• August 19, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Millennials Study Provides New Data on Media, Shopping and Social Habits

Millennials crave adventure in all they do, from shopping to eating and travel, according to a new study from independent marketing firm Barkley in partnership with Service Management Group and The Boston Consulting Group.

The study of Millennials, "American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation," was based on a survey of more than 5,000 respondents and 3.9 million data points, and provides new information on a range of digital and social media habits of American Millennials as well as their attitudes in the areas of cause marketing, grocery, restaurant, apparel, and travel.

Millennials, compared to other generations, reported greater awareness of newer, youth-oriented cause marketing campaigns, such as Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty (33 percent versus 21 percent) or Gap RED (26 percent versus 9 percent).They report greater exposure to campaigns through social media (40 percent versus 22 percent) and online news (28 percent versus 22 percent), while Non-Millennials rely on newspaper and direct mail.

Millennials appear to have substituted television and print media for the increased online activity and media consumption. Millennials watch significantly less TV than Non-Millennials; fewer Millennials report watching 20-plus hours/week (26 percent versus 49 percent). When they are not watching live TV, Millennials are much more likely to watch shows mainly on their laptops (42 percent versus 18 percent), with DVRs (40 percent versus 36 percent), or on-demand (26 percent versus 18 percent).

Perhaps because of their need to share and to find commonalities, 70 percent of Millennials reported feeling more excited when their friends agreed with them about where to shop, eat, and play. Only 48 percent of older adults were as heavily influenced by their friends and colleagues. Additionally, Millennials gather information on products and services from more channels; more Millennials than non-Millennials reported using mobile devices while shopping to research products (50 percent versus 21 percent).

While a majority of all respondents shop alone (60 percent Millennials, 69 percent non- Millennials), Millennials are more likely to shop with others versus non-Millennials. Plus, Millennials report more shopping than non-Millennials with family unit, spouse, and children (13 percent versus 6 percent) and with adult friends (4 percent versus 2 percent).

Millennials seek a broader range of activities, think globally, and report a greater desire to travel. The large majority of Millennials (70 percent) want to visit every continent in their lifetimes. Fewer than half of older adults report that goal.

Not only do Millennials report a desire for adventure, but they also think life should be fun. Whether shopping, dining out, or immersed in their mobile devices, Millennials prefer the music turned up and a casual atmosphere. Millennials accounted for 18 percent of their monthly restaurant spend in the fast-casual format, compared to only 13 percent for non-Millennials. Additionally, Millennials crave snacking opportunities, and are more than twice as likely as older people to seek them out mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and late at night.

In retail, a sales associate can have a significant impact on Millennials’ purchasing. When female Millennials were asked a series of questions about where they purchase fashion brands, it became clear that if store associates do not know the trends or look the part, Millennials are far less likely to be drawn in by the store. Millennials demand more knowledgeable and fashionable sales associates (29 percent versus 19 percent) while non-Millennials value sales associates who know to apply discounts and offer promotions (65 percent versus 51 percent).

"Since the Millennials generation is larger than the Baby Boomers and three times bigger than Generation X, marketers' understanding of Millennials' needs, tastes, and behaviors will clearly shape current and future business decisions," says Jeff Fromm, senior vice president of sales, marketing, and innovation at Barkley.

"The size of this generation is very large, and they are just starting to come into their spending power," Fromm says. "If you're not targeting this cohort, you will be in trouble."

But marketing to them is no easy task and selling to them does not follow a linear path, he says. "They are multimedia, multitasking, social, and digital to the core, and they are more likely to listen to a complete stranger on Facebook than to your scripted marketing message."

This, Fromm says, is evidence of "an inherent contradiction" among Millennials. "They are very confident, yet they seek peer affirmation for every purchase," he explains.

But, at the same time, they can be a brand's strongest advocates. "Many Millennials are co-marketers. They generate a lot of online content themselves, and if they love your brand, they could create your next ad," Fromm suggests.

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