Millennials are all the rage today. You can’t open the TV, a magazine or a news website without someone writing about my generation. And it’s understandable given the influence my generation is having on pretty much everything.
I define the Millennial Generation as representing those born between 1980 and 2000. We are looking at consumers today who are between the ages of 17 and 37. As you would expect, there are substantive differences between someone aged 17 and 37 including their level of maturity, their stage of life, level of education, household income, and independence from parents or guardians. But Millennials, whether 17 or 37 years old share far more in outlook, experience and communication than does that 36-year-old with someone only 10 years older. These shared experiences, shared context is what make generations unique.
To understand Millennials, you first have to understand where we come from; who and what our major influencers were and are.
The starting point is our parents. Millennials were raised by Baby-Boomers and the general prosperity of their families and broader society and the way in which they were raised ingrained in them exceptionally high-levels of optimism and self-confidence which are enhanced by their parents’ expectations of them. They grew up in a world of positive-reinforcement, helicopter parenting, and constant feedback.
However, high expectations also create an environment with a large amount of pressure and stress; Millennials are not immune to anxieties and self-pressure that the modern world has thrust them into.
Millennials are also digital natives. We grew up with technology and have made it a central part of our lives. To the 90% of Millennials who own a smart phone, that device is our most trusted assistant. It’s our bank, our travel agent, our newspaper, our telephone, our music player, and our weather person. That device lets us watch the video content we crave, order food, and get us from one place to the next (by using the Uber app in many cities).
And to the 75% of Canadian Millennials who check Facebook at least once a day, social media is how we stay connected, find out what’s happening in the world, and increasingly the way we learn about and connect with brands.
The combination of social media and mobile technology has also created a perfect-storm of connectivity that changes the way millennials consume and process media and news content; source credibility is being steadily overtaken and trumped by interesting content of a diverse variety and range. Millennials are not looking for their parents’ newspapers or TV shows. Instead, they consume information that appears on the news feeds, shared by people in their networks they trust, are interested in or want to hear things from. We have moved from a world where people actively seek out news and information to a passive one, where the information we consume is delivered to pre-curated news feeds, isolated from people, perspectives, and ideas outside of our networks.
Half of Canadian Millennials tell us through survey research that their smart phone is the primary way they access the internet. So that very small screen is our gateway to an unlimited amount of information, and is likely the way we are doing research about your business. And let me make clear: If you’re not online in a meaningful way, your store or brand basically doesn’t exist.
One final dimension is critical to understanding Millennials: we are entering “adulthood” much later in our lives compared with previous generations. This stress and anxiety we feel in our lives is compounded by the delayed entry into adulthood and time it takes many to achieve major life milestones like becoming financially independent, getting married, or having children. Like their Baby Boomer parents, almost all Millennials see these milestones as priorities and yet cannot reach them as easily as it seemed for their parents’ generation. Due to extended periods of education, uncertain employment opportunities, and the rising cost of housing, many must put their plans on hold until later in life, when they are in a better financial position to achieve them. That means delayed homeownership, delayed family formation, and likely delayed purchasing of home furnishings.
The generational change we are experiencing is profound and very consequential. Because of the size of the generation (there are approximately 10 million in Canada today) and how different it is from previous generation, Millennials are causing substantial disruption to all markets, including those who manufacture and sell furniture, mattresses and major appliances.
Consider this statistic from the Canadian Housing & Mortgage Corporation: each year for the foreseeable future, 270,000 new Millennial households will be formed in Canada. That’s 1.35 million new households who will be looking to furnish their new homes over the next five years. That’s 2.7 million consumers browsing websites, visiting retail locations and making decisions about brands and designs will end up in their homes.
So if your business isn’t thinking about Millennials today, it’s time you did.
I will be a keynote speaker at the Canadian Furniture Show in Toronto on May 27 at 12pm. I’ll share my perspective on my generation and offer tangible recommendations on how to position your business to take advantage of this huge market. http://www.canadianfurnitureshow.com/trends-and-activities/presentation.
I’m also excited to be working with HomeGoods.ca on an exciting project that will study the preferences and behaviours of Canadian Millennials when it comes to home furnishings and major appliances. We will share more in the coming weeks.