For years people have been foretelling this, preparing for us when the large generation born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s reaches adulthood and radically alters how businesses operate.
Now the moment is finally upon us, and the reality is that the arrival of mature Millennials has been transformative—though not exactly in the ways predicted.
Much of the media attention about the rise of Millennials has focused on abstract personality traits—supposed increased narcissism, etc.—that are based on anecdotal evidence. Beyond these trend pieces, though, are some truly radical shifts based on data.
In particular, the three changes below are essential for every business leader to understand in order to adapt to what’s happening now, and what’s to come in the years ahead.
1. Millennials research and purchase products differently
At a most basic level, businesses must understand that Millennials research and purchase products in different ways from other generations.
When it comes to research, it’s not surprising that Millennials are much more likely to look at online reviews. According to a survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report, 40% of Millennials say they visit at least one review site before making a purchase.
However, this desire for guidance goes beyond digital; U.S. News found that 68% of Millennials say they discuss every major purchase decision with someone they trust. A recent study of B2B buying behavior found the same; Millennials are much more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers.
In terms of purchasing, younger consumers are (again, not surprisingly) much more digital savvy—especially when it comes to mobile. An eMarketer report found that 18–34 year-olds are the most likely age group to use mobile shopping apps, mobile retail websites, and request mobile price matches.
A key thing to note is that increased digital shopping is not all about price for Millennials. An Accenture survey found that the generation remains loyal to their favorite brands, and they base purchase decision on ease—free returns, real-time availability information, etc.—in addition to cost.
2. Millennials have different workplace expectations
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As every CEO knows, Millennials are transforming businesses from the inside as well as the outside. According to a report from oDesk, the generation already makes up nearly half of the workforce and 28% of all managers.
The interesting thing is that, despite the huge number of Millennials already in offices, there remains a large disconnect between what they look for in a workplace and what managers think they want. For example, oDesk found that managers overvalue how much Millennials care about earnings potential, and undervalue how much they care about being part of a high-quality team, working on exciting projects, and having a good mentor.
Millennials also highly value flexible work options; a PwC survey found that 70% expect their working hours in the future to have some level of flexibility.
3. Millennials are aging, but still have different values from other generations
Finally, it’s important to remember that Millennials are not staying static—like every generation, they’re changing, growing, and evolving as they age.
While they may still be portrayed in popular culture as all being single and unattached, a FutureCast study found that among the older half of U.S. Millennials (those between ages 25–34), there are now 10.8 million households with children.
On one hand this means that Millennials may increasingly behave in similar ways to other generations. For example, U.S. News & World Report found that 55% of the Millennials surveyed are starting to save for retirement, and an increasing number are purchasing houses (even if they don’t want to).
On the other hand, though, Millennials want to tackle the next stages of life in their own ways and stay true to their own values. FutureCast found that 52% of Millennial parents closely monitor their children’s diet, and 64% say the environment has become a top concern now that they have kids.
Moreover, 82% want their child to know that they don’t need possessions to make them happy—a higher percentage than want their child to graduate from college, excel in sports, or maintain their values. That’s a big change indeed.
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