If you think Millennials are a dominant force in the country, you’re right. Baby Boomers have long made up the majority of the U.S. population, but in 2019, Millennials are projected to take the top spot. (Baby Boomers are generally defined as those born in the years immediately following World War II [1946-1964], while Millennials were born from 1981-1996.) The size of the Millennial population is due not only to the number of children produced by Baby Boomers, but also to young immigrants who have moved to the U.S. That’s why it makes sense that we as an industry and culture are constantly checking in with the Millennials.
It’s not surprising that businesses from coffee sellers to Realtors® to clothing stores want to know what Millennials want, and how to deliver it to them. It’s also not surprising that there are broad generalizations, inaccurate assumptions and popular myths associated with this influential segment of the population. Here’s a look at what we know, and how it affects businesses – and life in general.
Technology and Social Media. These may be the defining features of the Millennial generation. When the first Millennials were born, cell phones were two years away, when the Motorola DynaTAC arrived with a price tag close to $4,000 and about 30 minutes of talk time. Apple was 5 years old. Facebook was 13 years in the future. Twitter was something for the birds (and may still be, depending on your point of view). Instagram? Didn’t launch until 2010. Texting didn’t exist until the mid-1990s and only grew in popularity in the early 2000s, exploding when smartphones became readily available. Personal technology and social media have leapt forward as this generation has grown up, and it is all they have ever known. They live their lives on their phones, and if you want to work with them, sell to them, or simply communicate with them, you need an effective mobile presence and nimble thumbs.
Housing. Depending on what you read, and when, you can find very different views of Millennials’ attitudes toward homeownership. Millennials want to buy homes. Millennials don’t want to buy homes. Millennials are waiting longer to buy and are skipping starter homes for more expensive homes. A report earlier this year from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) suggests that Millennials not only want to buy homes, they are buying homes. True, low housing inventory and rising home prices have held them back. Even so, the report shows that Millennials made over a third of all home purchases from July 2016 – June 2017, and have been the most active generation of buyers for 5 years in a row. Their biggest stated challenge is saving for a down payment, exacerbated by the high cost of renting. One solution has been to live with their parents as a stepping-stone to a home of their own.
Millennials Are Killing Mayonnaise. They are (apparently) also destroying vacations, work, trees, cereal, the Canadian tourism industry, and a host of other items. (Picture you favorite laughing emoji here.) The mayo controversy appears to be rooted in truth. Business Insider took the story seriously enough to research the mayonnaise industry, and found that sales have fallen in recent years. Other condiments – think Sriracha – have taken hold in the marketplace, but the mayo industry is not going down without a fight. They are doing what any business should do when times – and tastes – change; they are adapting. Mayoketchup appeared earlier this year. Flavored mayos have hit the shelves, along with healthier variations of the spread. Vegan mayo, anyone?
If you’re not a Millennial – or younger – how do you keep up with the new majority of the U.S. population? Sharpen your tech skills and use social media. Get used to texting as your main means of personal communication. Pay attention to the way they want to do business. And don’t forget to hold the mayo.