NATIONAL REPORT -- Millennials are narcissistic. Millennials dream of owning a house with a white picket fence in the suburbs. Millennials are broke. Millennials are frivolous spenders. Print is dead for Millennials.
These are just a few of the misconceptions that retailers and marketers have about the generation of Americans born roughly between 1977 and 1995 and accounting for about 24 percent of the current U.S. population. According to a new study by global information provider Nielsen, Millennials may be many things, but they behave and shop differently than how most expect.
In a report entitled, "Millennials: Breaking the Myths," Nielsen calls Millennials "the social generation."
“They’re the founders of the social media movement — constantly connected to their social circles via online and mobile," the report states. "They prefer to live in dense, diverse, urban villages where social interaction is just outside their front doors.”
The report goes on to say Millennials “value authenticity and creativity, and they buy local goods made by members of their communities. They care about their families, friends and philanthropic causes. But they’re also coming of age in the direst economic climate since the Great Depression — making their families, communities and social networks even more valuable as they band together.”
There are approximately 77 million Millennials in the United States, about the same number as Baby Boomers.
Nielsen defines the U.S. consumer generations as follows:
- Greatest Generation (born 1901-1924)
- Silent Generation (1925-1945)
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
- Generation X (1965-1976)
- Millennials/Gen Y (1977-1995)
- Generation Z (1995-present)
The Greatest and Silent generations account for about 12 percent of the U.S. population; Boomers 24 percent; Gen Xers 16 percent; Millennials 24 percent; and Gen Z also 24 percent.
Nielsen’s report further breaks down Millennials into younger (aged 18-27) and older (aged 28-36) groupings. Younger Millennials are more likely to be students or newly out of college and may be living at home, whereas the older group is more established in their careers and starting families.
More Than Just Their Age
The 40-page Nielsen report reveals key findings about Millennials, purports to dispel myths about this generation, and explores what makes Millennials unique. For instance:
- They are diverse, expressive and optimistic. Millennials are characterized by more than just their age. As a group, they’re more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation. They value self-expression and artistic pursuits. They’ve been hard hit by the recent turbulence in the economy, but their high education levels and optimism foreshadow potential future success.
- They are driving a social movement back to the cities. If they’re not still living with mom and dad, Millennials are fueling an urban revolution looking for the vibrant, creative energy cities offer with a mix of housing, shopping and offices right outside their doorsteps. They’re walkers and less interested in the car culture that defined Baby Boomers.
- They’re struggling, but they have an entrepreneurial spirit. They’ve been hit particularly hard by the Great Recession. They’re dealing with high unemployment, low income and high student loans as they try to establish themselves. However, "invention is the daughter of invention" and some Millennials have hit it big by investing in startups and following their own entrepreneurial pursuits.
- They are deal shoppers and desire authenticity: Given their small paychecks, they are savvy shoppers always on the lookout for a good deal. Millennials put a premium on authentic, handmade, locally produced goods — and they’re willing to pay more for products from companies with social impact programs. Getting a good deal is a priority, but they won’t compromise on quality. They want to feel good about what they buy.
- They’re connected and want the personal touch. Technology defines Millennials. They sleep with their mobile phones and post status updates from the bathroom. When interacting with companies via social media, they value authenticity — they want to feel like they have a personal, direct interaction with the brand — and in return, they’ll advocate and endorse that brand.
As for the myths mentioned at the beginning of this article, Nielsen says:
- Millennials care about self-expression, but they aren’t totally self-absorbed. They place an importance on taking care of their parents in old age and on making a social impact.
- The American Dream no longer means a comfortable home in the suburbs. Millennials aspire to stay in the cities rather than moving to the suburbs or rural areas, presenting a potential problem for Boomers who will eventually want to downsize and sell their large suburban McMansions.
- While Millennials have been hit hard by the recession, they also make up a larger percentage of those with $2 million or more in assets than Gen X.
- Millennials are bigger deal/discount shoppers than any other generation.
- Millennials aren’t reading the Sunday paper, but they read more magazines than Boomers.
Nielsen goes on to note that the Millennial generation wants to be part of a larger conversation.
“They want to make individual contributions and be connected and woven into a larger discussion,” according to Nielsen. “Their social networks and circle of friends gate-keep, and their crowd-sourced impact is powerful. Relating to them is everything … be real and you will reach them.”
Editor's note: This Bonus Content story is a complement to the April 2014 Convenience Store News Consumer Insights Special Edition. Click here to see in-depth insights on why and how Millennials shop c-stores, mined from the 2014 CSNews Realities of the Aisle consumer research study.