Hello. My name is Anna and I am a Millennial. I am part of the largest generation yet to exist. We populate Facebook and YouTube. We are social and always connected. We are armed with laptops, iPods and smart phones. We are Generation Y, or indeed Generation Y Not.
The Millennials are the “wired” generation and we don’t know how to be any other way. We’re a new breed of consumers and unfortunately most businesses are not prepared for us. Businesses need to get to know the Millennials if they want to be relevant and successful in the future. Our global annual spending power exceeds $250 billion and we also influence another $50 million in purchases. Our generation has bigger potential purchasing power than the Baby Boomers and is set to supplant them as the most powerful economic force on planet earth.
So let me introduce you to the Millennials..
Generation Y or the Millennials is a name used to describe a generation born between 1977-1994. We are a demographic tsunami that is redefining the social, cultural and the business worlds. Internationally there are 78 million of us and at least 800,000 in Ireland. The largest and most prominent members of this group were born in the late 80’s and early 90’s.The Gen Y’s that are just over 20 years old are the ones to watch out for. They are starting to enter the workforce and will inherit the spending power of the Baby Boomers who are getting ready for retirement.
Gartner has referred to Gen Ys as “digital natives” because technology is part of our identity and most of us learned how to use computers at about the same time that we learned to read. The Millennials are social, peer-oriented, confident and empowered. We are “plugged in” 24/7, can source all the necessary information about your product in a matter of seconds and we will make sure to share it with our friends via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, texting, blogging or instant messaging. Our generation is very good at multitasking so don’t be surprised if we use the above-mentioned media all at the same time. We expect instant gratification, instant access and for us being put “on hold” when it comes to interacting with your business is just not cool. The trick with the Millennials is that we can either “make or break” your product socially in less than 48 hours. We care about authentic brands and products and instantly know when we are being “sold to”. Just how prepared and willing is your business to interact with us? When will you start adapting your business strategy to embrace the Millennials? Why not wait and see what your competitors will be doing? The answer is simple: First Mover Advantage. In such a small and economically challenged consumer market as the Irish one, you can’t afford to waste such an opportunity. You can’t afford not to market to the largest and potentially most influential segment of the market. Gen Y has a growing purchasing power and they love to spend, but only on cool, stylish and authentic products. Think of the iPod and the entire family of the Apple products. Apple doesn’t even need to invest in advertising, instead they concentrate on “keeping it real” with the Gen Y’s and constantly deliver innovative and slick products. The Gen Y’s create a viral buzz around them through texting, commenting, updating, sharing and blogging. If you think about it, any company of any size can avail of such a loyal following of Gen Y’s.
All you need to do is listen and interact with them in an honest and open way and they will show you their gratitude through spreading the word about you among their networks. Curiously, the influence of the Millennial generation extends beyond their cohort. Networking and Web 2.0 were driven by this group which in turn influenced other generations to adopt them too.
So why aren’t the old marketing tricks working for us? We are not better and not worse than the other generations, we are just Different. We come digitally enhanced. Peer recommendation and word-of-mouth are more important to this generation than the other traditional factors such as brand and corporate reputation. Every successful business needs to learn how to infiltrate into the ranks and speak the language of the Gen Y’s. 90% of them trust peer recommendations and only 14% trust advertisements. Here is another shocking statistic: If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth largest in the world; 96% of the Millennials has joined a social network. Doesn’t this sound like a marketing gold mine? Shockingly most Irish businesses don’t see it that way. According to a Pan-European study conducted for Xerox a few years ago 40% of Irish companies have no plans to allow customers to purchase products or services online, 59% of firms said that they have no plans to provide online forums for customers to discuss their products and 52% said that they were not planning to monitor customer conversations on other websites.
In reality you can’t afford not to pay attention to the Millennials. Based on a bit of research and talking amongst other Millennials I’ve outlined a couple of key pointers to help you understand what makes us tick. They’ll help you create loyal and long-lasting relationship with the Gen Y consumers.
1. Speak our language - In order to be able to connect with the Millennials you need to learn how to speak our language and discover what defines our lives. There is only one way to get a real insight into our community and that is to mix with us and actually talk to us. The only thing you will be spending is your time but I can guarantee that you will be surprised by how much inspiration and information you can gather from such a simple exercise.
2. Start engaging- The Gen Y’s are a new breed of consumers that can only be redefined as “producers”. We love to be constantly engaged with our favorite brands. We love to create, share, reinvent and rate so why not let us be your business “consultants”. Challenge us to come up with a creative name for your new product or to take interesting and cool photos involving your products. Offer a prize for the winner and the Millennials will start engaging with your business.
3. Pay attention to branding – Most Millennials are very brand conscious. Not surprising for a generation that has grown up in the age of branding and has been the target of marketing messages since birth. Millennials love cool and authentic products and designs. Nobody likes a boring product, especially us. Invent a story and wrap it around your product and brand. Help us emotionally connect with your brand by telling a story that is genuine and is based on your reality and your passion.
4. Social animals - Gen Y’s are social and peer-oriented. We don’t listen to what the media has to say, we listen to our friends. I can’t stress enough how important it is for your business to have a Social Media presence. Let your business become a resident in the world populated by Gen Y’s. There are already more than 1.2 million Irish Facebook users and the numbers are growing. More people use FB than read most Irish dailies. It doesn’t cost anything to create a custom FB Fan Page for your business. Of course it will take time and effort to master this media but I can promise you that the Millennials like nothing more than being “friends” with their favorite brand on Facebook. It gives you limitless possibilities to get to know your customers and acquire new ones and receive up to date feedback on your product.
5. Make it personal - Two words worth remembering when dealing with the Millennials are: Customisation & Personalisation. We love having a choice when it comes to the design of the product. It can be as simple as choosing whether to receive updates via SMS or e-mail. Look at the example of how Lily O’Brien got creative with her chocolates. On their website they offer to frame your special photo on a box of selected chocolates. For me that’s one delicious offer!
6. Go green - As Millennials we love environmentally friendly products and companies. We are Green and we want you to be Green as well. According to recent research conducted by Maritz, 46% of the Gen Y’s interviewed said that they would pay more for environmentally friendly services and products.
7. Create experiences - Gen Y is an “experience” culture. We don’t want to be told how great your product is, we want to experience it. We love contests, prizes, give-aways, street promotions, social events and the more the better. Such experiences will give them us motive to create a buzz around your product and spread the word to our friends.
Businesses will have to fundamentally change their strategies in order to be embrace and attract the Millennials. This process can be both daunting and challenging for many businesses but as all optimistic Millennials - we like to view it from a different perspective. This is your chance to be creative and fresh. It’s an opportunity to build a loyal following of Millennials and grow together with them.
Written by Anna Sablovscaia - University College Cork Commerce Student and Marketing Intern at ThinkTank