We all think we intuitively “get” the Millennial consumer – hip, digitally savvy 20-somethings who would rather text than talk and who run their lives from their ever-present Smartphones.
But a great deal of misinformation exists about Millennials, even as they continue to grow in consumer power and influence. Has their reliance on technology impacted how they communicate? What influences their purchasing decisions? How do their relationships with friends and family inform other areas of their lives?
This year, Influence Central set out to get a deeper understanding of Millennials and surveyed more than 1,100 Millennial women born between 1979 and 1993 for their views on everything from technology platforms to purchase habits to privacy in a digital world.
Their responses revealed a complex profile of a rising generation eager to make their own mark in the world around them. Consider these surprising facts about this influential generation:
- They Chart Their Own Consumer Journey: Millennials stand out from their Gen X and Boomer predecessors when it comes to their path to purchase. Instead of the linear course of earlier generations, Millennials follow a circuitous approach – filled with fact-gathering, inspiration, browsing, peer education, and more – that all intertwines with one another. Not surprisingly, 58% of Millennials consider themselves very engaged in consumerism.
- They Seek Out New Experiences: Millennials – who believe themselves to be intrepid explorers – constantly look for new products, experiences, and adventures that they can spontaneously share. They love to uncover cool new products or trend spot to find their next big adventure. In fact, 53% consider themselves independent thinkers, as well as say they are the first of their peers to try new things.
- They Don’t Look for Leadership Opportunities: Despite their quest for adventure, Millennials don’t do it to establish expertise or followers – instead they prefer to stay on more of an equal footing with friends and family as they share information online. Unlike previous generations who sought out leadership opportunities, just 5% of Millennials use social media to be considered an expert, and more than 40% say they don’t measure their personal success against others on social media (28% say they do).
- They Proactively Gather Opinions: While Millennials remain independent thinkers, they place considerable value on the opinions of their friends and family members. Before making a purchase, they’ll seek insight from those in the know and query friends, peers, and family members for their thoughts and opinions. In fact, 93% of Millennials have made a purchase after hearing about it from a family member or friend, and 87% trust products after conducting their own research, which typically involves significant crowdsourcing from friends.
- They Don’t Share Everything on Social Media: Even though they’ve grown up as the first generation surrounded by social media and technology, Millennials do identify boundaries in what they’ll share publicly. Fifty percent think twice about posting a status update or tweet, and more than 40% say they never check-in on social media. In addition, only 28% of Millennials will post more updates now than they did previously. This online sharing/privacy dichotomy represents an example of the contradictions that exist within this demographic – as well as some of the misinformation that’s out in the marketplace about Millennials.
- They Still Value In-Person Connections: This online vs. in-person connection represents another example of how this generation doesn’t fall neatly into buckets. While Millennials may navigate their lives in an online world, they still seek out in-person recommendations, and this feedback does influence their purchasing decisions. For example, nearly 70% seek in-person, word-of-mouth recommendations for food and beverage spends, and more than 65% of Millennials look for personal recommendations when considering vacation options.
Overall, reaching Millennial consumers can represent a challenge for brands because they differ so significantly from the generations that came before them, and the approaches that worked for Boomers and Gen Xers simply don’t resonate with this cohort. But by gaining a better understanding of how Millennials communicate, make purchasing decisions, and interact with friends and family, brands can go a long way in successfully connecting with them.
About the Author: Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central, is a social media strategist, attorney, and best-selling author. A frequent national and international speaker, she consults with brands on consumer and social media trends. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.