Millennials–that continually-talked-about generation born between the early ’80s and early 00’s–are now the on the cusp of being the largest consumer generation in the US.
They are projected to overtake the Baby Boomers early in 2019 when the top 73 million. Regardless of whether they’ll get a participation trophy when that happens, they’ll be the top consumers in the country and are more likely than ever to get that special attention they desire.
In reality, Millennials are already being catered to as alpha consumers. This fact is demonstrated when looking at some critical points of the consumer landscape, and particularly as they relate to the Millennial mindset in contrast to the boomers.
Millennials & Managing Expectations as Consumers
Millennials had just hit puberty when the dot-com bubble exponentially grew the internet between 1995 and 2000. This made technology the native habitat for this age group. They had a comfort level with technology that would serve them well as information technology and smartphones swept across the land. That technology comfort level is serving them well as more and more businesses see the benefits of a digital presence.
Digital banking is an excellent example of the impact of Millennials. A recent survey of banking preferences revealed that Millennials don’t just want basic online banking services – they expect basic services. But they want more as well – educational videos about building their credit, spending habit breakdowns, free financial guidance, and to never have to walk into an actual bank physically.
They have no loyalty to large institutional banks, and 73% would switch to financial services from Google, Amazon, or Apple if they were to start providing them.
Rent to not own
Another interesting facet of the Millennial consumer mindset is seen in their choice of renting as opposed to owning. One favorite, two-fold reason for this is that renting is just cheaper in the places they want to live. Sure, they might be able to afford to buy a home outside the city, but they place a premium on the experience of living in the center of the action.
Further, many Millennials have adopted the same mindset toward car ownership. Why buy a car and pay for gas, parking, maintenance, and insurance when I can take an Uber or public transportation wherever I want to go?
Fascinatingly, while Millennials may favor a “seize the day” attitude about housing, they have a strong desire to prepare for the future. Recent studies have shown that Millennial small business owners are more likely than Boomers and Gen Xers to have plans for natural disasters, cyber-attacks, retirement planning, and business succession.
Millennials and the Impact of social media
Another seemingly paradoxical part of Millennial life is seen in the impact of social media. It’s natural to want to connect with people – humans have always been relational – but no generation has ever been able to connect with so many people so quickly.
It’s entirely possible for someone to start their online life today (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram) and have 1000 friends/connections/followers within a couple of days. Despite all these “friends,” people are going out in groups less, dating less (Tinder is not dating), and sleeping less.
The real, tangible interaction of going to the mall or the beach is being replaced with just Facetime or Snapchat from the comfort of your bed. This staged, filtered, and edited relational existence is providing hollow friendships that leave them feeling empty and alone – a miserable state for a group that wants to squeeze all the juice out of life.
Staying with the social media aspect of Millennials lives reveals another trait of their generation when considering online privacy. They are surprisingly idealistic and optimistic. A recent Gallup poll showed that they trust institutions, from social networking websites to credit card companies, more than preceding generations. Perhaps this is just because they grew up after the digital revolution, so life online is the norm. Maybe it’s youthful naïveté. Either way, institutions would be wise not to break that trust as it doesn’t necessarily equate to loyalty.
For all the seeming contradictions present in the Millennial generation, a few things are certain: there’s more of them, they are more educated (institutionally anyways), and they know what they want. Hopefully, now that their time is here, they’ll pay for that participation trophy.