Several Twitter users make an interesting point: our general understanding of millennials hasn’t really moved with the times.
This tweet sums it up perfectly: ‘Millennials are out here in their 40s becoming grandparents, but the media still makes us sound like ungrateful teenagers’.
During the pandemic, most businesses have understandably been focused on surviving, rather than keeping track of generational shifts. Meanwhile, millennials have grown up.
This blog celebrates some of the biggest changes for millennials over the last few years, and considers which stereotypes have some truth to them, and which are off the mark or outdated.
1. Three-quarters of ‘generation rent’ now own a home.
Millennials are passing major milestones later than their parents; they’re slower to get married, to have children, and to leave the family home. This is well-known and it tends to be the focus of generational comparisons.
One thing this angle overlooks, though, is the fact they’re much further along than they were pre-pandemic. They’ve moved on over time, and our analyses should move with them.
For many, lockdowns were a time to focus on the future. Among US millennials in Q2 2020, raising a family was 11th on their list of priorities. Fast forward to Q1 2022, and it’s 5th.
This affects the kind of content and products they’re seeking. For example, there’s been a 16% rise in the number saying good facilities for children/families most impact where they travel since 2020, meaning travel providers may need to tweak their approach.
On the media side of things, millennial parents are more likely to use TikTok and Pinterest than their non-parent counterparts, with hashtags like #familytime raking in billions of views. Many use these sites for parenting and product inspiration, so brands stand to benefit from meeting them there.
There’s also been a 22% jump in millennials watching children’s TV since 2020.
The irony is that growing up has increased their exposure to kids’ content, and they’re not mad about it. In 2020, Disney overtook Harry Potter (the series they supposedly won’t let go of) in terms of millennial fans, and Spider-Man recently passed it too.
Disney’s done well at drawing millennial subscribers to its streaming platform, and animation franchises should keep this group in mind when sketching out new material.
2. The number working in management/senior roles has grown 20% since 2020.
Pre-Covid, millennials were often credited with changing employer-employee power dynamics, and they’ve climbed the career ladder since then. This has given them even more of an upper hand in today’s job market.
We’re in the midst of a severe worker shortage, with businesses grappling to keep their employees. As the largest generation in the workforce, employers need to stay on top of millennials’ expectations and cater to them as best as they can.
Remote working has been one of the biggest changes to work culture over the last two years, but it isn’t at the top of millennials’ wish list.
Over half want more flexible hours, which is miles ahead of full-time work from home privileges (35%).
Encouragement to switch off outside work and mental wellbeing leave are also up there, which suggests control over how and when they work is more important than where.
This helps explain why millennials see the leading tech companies as the most attractive employers. Tech recruiters tend to be better at speaking the language they want to hear, often highlighting qualities like good work-life balance.
And millennials’ influence on the workplace doesn’t stop there; they’re also leaving their own stamp on hiring. As the most likely generation to use LinkedIn, work-related networking/research is their most distinctive reason for using social media. Going forward, companies should encourage employees to share jobs and posts about company culture, and make the application process as straightforward as possible.
3. 62% think their personal finances will improve in the next 6 months.
Millennials are much more optimistic about their bank balance and the economy than generations before them; this is surprising, given they have less purchasing power.
Our USA research offers more insight into these trends, which will help millennial-focused brands nail their tone of voice and marketing messages in the months ahead.
Millennials have faced two recessions, as well as sky-high student debt and living costs. Economic uncertainty is familiar to them, and they define financial security differently to their parents – with their timeline for buying a house and retiring up in the air. As a result, they’re less likely to say their future financial security is important to them, and globally, they’re the most likely to have a short-term loan.
This doesn’t mean they’re reckless with their money, though. They’re more likely to track their spending and to put money aside throughout the year for holidays or special occasions.
As a group, they plan ahead and pay close attention to their outgoings.
Also, while taking a short-term loan out to cover debts is risky business, many use them as a way of building up their credit history or budgeting for non-essentials.
Having faith in their ability to earn through investments or side hustles and being more focused on doing something meaningful with their money are also likely reasons for them being less concerned about their future finances.
They know they have options when it comes to borrowing and paying for things, and will switch if a better offer comes along. As the generation largely behind sustainable investing, financial services should aim to add context to the information they offer – highlighting the ‘why’ and focusing on the things that matter to millennials, like helping the environment (45%) and contributing to their community (36%).
4. Millennials are in the lead for treating themselves to fast food/dining out weekly.
One whimsical piece of financial advice to millennials is: ‘Can’t afford a house? Just stop buying lattes’. But as we suggest above, they know there’s more to it than that.
Millennials’ current approach to spending is a good example of the ‘lipstick effect’ – the idea that, during hard times, consumers prioritize buying small luxuries that lift them up but don’t break the bank.
As the cost-of-living crisis worsens, many will start cutting back, but a large number are on course to spend more; 35% of millennials say they’re spending more than two years ago, versus 29% who are spending less.
Those currently splashing the cash still want to reduce costs, but compared to the average millennial, they’re more likely to say they’d spend less on things like technology or utilities than treats or nights out.
A quarter of this generation say they prefer to buy premium versions of products, so introducing higher price options that cater to adventurous revenge spenders is a solid tactic for brands. A number of US restaurants have benefited from allowing customers to add things like uni or caviar to their dishes. Meanwhile, QSRs like Shake Shack have been trialing high-end ingredients like black truffle and parmesan cheese.
We often talk about consumers trading down in a recession, but those wanting to trade up are just as important. Especially in the context of millennials, businesses able to please both sides of the market will probably fare the best.
5. 28% of millennials who abandon carts cite long shipping times as a reason.
Companies looking to resonate with millennial shoppers can afford to place slightly less emphasis on price than they do for older generations. While 61% of baby boomers say that free delivery would most encourage them to buy something online, this drops to 47% for millennials.
While free delivery and coupons are still millennials’ top purchase drivers, next-day delivery and ‘guest’ checkouts have both moved a spot up the ladder since 2020. This generation clearly prizes brands that make their lives easier, and a smooth shopping experience is spurring more on to spend.
The US picture tells a similar story: various factors add up to create a sense of good value for money – with convenience, personalization, and trust weighing more on millennials’ minds.
In hard times, trust is huge, and this generation rates positive comments on social media more highly than it used to. Some might wonder whether a low-priced product is cheap for a reason, and they’ll seek answers from past buyers. Brands therefore need to be very responsive on these platforms and ensure all replies reflect their brand voice.
Speed also matters. Same-day delivery is their fastest-growing purchase driver, with next-day delivery also creeping up. This model isn’t sustainable for every business, but brands like Sephora have got creative by making it part of their temporary promotions.
And while delays are sometimes inevitable, live-chat facilities can help turn a dissatisfied customer into a repeat one, especially for brands that go the extra mile. Having a human behind the chat bubble, for example, has been shown to deliver the best results, with companies like HUM Nutrition using a mix of automated and staff responses to offer high tech with a human touch.
Millennials stand out from previous generations in many ways, meaning businesses can’t use the same tactics and expect good results.
They also can’t rely on old tactics. Millennials are well into the next stage of their lives and they’re continuously taking the world of entertainment, work, and retail in a new direction.