessors. Millennials are so hot right now. Everyone wants to know how to sell to this cohort. I’m going to tell you how it’s done.
About millennials, from a millennial
I’m a millennial, I’m 30 years old, I’m female, married, no kids, and I love to spend money. I probably buy about twenty things online each week, in addition to my weekly online grocery shop. The types of things I buy online range from vitamin tablets, to ski boots, to French lessons, to insurance policies, and everything in-between. This is how you can clinch a sale with me, and with all those other millennials out there who you’re trying to flog your wares to:
- Convenience is essential. If you waste my time I will never come back to you. I have better things to waste my time doing online, such as watching What Does The Fox Say, again, for the sixth time on YouTube.
- Price matters, a lot. I can’t emphasise this enough. Millennials are Google natives. We Google everything, and we compare prices of everything. If I can buy the same product on Amazon for £2 cheaper I will, not only because it’s cheaper, but because Amazon haven’t annoyed me, yet.
- When I’m in the change room in a shop, I search online to see if I can buy it cheaper elsewhere, or if there are discount codes that I could use to buy it online. It’s well worth my time, it saves me a lot given how many purchases I make.
- I loved the Dollar Shave Club You Tube clip, but I never bought their product. I don’t buy stuff just because I saw it on YouTube and thought it was funny. If I did I’d be broke.
- I shop using my phone, anywhere and everywhere. On the bus, in bed on a Sunday morning, in the office waiting for a meeting. If I think of something I need, I’ll buy it whenever I have a spare moment. So your mobile site is important. I hate tedious checkouts on mobile sites, sites that remember my details from last time are my go-to favourites.
- I’m information hungry. I want to know all the facts about a product because returning stuff is a pain. I want to know the % sugar content of my breakfast cereal, and the size in cm of the salt and pepper shaker.
- Coupons are not cheap or embarrassing. I will happily clip them, save them and use them.
- My biggest barrier to online shopping right now is receiving the parcels that are delivered. Almost nothing fits through my mail box at home. If parcels are posted to my work sometimes they’re too big and bulky to take home with me on the tube. This is a pain. If you have a good click & collect service I will use it.
- I know that I can get my voice heard if I whinge load enough. If you really annoy me I will be really annoying to you on social media.
- I notice stuff everywhere, both online and off-line. I read tonnes of media and I’m switched on. I still read paper newspapers (especially when they’re free on the tube).
- Print media still works. I buy from H&M and ASOS almost every time they send me a catalogue because I like the pictures in the magazines they send me. I love reading the magazines in the seat pocket on airplanes. And I totally rip out the pages of things I like and buy them online later.
- I’m more likely to like a brand on Facebook if their Facebook content is to my liking; I know it’s going to come up all the time in my activity feed.
- If I have to like your Facebook page to get a discount code, I will unlike you again as quickly as you publish any content that I don’t like. But if you positively surprise me I’ll probably buy from you again.
- Criticism goes viral, but it won’t stop me from purchasing from you. If you handle it well I’ll respect you even more, and guess what, you just made me notice you. Everyone makes mistakes. But knowing how to say sorry properly counts for a lot.
- When I see a product that I want on some advert, I will google it, and then buy another brand if it’s cheaper, because price matters. So your advert just drove me to your competitor because your price wasn’t right. I mentioned that price matters, right? Cool, just wanted to reiterate that.
@marchessa_h I'm not, I'm a gen x. And I don't trust the interweb.
@simontrigg don't be scared! We millennials mean no harm ;)
Thanks @sezinozel, I'm so glad it resonated with you! Millennials are so hot right now ;)
I am definitely a millennial ! Very good observation of consumer behaviours and attitudes of the digital age, well done @n_waterworth !!
@mkarim I'm clearly not a millennial
Thanks @annarr, so glad you enjoyed it :)
@n_waterworth thanks for following; and congrats for this brillant article, i really enjoy reading it !
Very interesting. Probably more than one segment here, truth be told. The Millennials I know have many altruistic redeeming features to influence their buying behaviour eg supporting good causes, ethics, environmental issues and so on. Do any of these considerations affect your shopping behaviour?
@JeremyCoxCRM hey, who are you calling pesky?! ;)
Great article and a useful insight into someone from your generation. Thank you.
I'd also add that your behaviours aren't just the preserve of the 'Millennials'. I know that's not what you're saying but I think that some people make the mistake that it is...
For example, I can't think of any customer, of any age, who isn't interested in convenience and price. Or a customer who isn't interested in knowing more about the products and services they consume and isn't willing to save money with coupons and money-off deals.
Newspapers are still read across the generations. You make a good point about the free ones on the Tube and elsewhere. People of different ages will complain to businesses to get problems resolved. And prefer to have their lives made convenient whenever possible. Have you seen how many older people use 'Click and Collect' in John Lewis or Argos lately?
And it's not just me saying this. Recent research from the US indicates that the older generations can be MORE likely to engage in 'smart online shopping' if they can:
You should see my iphone 5s and ipad mini equipped 74 year old mother-in law use the web to shop! She puts me, my wife and my 12-year old daughter to shame because she's got so much time to do her online research!
So, as I say, great article. Lots of things to reflect upon.
But for someone who is the wrong side of 45...for me, what you're describing is increasingly 'the modern consumer' rather than, in particular, any one generation.
This is one of the best articles I have read in a long time! This is an overview of today's market and modern consumer. I will be passing this on to our guys here at Hama. Retailers need to understand this information, as well as the other generations of course, but we live for today and tomorrow - so this is very important!
Thanks Natalie, great stuff!
@n_waterworth thanks for the milennial insights Natalie; even in B2B we still have a lot to learn from it! Customers get younger by the day!
Thanks for the brilliant post Natalie - I've got a question on the tone of voice Milliennials tend to prefer:
For brevity's sake let's focus on the social side - are we reaching a point where there is enough streetwise (or cynical, depending on which side of the bed you got out of) minds out there that millennials prefer a straight Tweet (Product X is now £24!) or is there still a good response to narrative flow/subverting the straight sales pitch and couching the offer in a conversation?
@n_waterworth right up my street and something we've had loads of conversations about here in the marketing team!
thanks @alepage, really pleased you enjoyed it! It was fun to write as well!
@foxysteph yes absolutely, these considerations certainly affect our shopping behaviour, especially our attitudes to certain brands. A few big name corporates have really alienated themselves from millennials by ignoring ethics, environmental issues, etc. There is quite a stigma attached to buying from some of these evil giants, and this definitely influences our propensity to spend with them.
@foxysteph It would be an interesting segmentation journey - splitting on generational grounds and then comparing responses based on green/ethical issues would be a good first step.
@n_waterworth Haha! I couldn't resist, my daughter (a millenial) is definitely pesky
@Andrew Lloyd Gordon Hi Andrew, apologies for the late reply.
Good point, other generations also behave like some of these points. Look, the generational debate can get a bit nitpicky at times. I write a lot about millennials and guaranteed after every post I write, someone comes back saying that all generations are just like millennials.
I think there are loads of parallels between the generations, and I'm the first to stand up and say that I fold my sheets and wash the dishes just like my mother and grandmother did. Millennials aren't trying to make claims on reinventing the wheel, or being the only members of the population to use online retailing. But I'm not going to be bundled into the same online shopping-basket as your 74 year-old mother in law.
There are also plenty of things about millennials that remain completely misunderstood by other generations, and there are stark differences. Like for example that our preferred online retailer is definitely not Argos.
@Simon Buckingham Thanks Simon, that's awesome, I'm really glad I could help :) Happy Friday!
@ciegroup absolutely, and millennials are set to become the largest adult generation in history, so you'll be seeing a lot of us :)
@Saul Sherry Hi Saul, Millennials have definitely been hardened, so to speak, in regards to sales pitches. They are smart enough to read between the lines, they are very streetwise and know when they're being sold to, so there's little point trying to camouflage it in fluffy rubbish. Millennials really like honest direct interaction, and they'll respect you more if you do this.