Methods and Lifestyles Used by Millennial Researchers
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Most of us can agree on the traditional hallmarks of adulthood, which include things like marriage, home ownership, financial independence and starting a career and a family. For generations, these concepts have helped to define the state of being “grown up.” But are younger generations making a departure from this construct?
Methods and Lifestyles Used by Millennial ResearchersPopular culture tries to pigeonhole millennials (defined by the Pew Research Center as ages 22-37 in 2018) as entitled, irresponsible, flighty, immature and petulant. They are often characterized as unable to handle business and struggling in the real world. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While I believe this generation defies definition by any sweeping generalizations, most have had the misfortune of growing up in a time that has ultimately delayed their adulthood (through no fault of their own).
During their formative years, millennials saw major events like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Global War on Terror and the Great Recession. While other generations also experienced major events, from my perspective, millennials are different because they grew up in an era of technology, with access to unlimited amounts of information. This access gave events like these more publicity, created heightened awareness, spawned conspiracy theories and distrust, and, in my opinion, resulted in nonstop messages of doom, gloom and anxiety. I believe that this reality has had a profound impact on millennials, psychologically and socially.
Economically, the generation has also been uniquely challenged. Couple world-shaping events with the fact that, unlike Gen Xers and baby boomers, many millennials graduated when unemployment was high, jobs were scarce and salaries were lower (even though the cost of living was higher), all while shouldering massive debt from student loans. Many had to take jobs for which they were over-qualified, move back into their childhood homes (37% have done this) or delay things like marriage and children for financial reasons.
Methods and Lifestyles Used by Millennial ResearchersEven in the face of this rocky start, the majority of this population is finally reaching increased buying power and marketplace influence. Given their history, millennials approach shopping quite differently than older generations do. This requires brands to understand their decision making, priorities and consumption behaviors.
To gain a more thorough understanding of these differences, we recently conducted research on the intricacies of these behaviors. We specifically wanted to gain insights on how different generations, millennials specifically, are making decisions across a number of categories and prove or disprove several common ideas about this generation. In March, we conducted a 15-minute online survey of 1,628 millennials and 906 Gen Xers. Here are some highlights from our data.
• Millennials want their purchases to make them feel good. We found that 60% of millennials tend to gravitate toward purchases that are an expression of their personality — the brand must speak to them at this level and make them feel good. Unlike baby boomers and Gen Xers, who consume based on quantity, millennials value their dollar more and value products that meet both a logistical and emotional need. One way brands are satisfying this desire is by giving back in clear ways that consumers understand, such as “buy one, give one” scenarios by companies like Bombas and TOMS. This kind of model can help people feel good about their purchases.
• Millennials place value on experiences. Half of millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences over material things — and they are willing to pay extra for it. In fact, many brands already recognize this and are turning to experiential marketing to try to connect. Basically, this encompasses setting up opportunities for interaction, both with the brand and with other consumers, often through special events. This can include things like meetups in certain cities or virtual reality experiences.
• Millennials like sharing with their friends. We found that millennials are 13% more likely than Gen Xers to share their purchases on social media. This provides them with the perfect forum for their opinions to be heard — good or bad — as well as a place to hear from others they trust. Brands need to actively engage with their social media users, really listen to what customers are saying and be ready to immediately address any pain points.
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• Millennials shop promiscuously. Millennials have no problem trying new, innovative brands rather than turning to a brand seen as old and reliable. In fact, our research found that they are almost twice as likely to say this than Gen Xers. Their brand loyalty is low, even if the brand has worked for them in the past. Brands need to move away from the concept of how to “win” customers from competitors and, instead, think about “wooing” them, meeting them in the context of their own needs. The model needs to be reframed not with loyalty as a conclusion, but with the goal of giving the consumer a reason to connect and return.
• Millennials trust peer-generated endorsements. More than one-third of millennials prefer to wait until someone they trust has tried something. While they like trying new things, they actively avoid paying attention to company-generated advertisements and place more weight on word of mouth and product reviews. When planning a marketing strategy, brands need to incorporate practices such as influencer marketing as part of their strategy to build trust among others.
• Millennials seek relevancy. Almost half of the millennials surveyed appreciate when brands make ads and social media relevant to them. Personalization and relevancy are key for this group, and all brands should keep this in mind. As part of strategy planning, brands need to incorporate research to delve deeper into understanding how their brand resonates and connects with its audience.
Methods and Lifestyles Used by Millennial ResearchersDespite a rather slow and winding path to adulthood, our research has found that millennials are solidly coming into their own. Their purchase behaviors have been shaped by their journey, wrought by social and economic trials, and clear preferences are emerging that can advise brands on the communications and connections that will have the most impact. By following these insights, you can craft your marketing strategies to improve your reach to your millennial audience.