The New Baby Boom Generation: How to Profit From It

Remember the Baby Boomers – that massive group of people who came of age in the 1960s and set out to change the world? I’m one of them and while we Boomers may not have revolutionized everything we set out to do, we did change the face of marketing as companies watched our every move and figured out how to profit from it.

And while the Boomers are still a force to be reckoned with, there’s a new demographic in town that could prove even more profitable:  The Millennials.

Generation Y

The Millennial generation, also known as Generation Y or the “Echo Boomers,” is three times bigger than Generation X and even bigger than the Baby Boom generation. The dates of the Millennial generation are not precisely defined, but depending on what measure you use, their birth dates typically stretch from the late 1980 to 2000.

Barkley (a marketing agency), Service Management Group and The Boston Consulting Group recently released a new study, American Millennials, that sheds some light on this massive generation and its potential to generate massive profits for marketers. Here’s some of what they found.

They’re mobile. No surprise, but Millennials are early adopters of mobile shopping and are more likely than non-Millennials to research products with a mobile device while they’re shopping (50% compared to 21% for non-Millennials).

  • Lesson for your business: If you’re not already exploring mobile marketing, you need to be. And even if you’re not targeting Millennials now, keep in mind their familiarity with mobile means this will continue to be a crucial marketing channel as they get older.

They care about causes. Millennials were more likely than other age groups to be aware of cause marketing campaigns such as Gap RED (26 percent compared to 9 percent for other age groups). They typically learn about cause marketing campaigns online through social media or news channels.

  • Lesson for your business: If there’s a cause that resonates with Millennials and makes sense for your business, consider getting involved. But be sure it’s something you truly care about, since Millennials can spot inauthenticity a mile away.

They don’t watch much TV—at least, not on TV. Nearly half of non-Millennials watch more than 20 hours of TV a week; by comparison, just 26 percent of Millennials do. That doesn’t mean they don’t watch TV shows—they just watch them on their computers (42 percent), on DVR (40 percent) or On-Demand (26 percent).

  • Lesson for your business: Primetime commercials—long the province of big companies—are getting less influential, which means your message has a better chance of breaking through. Online advertising or clever videos that Millennials can share with their friends could be better marketing tools than traditional TV spots. (You Tube is a great way to potentially get your message in front of millions.)

They seek affirmation. I’m not saying they’re sheep, but Millennials are more likely than non-Millennials to shop with friends or family members along. And maybe it’s the fact that they’ve grown up with social media or constant affirmation from their parents, but Millennials are more likely to seek their friends’ input about what to buy, where to eat or how to spend their free time, and prefer it when their peers agree with them.

  • Lesson for your business: Get involved in social media that lets customers share opinions about your business, tell their friends what they’re doing (say, by checking in at your store or posting photos of their purchases), and give and get feedback on their choices.

They’re stylish. It’s no surprise that Millennials care about fashionable clothing, but in a case of “do as I do, not as I say” they want your salespeople to walk the walk. If clerks in a clothing store aren’t dressed stylishly, Millennials likely won’t even come in.

  • Lesson for your business: This one translates beyond just clothing retailers—make sure your front line employees are living your business’s brand, not just giving it lip service.

Because the Millennial generation is so huge, understanding what they want is imperative for every business. If you hope to continue growing your business as the Millennials grow older, you’d best start paying attention.

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.