When discussing the Millennial Generation, we often focus on how these 80+ million people grew up in the digital age sharing a comfort with technology and a lack of patience with inefficiencies with old school business processes. While digital native is an important descriptor of this generation, they were also strongly shaped by the Great Recession. Younger millennials watched as their parents struggled financially to keep homes and cars that were worth less than was owed on them. Older millennials entered the depressed labor market and found themselves battling over-qualified, but displaced, genXers for jobs. Millennials of all ages were impacted by this large economic crisis.
The media often describes millennials as marrying later and purchasing homes later—if at all. The United States Census Bureau report provides data to support those assertions. In 1975, 8 of 10 adults were married by age 30. In 2015, 8 of 10 adults were married by age 45. One third of millennials (adults 18-34) live with their parents. This is more than any other time in recorded history. In 1975, 52% of adults 25-34 were purchasing their own homes while today only 29% do. This is often presented as a generation refusing to “grow up” but it is really a redefinition of adult. Millennial writer David Hir referenced coming of age during the recession recently saying,
“We may spend differently than generations before us, but it’s because we’re choosing to learn from their mistakes. History will not repeat itself here.”
The key is understanding that millennials do still spend money, just differently than past generations. Therefore, the question for business leaders to pose is “How does it influence my industry?” In simplest terms, millennials value the experience associated with spending money. It is not enough for a customer to enjoy the item they are purchasing—they need to enjoy the process of purchasing it.
Personalized is an experience.
Coffee has not been a brown liquid poured into a mug exchanged for a few coins for years now. Instead, it is an experience filled with choices, personalization, and photo-worthy final beverages. Starbucks does it perfectly with plenty of options to allow customers to create their own signature drink or to have a different beverage depending on current mood—but clearly marked with your name. The customized experience satisfies millennials’ unique needs and need to be unique. The hotel industry updated from “free HBO” to “free wifi” signs only to be shocked as Airbnb quickly gained market share. Want a night in a Scottish castle followed by renting a room from a Scottish family? Airbnb can offer you either or both making travel personal to your budget or whims.
Does your industry offer a personalized customer experience? If so, you will create customer loyalty with millennials. If not, what are you doing with all that customer data? In this digital age, where Netflix knows enough about you to confidently suggest new shows, what can you predict about your customers? Are you making shopping with you faster and easier with each encounter? If not, you may need to reconsider practices and ensure available information is being utilized to deliver a more personalized experience.
Easy is an experience.
Hailing a taxi was often challenging, but grabbing an Uber is as easy as pushing a button. Calling multiple restaurants to make a reservation was annoying, but using OpenTable is simple, efficient, and rewarding (earn those points). Amazon is the undisputed leader in online shopping making it easy to find, buy, and return items; however, they consistently work to improve their customer experience.
While these examples utilize mobile technology as a vehicle for an easy experience, there are other ways to simplify. Take the pick six option now offered at some grocery stores/beer retailers. What used to be a problem—customers would change beers in a six pack and clerks would not notice during checkout leaving stores with “unsalable” leftover bottles—is now an easy option allowing consumers to try a variety of beers. Since millennials will try between 5 and 10 brands a month, this is a smart way for a retailer to build a loyal following of craft beer lovers.
When was the last time you interacted with your business as a customer, not a leader? Or watched someone new experience your service? How much time, energy, and thought are put into ensuring your customer has a delightful experience? Millennials are a collaborative generation who pride themselves on sharing the best experiences with one another. Is your business on its way to being a must share millennial experience?