Millennials are reshaping the economy, and in turn, business practices.  Companies are recognizing the need to adapt to and understand these changing population trends. Marketing research can be a powerful tool employed by companies in understanding these changes and how they will impact future business success.

Born roughly between 1980 and 2000, Millennials are the first generation to have had access to the internet during their formative years. They are the most diverse and educated generation so far, with 42% identifying their ethnicity as other than Non-Hispanic white and 61% of adult Millennials having attended college or higher. Millennials now represent the largest generation in the United States, and as of 2013, comprised roughly one-third of the US population. They are collectively moving into their prime spending years with a collective annual spending power of $2.45 trillion.

Apart from being the largest, most diverse, and educated generation thus far, their upbringing has coincided with an unprecedented period of innovation and this has influenced Millennial’s expectations and how they interact with technology. While all generations experienced technological advancements, the quantity of information a finger touch away that has been available to Millennials since childhood is unparalleled.

Growing up with a device that bundles communication, entertainment, shopping, mapping, and education all in one has led Millennials to adopt new technology more quickly and expect it to work because this has been their experience.

Their affinity for technology is reshaping the retail space because of the instantly accessible product information, reviews, and price comparisons. Millennials use a mobile device at a rate of more than twice that of Non-Millennials to research products and read reviews while shopping.

The way Millennials communicate and interact with others is dramatically different from those in previous generations due to the wide spread use of cell phones and the Internet. However, this change in communication and interaction does not mean that Millennials do not value community, family, and creativity. Millennials value staying close to family and friends, having free time for recreation, and working in creative jobs. And the group they socialize most frequently is their parents.

Over a third of Millennials of all ages say that they influence what products their parent’s buy, what shops and restaurants they visit, and what trips they make. As time passes, it may well be that Millennial buying patterns and attitudes will expand to other generations.

Millennials are a social generation, contrary to what many may believe, both in the online and offline worlds. Millennials are more likely than other generations to shop, dine, and travel with groups. Online, sharing on social media sites and opinionating on review sites such as Yelp and Amazon reflects a strong desire for connection. This need for connection has big implications for those who serve customers as Millennials tend to shop in groups and seek the opinions of others. More than two-thirds of Millennials do not make a major decision until they have discussed it with trusted people. Millennials regard shopping as a group activity, particularly female Millennials.

The way Millennials interact with  companies is different from the interactions of other companies. Millennials enjoy collaborating with companies. In fact, almost half state that they are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. However, and most importantly, Millennials have to see that companies care about what they say.

Products and services are started by companies; they are completed by the customers.  But this is not the only way that B2C interactions are changing. Outbound marketing is trending down while inbound marketing is increasing in success. Content has to be created so that Millennials feel that it was tailored for their interests, not their wallet.

As it stands, the companies that truly understand Millennials and engage with them can differentiate themselves and create vast opportunities for success. Companies and Non-Millennial Executives need to recognize the value in marketing to Millennials. Companies that fail to understand this generation will have a hard time achieving success. By employing marketing research to fine-tune customer acquisition, retention and loyalty building strategies can be improved and generational differences can be observed, quantified, and acted on. The methodologies for conducting marketing research are no different from the traditional methodologies when studying Millennials; however, as expected, digital data collection methodologies must be employed to achieve greater success.

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