Purpose-defying music screeching from headphones, clothing that looks either primitive or way ahead of its time, armed with gadgets that overtly serve the needs of the user are all signs of a life that almost sounds oxymoronic; here's an eccentric individual, one would say. We then have the class of people who attain premature professionalism, work in areas that are too theatrical to even believe actually exist and become millionaires before they are married. Meet the 'Millennials', a hybrid breed born out of the digital age, living in the era of the fourth industrial revolution.
So who are they, exactly? Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years. Millennials are sometimes referred to as "Echo-Boomers" due to a major surge in birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s and because millennials are often the children of Baby-Boomers.
As technology and globalisation continue to fuel mass disruption, the need for speed, value and experience create a hyper-powered consumer. It is not easy to decipher the millennial mind for it is too fickle and too nimble. In an effort to understand this generation's real-time needs, we need to understand their cognitive intelligence and apply it to our marketing models. I will try to shed some light on their purchase behaviour with a retail perspective and what actually goes on inside the mind of a millennial shopper.
Focus on millennials is a pre-destined call to gain on this surge and in a market that would be largely made of them in the future. India will be the youngest country by 2022, with an average of age of 29, a force that will have an immense impact on the way businesses are run.
Millennials reinvent the omnichannel retail pathway
Not long ago, when mobile phones became a necessity, using them for shopping seemed almost unperceivable. Now that over 60 per cent of the retail transactions are carried out using mobile devices, the anticipation as to what the future holds, grows manifold. I am daunted by technology's hubris to overshadow our lives or do we even have a say in it... is an indenting question. The omnichannel retail model is considered the guide to understand the new age consumer and establish communication with them during the entire purchase cycle. Generation Y reinvents this widely-accepted omnichannel in ways that are adding a new meaning to the fully integrated and unified approach to online-offline channels, also known as touchpoints.
Conventionally, true omnichannel shopping extends to brick and mortar locations, mobile browsing, e-commerce marketplaces, onsite storefronts, social media, and finally, retargeting and everything in between. With millennials, perhaps the journey could take a wild turn; social media might be the best platform to establish the brand moving on to other offline channels. This would be the first step in the market channel evolution; a shift in preference can visibly change the relationship between a brand and consumer. The visible change with the millennial sect is the preference of meaningful experiences over tangible things. They could easily turn down your product if you fail to extend a brand story by creating experiences.
They have travelled from DISK to DINK
The terminology may sound a bit exaggerated, but is, in fact, a way-forward approach to understanding millennials and Gen Z. The 'DISK' - double income and single kids - segment is the space in which the last decade or so has seen a want for premium products, a causal effect of growing incomes and spending power. The need or worry about monetary outflow here is negligible with no or just a single child and subsequent budget allocation. Brands keen on targeting this segment have upped or rather upgraded their game to become premium and sought after. This is also the class that enjoys access rather than ownership.
Moving to the DINK's - the double income no kids segment - which is now becoming the norm for a perfect urban lifestyle. This segment focuses on themselves so arduously that achieving a standard of lifestyle is overpowered by their income. If we were to classify their personas, no single label could accurately be attached to define them - from bargain-hunters, elite shoppers, Social pickers, and the impulsive buyer, of course. The understanding of all such types is important for the apex marketer to design and decorate their communication for maximum results. Retailers who want to win big are going to be forced to approach their brand from a place of empathy. Tying the consumer experience to emotion is, to millennials, what direct marketing was to Baby Boomers. Millennials have to feel understood and are insatiable when it comes to immediacy for more personalised touchpoints and better service.
Tangibility and integration are keys to winning their hearts
Millennials prioritise experience over other things. A millennial wanting to possess a commodity sees beyond ownership. A sense of pride, ascendancy and portrayal is always associated with the purchase. It's not just transaction involved, as it would normally be for the others outside the millennial birth sphere. There is a strong sense of utopian vanity along with possession of the product which in turn gives unexplored meaning to the purchase. Ask a millennial why they would want to visit malls - many would tell you that making a purchase for a desired product was secondary and rather, socialising, eating out with friends and entertainment, was on their minds. They wanted to see and to be seen.
Imagine the mélange of experiences your brand stood to create for many millennials wanting to socialise and be seen. The results will be exponential if done the right way and at the right time and if coupled with instant gratification, you would be the icing on the cake. Further, tangibility can take several shapes. As the millennial class is highly perception-driven, influencers and brand faces armed with brand narration can add customisable facets to the brand storytelling.
So, while actual purchases happen in a physical store, the shopping is happening on social media with highly opined precursors. And let's not forget the influence of technology and how rapidly it is changing people and consumer behaviour, particularly that of millennials.
Keep in mind that millennials are too unique in ways for the conventionalities of this time to keep pace with them. We need a microscopic eye and a transparent lens that foresees the distant future.