Generational Consumer Preferences: What Does It Mean for Your Business?

              We hear it all the time – “Millennials are killing ___”, with any number of products or services filling in the blank. Millennials are currently the largest generation of spenders, and will continue to be for at least the next 10 years [1]. For merchants, this means that the methods for capturing millennial interest may differ from capturing the interests of other generations. So, how does a merchant capitalize off the preferences of the largest consumer spending group and keep their product or service from being “killed” by millennials? Here are some key considerations:

  1. Mobile Experience – In an increasingly digital society and economy, an online or mobile presence is a requirement. How does your mobile experience compare to your other channels of business or to other leading app experiences? Millennial consumers expect to be able to replicate known patterns in their interactions with merchants. If your app doesn’t have the features or capabilities the consumer expects, they will be discouraged from using it in the future. Even further, they will be encouraged to use someone else’s app. Technology has changed the way we communicate and therefore, the way we transact – more than 50% of consumers are using their smartphones while they are shopping [2]. Whether they are browsing the web or texting a friend, leveraging these digital consumer preferences can increase brand engagement and drive sales in new ways.
  2. Marketing – How is marketing to a millennial different than marketing to a baby boomer? Millennials are increasingly visual learners; studies show that millennials skip over large blocks of text in favor of more concise wording and imagery that conveys the same meaning [1]. What does this mean for your marketing team? Take an email marketing campaign as an example: millennials decide whether an email is worth opening by reading the subject line. They must be drawn in by it immediately, and once the email is opened, visually appealing pictures and short bursts of text are needed to draw them in. Your product or service must do the rest.
  3. Ability to Adapt – The retail industry and society as a whole are changing at rapid rates, and merchants must be able to keep up with evolving consumer preferences. With the introduction of new payment methods, digital payments in particular, the way millennials interact with merchants are constantly changing. These changes have not only introduced new ways to pay, but new ways to checkout, like the emergence of unmanned stores. Similar to the discussion of expectations regarding a mobile experience, millennials will choose experiences that most align with their preferences of new technologies. If merchants are unable to adapt to popular consumer trends, millennials will take their business elsewhere, where it is more convenient to transact in the way they want to. Not only is it important to adapt to new technology now, but adaptability is key to catering to future trends that are currently unknown. Millennials are the largest spending group now, but what happens when their spending decreases as a result of changing life stages? How will merchants cater to the preferences of Gen Z? What about the next generation to come? In order to remain competitive and relevant over an extensive period of time, the ability to adapt to different payment preferences, like alternative payment methods, will ensure the generational success of a merchant.

In a constantly changing industry, effectively creating a targeted branding or marketing experience may seem like you are trying to hit a moving target as consumer preferences change across generations and culture trends; however, it is also true that trends cross generations. The preferences that originate in younger generations tend to trickle down to older generations. Facebook, for example started off as a platform mainly used by teens to connect with their friends, but now, almost half of the platform users are over the age of 45 [3]. By setting up business systems and processes that are nimble and can easily adapt to consumer changes over time, merchants can quickly adapt to leverage generational trends and preferences to grow their brands.

For further discussion, contact Leah Ehler at lehler@wcapra.com

[1] https://genhq.com/millennials-gen-y-generation-y-info-2/

[2] http://www.storedvalue.com/en-US/solutions/mobile/index

[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/187041/us-user-age-distribution-on-facebook/