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Today's younger consumers shop differently than previous generations. Strategic in the way they purchase, they're digitally savvy, socially conscious and increasingly affluent.

As a business owner, long-term success may depend upon your ability to attract a diverse customer base who will be around for years to come. Of particular interest to many business owners are young Canadians born between 1980-1994 (millennials) and those born 1995-2009 (Generation Z), but how can you attract younger Canadians to your business?

Learning more about what drives these groups, what inspires them, and what matters most in their lives may give you insights as to how to make your business appealing to them.

Here are five key characteristics of millennials and Generation Z, and five tips to make your business matter to them.

About Younger Canadians

1. You can’t paint them all with the same brush

While millennials and Generation Z have been characterized as passionate, resilient and inclusive, it’s important to remember that there is great variety within these groups.

There is a wide range in economic status, values, and ethnicity; in fact, according to research firm Environics, millennials and Generation Z make up the most ethnically diverse generations in Canadian history.

2. Character and community outweigh cost

According to a 2017 RBC poll, Canadians of all ages prefer to shop locally with 88 percent of the population say they will choose to support a local business when possible; however, younger shoppers say they would pay more for a product or service offered by a local business.

Additionally younger shoppers seek authenticity and a genuine connection with the businesses they are buying from. They wish to support companies that have a strong brand character, are community-minded, and care about the impact they have on their customers, suppliers and employees. In fact, 66 percent of Canadians 15-34 say they spend more on a product from a company with ethical values and a principled approach to their business operations.1

Part of growing up in a digital world means that younger Canadians expect businesses to provide new technologies, including emerging digital payment options like tap, chip & PIN and Apple Pay.4

3. There is power in social

Younger consumers are heavy researchers and 1.5 times more likely than Baby Boomers to spend time researching purchases.3 During the exploratory stage, they draw on their social networks for reviews, recommendations and opinions. And if they support your business? Good news. They are quick to spread the word about a company they support, with 75 percent saying they would help promote a company they like on social media.2

You can also expect them to seek deeper connections with you through social media, as 60 percent of younger Canadians engage with businesses they support through social media1 — 20 percent more than any other age group.

4. Mobile matters

Millennials and Generation Z were born into a mobile world. As native digital generations, they rely on their smartphones and use them to make purchases, read reviews and connect with friends and family. In the last month, 78 percent of Canadians used their mobile devices for chat or instant messaging, 71 percent to watch videos and 37 percent to make a purchase.3

5. Digital payment options are important

Part of growing up in a digital world means that younger Canadians expect businesses to provide new technologies, including emerging digital payment options like tap, chip & PIN and Apple Pay.4 When it comes to paying for a product or service, 80 percent of millennials wish more of the businesses they shop at had tap to pay, and 60 percent wish more had mobile payment options.5

Five Ways to Attract Younger Canadians to Your Business

So how do you appeal to this diverse, enthusiastic, connected group of consumers? Here are five ways to capture their imagination, support and possibly their business.

1. Be authentic

Offer a genuine connection to your business. For instance, show them how your business is making a difference in the community — even if it’s in a small way. Are your products sourced and produced in a sustainable, socially conscious manner? Do you give back to your community or participate in local events? Telling your story about how you got started is also a great way to build interest and connection. It doesn’t have to be exciting — it just has to be real.

2. Support local businesses

Sourcing local products and supporting local suppliers may go a long way toward building rapport with these proudly-Canadian demographics. While not every aspect of your business needs to be locally supplied, making an effort to support your community, city and country — and showcasing these efforts — may appeal to both groups.

3. Offer emerging payment options

Even if your business is small, it’s important to stay current with technology to ensure it’s fast and easy for your customers to pay you. Investing in payment technology — such as contactless in-store terminals and streamlined online payment options — offer the choice and convenience younger shoppers are seeking. Stay current with technology to ensure the shopping experience is easy.

4. Stay social

Social media is where you can tell your story, share reviews, promote events and post updates about what your business is doing. It’s also an invaluable forum for engaging with younger customers — acknowledge a positive review, have a conversation about a negative one, and demonstrate you’re willing to make things right if a customer had a poor experience.

5. Think mobile first

Younger Canadians use their smartphones in just about every aspect of their lives — from banking to connecting with friends, planning trips to buying stuff. Because they are so connected to their mobile devices, it’s critical that your business has a strong mobile presence including an easy-to-navigate mobile site, digestible mobile-friendly content and a simple mobile shopping experience. Use responsive web design that works across platforms, compelling images, videos and e-commerce to help your mobile site become engaging, functional and shareable.

Millennials aren’t all that different from the previous generation — but they do have some distinct characteristics, values and habits that Canadian businesses should recognize — and appeal to — if they want to win their business and their loyalty.


1. Nielsen, 2015

2. RBC poll, 2017

3. Facebook IQ

4. Apple Pay is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries.

5. RBC poll, 2017