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Date: October 30, 2016

Author: Jan Fambro


Who are Millennials & What Do They Want?

Much has been researched and written about millennials: who are they and what do they want.  Age-wise, Millennials are adults from 18 - 35 years old. This synopsis of from multiple studies/sources provides key points, definitions and findings about the growing target audience called Millennials. This is the audience that the business and sport of triathlon needs to reach - along with youth - to energize growth and success.
Who are they?
  1. In 2016, millennials emerged as the U.S.'s largest demographic group - some 75 million strong - millennials are becoming the most impactful generation since the baby boomers.
  2. Millennials are the best educated and most diverse population of young people in U.S. history. They are also perhaps the most coddled, some would say spoiled. Millennials are turning out to be dramatically different from Xers and boomers
  3. Millennials are not big spenders, at least not in the traditional sense. Millennials tend to prefer experiences over buying things and accumulating stuff. 
  4. Millennials are seen as more self-absorbed than prior generations, even narcissistic. But at the same time, research suggests that these young adults are also very community-minded. If baby boomers were known as the "me" generation, Millennials might be called the "we" generation. 
  5. Surveys have found that Millennials, while less interested in traditional politics, care deeply about their communities and are volunteering more than earlier generations of young people.
  6. Millennials came of age in a more racially diverse and economically stratified America, which has made them more sensitive to social issues and things like gender and income inequality. Gay rights are a given. Millennials are the first generation for which Hispanics/Latinos are the largest minority group instead of African Americans.
  7. 71% of Millennials use the Internet as their primary news source; 91% own a smartphone. Millennials are hyper-connected. They show off their life experiences, their travel, hobbies and even food through many channels of social media.  61% rely on links friends share with them. Only 38% read print newspapers and magazines. They are avid users of social media, Facebook, by far, is their No. 1 choice for posting content (43%), followed by Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat.
  8. 65% prefer to shop online. However, Millennials value information, experiences and relationships, which, as a whole, cannot be found online.
  9. Millennials make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases, which are estimated to be over a trillion dollars in direct buying power and a huge influence on older generations.
  10. Millennials are pushing for change in the world -- including in the marketplace. They don't accept "that's the way it has always been done" as a viable answer. 
What do Millennials Want?
  1. They want to be engaged in their jobs, meaning they are emotionally and behaviorally connected to them.
  2. Millennials want to be free of old workplace policies and performance management standards, and they expect leaders and managers to adapt accordingly. They see work and life as closely intertwined. Because of this, millennials want to have a different relationship with their manager.
  3. They want well-being, to be healthy, have a purposeful live, an active community and social ties, and financial stability, but Gallup research shows that millennials struggle to find good jobs that engage them. Millennials have the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment in the U.S.
  4. Millennials demand that businesses approach them differently and adjust the customer experience to meet their needs. 
  5. Millennials want adventure; 68% say they crave adventure.
  6. Millennials want to purchase a brand that stands for more than just a bottom-line. 37% of Millennials say they are willing to purchase a product or service to support a cause they believe in, even if it means paying a bit more.
  7. 80% of millennials want brands to entertain them. 40% want to participate in co-creation of products and brands. 70% feel a responsibility to share feedback with companies after a good or bad experience.
What does all this mean to multisport retailers, service providers and race directors?
  1. Millennials have major brand loyalty potential, but earning that loyalty is a process and requires thought, and interactive and integrated strategy. According to studies, brand loyalty is earned through: product quality; good customer experience/relationships/connections, and; the brand's support for society.
  2. Businesses need to dispose of the traditional selling model that revolved around the ABC's of sales (always be closing) and move to ABH (always be helping). Millennial customers expect brands and service providers to stand for more than their bottom line. When they feel like a brand genuinely cares about them and not just the dollars they are spending, they will quickly develop an affinity for the brand and build brand loyalty.
  3. Expect your Millennial customer to have done his/her homework - online or instore on a mobile device - so your sales people must do the same.  Sales staff must understand that with the increase in information available to consumers, the customer is more in control than ever before.
    • Millennials expect a personalized experience. Consider keeping preference files on your key customers so you know what they're interested in, what they've purchased previously, and what styles, colors, sizes they prefer.
    • Make sure your sales force is up-to-speed on the stock in the store, what reviews are saying abaout the stock, who's using it, what competitors are doing, etc. If a customer comes into the store armed with information, the salesperson also needs to be able to inform, and do it in an unbiased and authoritative way.
    • Cut the fluff - be real. Talk to them like a friend and make sure your sales force listens to what the customers are saying, acknowledges that they've been heard and offers a solution or several solutions. This takes much longer than you may want to spend but that's your customer. They value the relationship more than you think and that relationship is what will open their wallets. Yes, they want you to get to the point but they'll give you more time if you take a genuine interest in their life. Remember face-time can't be replicated in an online purchase. Use this to your advantage.
  4. Millennials are addicted to technology. You need to be as well.  Make sure all of your online activities (website, social media, databased, blast emails, texting) are accurate and continually updated.
  5. You must have a social media presence. At minimum, have a Facebook and Twitter presence. Make sure they are active and that any customer comments are given replies quickly.  Social media done well can take a lot of time during the day.  You don't need to be on every social media platform.  It's better to pick a few and do them very, very well, than try to cover five platforms and not be able to keep up.  Remember, Millennials are on Facebook more than the other platforms. Consider geo-targeted advertising. Don't forget to promote your social media presence on your website and in-store.
  6. Make sure you deliver on promises. If you say you'll call or email with additional information, make sure that happens as quickly as possible. This builds trust.
  7. Provide something for free.  Giving something free - even something intangible - will go a long way toward building a connection. Whether it's a product, advice, insight or something you can do that is of value to them, it's a great connection. Make sure what you give them is functionable.
  8. Find ways to get face-to-face with Millennials. Suggestions might be:
  • Conduct after-hours workshops/clinics on a variety of topicsConsider having fun social hours/meet-and-greets/networking events at the store
  • Provide service support for local events in exchange for right to market to entrants
  • Tie-in with local Tri clubs by hosting weekly rides, hosting clinics, offering to speak at club meetings
  • Join local business/social/networking organizations; consider asking each salesperson to research and find one to join
  • Reach out to large businesses in your area or hospitals with wellness/healthy adult programs, offer to speak to their group about multisport; host a group ride or run
  • Host packet/bib pickup at the shop; make sure to engage (but not a sales pitch) participants as they stop by. Here's a chance to offer race tips, empathy and 'good luck'
The times are changing for everyone, but the things that matter to Millennials aren't shifting. They will continue to focus on values like happiness and approach their futures knowing how many options are in front of them. Retailers, service providers and race directors that can accommodate and enable these attitudes are the ones that will have staying power with Millennials.
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