Western Businesses are continually changing and adapting in order to stay relevant. Those that stubbornly refuse to evolve, die. You only have to look at the likes of Blockbusters, HMV and Woolworths to see that size doesn’t matter, nobody is safe.
The internet was the last major variable to send ripples across companies in every industry and you can still see the scars from CEO’s failure to efficiently prepare. National newspapers are currently in sharp readership decline and frantically trying to find solutions to the internet-based problems of free online journalism and fake news.
People assume markets will stay the same forever, but markets are dictated by consumers and the latest wave of buyers are made up by a large majority of millennials. Millennials and following generations might be accused of being snowflakes and entitled, but the harsh reality is that the west is in the midst of a huge cultural and sociological shift that will change business forever.
Social media and the age of the internet are just the tip of the iceberg, the future repercussions of the new digital landscape
While definitions conflict, a Millennial is loosely described as an individual that has been born between the years 1981-1997. The name millennials was formed after people realised that this age group would be the first graduating class of the year 2000.
They are closely followed by the ‘Smartphone generation’ or Generation K who are between the approximate ages of 13-21.
Are Millennials Entitled?
One of the many stereotypes surrounding the millennial generation is that they are entitled and demanding. According to Forbes, this isn’t limited to consumerism, but generation Y expect more from their employers in the form of training, development, lifestyle support and direction. But why? And where has this change come from?
The impact of previous generations has clearly paved the way for how these expectations have been birthed. One of the most commonly used examples is that of the housing market, but in reality, the habits of millennials that are the foundation of their lifestyles, have been drastically impacted by prices.
It is easy to see why millennials are more pushy for temporary comforts when their future is so much more unpredictable than those of the past. The upcoming generation is the poorest in recent history and if you ever use a value my house tool in your local area you’ll be able to see that even the cheapest are more than likely out of the price range of many young adults. Property, seen as a low-risk investment by many, rather than a necessary essential, has forced home prices to spiral out of control. Baby Boomers are known to have multiple properties that they rent out using property management companies and continually making it harder for first time buyers.
On the other end of the spectrum, tech and digital entertainment materialism has become rapidly cheaper and more accessible. Combined with globalisation and the increased options for communication, general awareness surrounding international issues has prompted an emotional response that has resulted in millennials quest for meaning and achievement.
To put it simply here are some of the statistics that explicitly show the problems overwhelming the millennial generation:
- Record numbers of young adults are living with their parents
- Delaying starting a family later in life so that they can afford to buy a house
- More debt than
Millennials and Social Media
Despite how ordinary the use of social media has become in our day-to-day lives, the digital phenomenon only took off fairly recently. Few people will argue that the millennial and following generations who have grown up on social media, will remain untouched by the different media outlets.
The truth is that while well known and celebrity speakers such as Noreena Hertz or Simon Sinek might outline the direct impacts social media has on it’s millennial users, almost no one has identified the cultural shifts starting to take place and their impact on business.
Sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles out there that look at how business landscapes are changing because of millennials, but the majority of these fail to correlate these with the attitude changes of young adults.
There is a distinct relationship between the attitudes and values of younger generations, influenced by social media, and that of societal shifts as a whole. While there are very few studies to provide research or evidence to these changes, there are plenty of indicators that can help to accurately predict that these social changes are going to continue.
Take for example the recent explosion of support for LGBT rights, millennials have made up the majority of those pushing for not only policy reform, but a change is social attitudes towards the community. But this focus on changing societal norms and values dramatically encouraged and influenced by social media, is leaking heavily into business.
Millennials are the product of the failed baby boomer mentality that you can ‘do whatever you want if you work hard enough’. The gold rush for profit and material success is over. Fake News, numerous recessions and a boom bust economy have sealed the deal on millennials confidence in long-term financial investments. As a result the focus of their goals has dramatically shifted.
They have had fewer opportunities then other generations in recent history and coupled with the above factors has provided millennials with a very different worldview.
Millennials in the Workplace
There are hundreds of isolated examples that point to the growing change in both work environments and consumer marketing impacted by millennials. However, if you look closer all these changes are linked to the characteristics of young adults and the things they value. All of the recent major changes in business seem to revolve around five different elements:
- Driving positive change
- Creating purpose
- Access, Not Ownership
- Instant Convenience
Some of the following examples serve to better highlight and explain the above bullet points.
- The limitations and use of plastic items such as straws
Large corporate giants who are ahead of the game, such as MacDonald’s, realised that millennials, the largest of their target demographics, favoured companies that showed initiative towards thing such as helping the environment.
The same study that revealed the above statistic also showed that 87% will buy based on values and 76% will boycott based on values. It’s part of the reason why we have seen a rise in companies such as Ecosia and Tesla, companies that stand for something other than profit tend performing better in the current market.
- Forbes reported that Banana Republics baby clothing line had a boost in sales thanks to their decision to replace traditional colours for unisex ones.
Millennials are taught the shameful history of the struggle for universal suffrage and the eradication of both sex and race-based prejudice. The result of this is that this generation are less likely to stand for anything that they feel threatens the freedoms or rights of others.
Millennials listen to 75% more music than Baby Boomers. In 2017, 29% of Millennials attended a music festival. There are now more UK subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV than there are ‘traditional’ TV subscriptions.
The biggest indicator of how industries are dramatically changing is that musicians are less driven to land a record deal. The way in which musicians can market themselves through media outlets and still make money through streaming services, rather than traditional album sales means record deals are no longer needed. Millennials only need access, not ownership, after all they can’t afford their own house to keep things in.
- Failing the Marshmallow Test – The collapse of previously safe investments has led to a mentality of ‘live for today’.
YOLO. Okay, so the phrase has died out now and is only seen to be used ironically in conversations, but the rapid rise in popularity for the terms speaks volumes.
Forbes recently connected the experiences of the Millennial generation with an experiment called The Marshmallow Test that measures a subjects need for instant gratification as opposed to delaying it for a greater reward.
Companies that can provide a service instantly and cuts down on a previously long process will perform better. Just look at Uber and Deliveroo. Even traditional media services such as Cineworld are adapting by offering unlimited films for a set monthly rate, the marketing tactic has increased sales by making access to their films easier.
Millennials are happy to pay a little extra for something that serves their fast-paced life style. If your business can combine the various elements that appeal to this emerging generation, you will certainly have a head start over the competition.