Ask Boomers and Gen Xers how Millennials’ habits have influenced them and you get a pause. “Oh my God, that’s some thinking I have to do,” says Kathryn Halloran, who identifies as a member of Gen X.
Reams have been written about how to connect with and market to Millennials and upcoming Gen Zers. Millennials wrongly get labelled as being entitled and flighty, but this demographic is extremely powerful and influential, and not afraid to use that power.
The Millennial generation – generally accepted as those born between 1980–1982 and 2000–2004 – is the biggest generational group since the Baby Boomers. There are approximately 10 million Canadian Millennials, according to Environics Analytics, a Toronto-based provider of marketing and analytical services. Compare that to Gen X (1965–1979), which sits at nearly 8 million, and Boomers (1946–1964), who are as numerous as Millennials but with, of course, an ongoing drop in population. That large number of Millennials, combined with how they approach work, life, banking and spending, has led companies like analytical marketing consultancy FutureCast to believe that Millennials are the first generation to “influence up.”
Millennials, like all generations, love a good deal and the generations are very similar in that they comparison-shop before they make decisions. What has changed, though, is that Millennials look to their peers for reviews before a purchase. Millennial Jack Harding, the director of user engagement for Toronto-based ad agency and blog publisher PoolHouse Enterprises, never makes a purchase without checking the reviews. “Opinions and reviews generally make or break a purchase or outing for me. If I’m not sure and there is a great review, it seals the deal. The same goes for negative reviews.”
The purchasing power of Millennials in 2017 (and their decision making power at the companies where they work) is almost equal to that of Baby Boomers, according to the latest Pew research.
They also expect immediacy when they shop and immediacy with customer service. Mrs. de Bold says Millennials and Gen Xers don’t want to go into a store to check if a product is available. Instead, they check online before they go into the store with the expectation that they can immediately buy the product.
When it comes to paying for products, forget phone calls or visits to a branch to pay bills or take out money. Millennials have no problem paying with their phone and Apple Pay or Google Pay as much as their plastic debit cards. And they aren’t interested in receiving information via brochures. Banks have to go where they are and communicate their way. That includes using video instead of brochures to highlight financial products and information, and emphasizing the bank’s social responsibility. This is a generation that cares about what brands and organizations do for the better good and are willing to spend their money and advocate for brands that have a strong history of social responsibility.
Vicky Sanderson, a Boomer who describes herself as a “rapidly aging freelance writer,” raves about Millennials. Her Millennial children have changed how she works. “They have inspired me to be way more mobile – that is, to work on the fly; to do research, for example, by listening to podcasts on the subway; or learn about stuff on Facebook chats, etc. They have influenced me to view technology not as a troublesome thing I have to overcome, but as something that can help me find the information and contacts that I need to work more effectively.“
Others love the entrepreneurial nature of the generation. “I love how the Millennials will create industry and self-employment opportunities,” says Gen Xer Christina Robins, a part-time sales associate. She likes how Millennials, instead of complaining about a lack of job opportunities, are creating their own jobs and defining how they and other generations work. Ms. Halloran, a GenXer, considers herself Millennial in her perspective on work, noting that the biggest impact on her life has been the increasing desire for freedom to do more work from home or outside business hours. She’s also considering starting a side hustle, something that has become more common, thanks to Millennials.
Other Gen Xers embrace the inspiration that comes with working with Millennials. “I don’t know if I’m the typical Xer, but I definitely think they’ve taught me to ask for more,” says Tara Hunt, who is the founder and president of Truly Social Inc. and has six Millennial employees. “They keep me on my toes,” she says, especially when it comes to new technology and pop culture. “I do find it hilarious that I make references to shows in the’80s and ’90s that they have no clue about. I mentioned [the TV series] Ally McBeal when talking about gifs and I got blank stares and a chorus of ‘Who?’ ”
Despite wielding enormous influence, Gen Xers do feel a bit neglected in the battle between Boomers and Millennials. Ms. Hunt says that because Millennials are poised to inherit billions (which will have a significant influence on banks and other financial services as they seek investment advice), marketers have focused on them. “As an Xer, sometimes I feel bitter that we never got the love and will probably never get it.”
Gen Xer Peter Ashworth, president of Ashworth Associates Inc., a PR, social media and communications agency in Toronto, has seen the transition from typewriters to laptops. While he loves social media and the ability to instantly communicate, Mr. Ashworth does see the downside via the loss of direct communication. “I do miss people picking up phones to ask a question when they are on deadline. It amazes me how many people forget that email and [the] Internet, although a great tool, [do] go down or you can be in an area [without] Internet access.”
But despite the grumbling about being ignored and overlooked, most Gen Xers and Boomers agree that Millennial influence has been positive. “Yeah, marketing has totally adapted to Millennial needs, but that’s okay because they are demanding and I get to benefit from these changes [to technology, communication and lifestyle],” notes Ms. Hunt.
“I am so sick of people my age bashing Millennials,” says Ms. Sanderson. “I learn something new almost every day from a Millennial. I love them. I think they are amazing.”
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