By Lani Rosales, AGBeat
Do you know who your clients are? It seems that today, the type of client you have – one who prefers texting and Facebook vs. one who will only communicate through phone calls – depends largely on their generation.
In a new study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Millennials aged 16 to 34 and Non-Millennials, or Baby Boomers, were surveyed extensively, and BCG found that Baby Boomer corporate decision-makers showed “negative or dismissive attitudes toward Millennials.”
According to the United Nations Department of Economic Social Affairs, the number of Millennials (79 million) already outnumber Baby Boomers (76 million) in America by 3.94 percent. This gap will widen in coming years, as Boomers’ numbers decline, making the bias against Millennials risky for brands as many enter their prime spending years.
Millennials and technology
Attitudes towards Millennials are very different between Millennials and non-Millennials. Millennials have a positive perception of their generation, describing themselves as “tech-savvy, young, cool, hip and innovative,” while Non-Millennials perceive the generation as “lazy, young, spoiled, entitled and tech-savvy.”
Both agree that Millennials are young and tech-savvy, and the study indicates that while both spend equal amounts of time online, Millennials are consummate multi-taskers and much more likely to produce user-generated content.
For example, the BCG study reported:
- Fifty-nine percent of Millennials and 33 percent of Non-Millennials own smartphones.
- Sixty-three percent of Millennials and 80 percent of Non-Millennials own desktop computers.
- Sixty percent of Millennials and 46 percent of Non-Millennials rate brands online.
- Sixty percent of Millennials and 29 percent of Non-Millennials upload pictures, videos, and blog.
- Twenty-six percent of Millennials and 49 percent of Non-Millennials watch 20-plus hours of TV per week.
- Forty-two percent of Millennials and 18 percent of Non-Millennials watch TV online.
The above data shows a major generational difference in that Millennials do much more online than Non-Millennials, and are more likely to do traditional activities from some form of a computer, be it a smartphone or a tablet, like watching TV or making phone calls. Millennials are proven to be multi-taskers, typically engaging in various forms of social media, email and web-surfing simultaneously across various browser tabs and devices, and while many Non-Millennials engage in this behavior, brands must take note that while they have a Millennial’s attention, they may not have their complete attention, so messaging must be absorbed quickly before their eyes dart somewhere else.
Millennials’ behavior is impatient, yet optimistic
BCG asserts that Millennials exhibit four common themes in their evaluations of themselves as a generation, which is supported by their behaviors:
- “I want it fast, and I want it now.”
- “I trust my friends more than ‘corporate mouthpieces.”
- “I’m a social creature – both online and offline.”
- “I can make the world a better place.”
Brands currently not engaging Millennials should note that the generation expects a different customer service model, and it may surprise some to know that the generation typically prefers efficient, expedient service over receiving a friendly response. Many Non-Millennials mistake the instant gratification need of Millennials as being self-entitled, but it is typically tied more to speed; BCG notes that Millennials are always in a hurry – they expect fast service just like they expect fast downloads, and get annoyed and willing to purchase better devices when they slow down.
The challenge here for brands is how to get Millennials to spend time with your brand, when they barely sit still for long enough to read an entire news story, rather skim and get the highlights. As we previously asserted, brands will need to capture attention immediately and quit making consumers analyze data or messaging themselves – the era of a wall of 10-point font on a white paper won’t reach Millennials, but a large image depicting an economic indicator will perform much better, for example.
The crowd-sourcing generation
The report notes that Millennials trust their friends over corporate mouthpieces, but eMarketer data goes a step further and indicates that the generation actually values friends and family’s opinions as equally as they do strangers online evaluating products and brands. This supports BCG’s assertions that Millennials are the crowd-sourcing generation, and they constantly consult Google to verify what they’re told offline.
Half of all Millennials use their mobile device to check out reviews or research while they are shopping, yet only 21 percent of Non-Millennials do so. Brands will need to step up their mobile game in short order as the zoom-in/zoom-out game will become tiresome for Millennials who will move on to better resources (that you don’t control). Over half (53 percent) of Millennials will explore brands via social media, but only 37 percent of Non-Millennials will, further supporting the idea that Millennials highly value crowd-sourcing.
Millennials and social media
Millennials are validated by “likes” on Facebook, and they form tribes online, even with strangers. The BCG study reports the following:
- Seventy-nine percent of Millennials, 59 percent of
- Non-Millennials use social media.
- Forty-six percent of Millennials, 19 percent of Non-Millennials have more than 200 friends on Facebook.
- Thirty-three percent of Millennials, 17 percent of
- Non-Millennials favor brands with Facebook pages, mobile sites.
- Forty-seven percent of Millennials’, 28 percent of Non-Millennials’ lives feel richer when using social media.
What stood out is that the report indicates Millennials favor brands with “Facebook pages and mobile sites,” but those are two very different outlets, so we do not consider that quite a reliable metric, but the study’s assertion that mobile is critical in coming years remains.
Lastly, the study found Millennials to be more likely to encourage others to support their cause, participate in fundraising events, purchase items associated with a cause, and volunteer their time, but the study fails to report how much each generation actually donates
in dollars, which we suspect would be dominated by Non-Millennials.
But the reason generosity matters is Millennials who have been trained since they could walk that environmentalism and social justice issues are important, expect companies to publicly engage in corporate social responsibility programs and to support causes relevant to the companies, be it their employers, or brands they seek to purchase. It’s not just a stunt, and Millennials take charity quite seriously and expect brands they identify with to do the same.
The Millennial generation is quite misunderstood, and while there is a need for instant gratification, and yes, some self-righteousness, the generation is caring, smart and fast. Brands with leaders that exhibit a bias against Millennials may be skewered by the growing number of purchasers as Millennials’ purchasing power quickly outgrows that of the Boomer generation.
The study surveyed 4,000 Millennials and 1,000 Non-Millennials, including “pivotal years” before and after each generation, to get a true picture of behavior, but we find it interesting that the disparity between the volume of each generation surveyed is quite large, so we expect future studies to reflect similar results, but perhaps a little more favorable toward Non-Millennials. The point remains, however, that brands better adjust quickly, because this generation has money and they don’t blindly throw it away – they research, they are practical, they are mobile, they are in a hurry, they care about your corporate culture and they want to tell their friends about their experience with your brand.
What’s the takeaway for agents? Always be abreast in how you market to clients. This study should tell you that there are still two very different generations of prospective clients out there, and they both prefer to be contacted and communicated with in very specific and different ways. No matter how you feel about social media, computers or smartphones, being successful in your business is about catering to your clients – and therefore, communicating with them how they’d prefer.
Staying informed and asking your clients their preferences when it comes to communication is key, and will make your job easier.