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A Millennial Responds to a Million Millennial Market Research Studies
TrendSource 07/13/2017
7 Minutes

Millennials – we are the generation every analyst, strategist, and business developer is eager to understand, including my bosses here at Trendsource.  As a millennial myself, and a summer intern, I was asked (ok, told) to provide my thoughts about my demographic. Sure, we are a fascinating  generation, estimated to be half of the workforce by 2020, and we have big ideas and fattening wallets. But despite the countless articles and blog posts claiming to have “discovered” the ultimate motivation (or lack there of?) for millennials, there are still many myths about me and my generation.

At Trendsource, we gather data that helps us better understand why people do what they do. Amid all the spreadsheets and infographics, we sometimes stumble upon major plot twists in the studies around my generation, so this millennial will try her hand at making sense of these seemingly counterintuitive findings.

Myth: Millennials are impoverished and living in their parents’ basements with no purchasing power

Finding: Millennials are willing to spend $$ on food & drink

For better or worse, millennials are passionate about what we consume. While we may not be making loads of money and might even still live with our parents, we are sure enthusiastic about what we eat and drink for two reasons – convenience and health. Fast-food restaurants are quick and easy but their unhealthy reputation makes us avoid them for the most part -- aside from the occasional late night drunchies (that's drunk munchies for you old people), because who doesn’t love Taco Bell at 1 am? If we are on the go, we are much more likely to turn to fast casual or prepared foods at grocery stores to satisfy our hunger in a pinch. We can justify eating out 4 or more times per week since meeting someone for breakfast/brunch/lunch/coffee/dinner is an easy way to incorporate social time in our hectic lives, all while consuming the nutrients we need according to the paleo/gluten-free/vegan/raw/whole 30 diet we all seem to be on.

We also want products to benefit our general well-being and health, such as functional beverages like kombucha . In the millennial mind, if you are going to pay $4-$6 for a beverage, it should be good for you… or at least give you a buzz. For example, drinks high in caffeine (coffee, energy drinks) and nutritional value (green juices, protein drinks) are popular among my generation despite the often outrageously high price tags. The emphasis on foodie culture might seem outrageous, but for the millennial, it’s all about getting the most out of your purchase.

Myth: Millennials are far too poor and self-centered to buy gifts, but they sure are great at receiving them

Finding: Millennials are open to spending more on gifts  for their loved ones than ever before

With our small budgets and “the world revolves around me” priorities, it may come as a surprise that several studies have shown that millennials spend more on presents than ever before. In the 2016 Holiday and the 2017 Mother’s Day studies , younger millennials reported that they intended to spend more on presents than they had the previous year. Is my generation just significantly more good-hearted and thankful for their loved ones than others? Potentially, or we could just have delusional budgets. The more likely explanation for this finding is that our wallets are growing and we are finally able to buy our loved ones the presents they deserve, after putting up with us through our teenage years. Instead of buying cheesy gifts that will likely be tossed in the donation pile and never seen again, we use features, such as online wishlists and customer reviews, that give us more confidence in our gift selection.With more assurance that the receiver will love their gift we feel more comfortable with spending a larger amount.  

But honestly, when we pick out gifts, it’s just as much about us as it is about who we are giving them to. We want gifts that are memorable and unique, as they represent both our creativity and our relationship with the receiver. So yeah, maybe we are still a little self-centered, but at least we are willing to drop some cash (kidding! who still carries cash?) for the holidays.

Myth: With their fast-paced lives, millennials skip breakfast

Finding: Millennials just don’t want cereal for breakfast

Sorry Tony the Tiger, but millennials are trading bowls of Frosted Flakes for chia seeds and quinoa. Despite the nostalgia of catchy commercials and childhood mornings, cereal is no longer our preferred breakfast of choice . According to a Mintel survey, 40% of millennials say that they avoid cereal in the morning because of the dirty dishes and assembly time, because apparently putting two ingredients in a bowl counts as assembly time. Laziness aside, convenience is a huge motivator for my generation and we much prefer premade options that we can eat on the go.

Our parents and teachers shoved down our throats the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Ok, why would you want to start the day by spooning down 11 grams of sugar? The flourishing health trend has convinced us that we need protein and whole grains in the morning, not high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. If Cap’n Crunch wants to capture the hearts of this generation, he will need to, along with the rest of his friends in the cereal industry, ditch the empty calories.

Myth: Millennials are keg-standing beer guzzlers

Finding: Millennials love their wine

Millennials drank 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015, making up 42% of the nation’s consumption, which is more than any other generation’s consumption. Thanks to fun products like wine slushies and wine popsicles, the drink’s perception is more #winewednesday than #middle-ageddinnerparty. What can I say, we love looking classy, especially online, without the inconvenience  (and price) of actual sophistication.

Simply put, when it comes to social media, millennials want to be judged on what they consume. It’s the same rationale behind the rise of avocado toast and latte art-- That we want to show off how classy/trendy/healthy we are by what we eat and drink. It is a statement of identity, and we want to be known on social media by our sophisticated taste, rather than any haunting memories of a less classy, in-real-life past.

Another component of this equation is, you guessed it, convenience. Millennial social events, primarily in the spring and summer, often take place outside in places that prohibit glass. At BBQs, pool parties, and beach gatherings, we want portable drinks such as canned wine (aka grown up juice boxes) to keep up the appearance of class without the impracticality of glass. This combination hits the sweet spot of my demographic, turning this trendy fad into a well-aged standard.

Myth: Millennials are slowly killing grocery retailers by shopping online

Finding: Millennials aren’t jumping on the online grocery bandwagon at a greater rate than other generations

Millennials are all about jumping on new technology trends and adapting to ways to make life easier, right? Generally, yes, but according to the 2017 Grocery Industry Study,  we do not vary significantly from other generations when it comes to shopping for groceries online. Amazon Fresh and other grocers have made it fast and easy to get the groceries you want, without leaving the comfort of the apartment you share with five other people, yet my generation is not jumping on this bandwagon like one would think. While we may be a little too comfortable with traditional online shopping, we are hesitant to order perishable groceries, without fully knowing the origins of the products – Grass fed? Family owned farm? Renewable energy? Full disclosure, all this information is available when you order groceries online, but most of us just don’t have the attention span to scroll down that far.

Another concern is that we are not home for most of the day and fear the groceries going bad, which, again, is already solved with insulated packages and the ability to reserve delivery times. My hypothesis is that if the average millennial realized the ease of online groceries, they would be open to it, but it would take some organizational skills. The most likely explanation is that we genuinely enjoy the in-person grocery shopping experience. The thrills of finding a good deal, trying a delicious sample, and having the will power to choose kale over cake create an atmosphere of adventure and inspiration, rather than just an annoying errand. The foodie and health cultures have made grocery shopping cool again.  

Myth: Millennials are obsessed with the future they are shaping, with the latest gadgets in their hands at all times

Finding: Millennials are tech savvy, but also love a good throwback

Sure, we love our mobile apps and sci-fi films, but we also have an unexpected obsession with the days of past. From vintage clothes and vinyl records to pearls and polaroid cameras, we seem to gravitate to an expression of nostalgia, for a time long before our first birthday. Aside from aiding in our incessant quest to be trendy, this fascination with throwbacks is rooted in our generational identity.

We are continuously criticized for our naivety, whether it is not understanding how a fax machine works or not recognizing the names of our parents’ teen idols.  By adopting the styles of the past, we want to appear to be cultured and more knowledgeable about the world than we are. Another hallmark of my generation is our need for unique self-expression. As kids, we displayed our individualism through our favorite Beanie Babies and monogramed accessories, but today we are looking to retro style choices and eclectic music tastes to differentiate ourselves from the crowd.

The irony of this individual self-expression is its transformation into a mass movement where polaroid pictures and mason jars are no longer seen as unique, but basic. The revival of these trends is also rooted in their adaptability to present day, as manufacturers have incorporated technology to revamp retro cameras and appliances.  With vinyl records of Kanye West for sale next to the Beatles at Urban Outfitters and the vintage thrift world moving online with ModCloth and thredUP, it is safe to say that what goes around, comes around again, with a few tweaks here and there.  

Myth: Millennials don't want to shop in-store

Finding: Millennials actually prefer to shop in-store, not online

Despite our tech-loving and convenience-driven reputation, millennials actually prefer to shop in-store, not online, according to the 2017 Retail Industry Report. The in-person shopping experience gives us the invaluable opportunity to physically interact with a product, despite the online convenience of being able to order new shoes without getting on our feet. This shows that the pleasurable experience of shopping (sights, smells, feelings) is more important to us than the end goal of obtaining a desired product. At the end of the day, we don’t really want more stuff, but if we are going to buy more stuff, we might as well embrace the experience of shopping. This makes the physical shopping experience, like grocery shopping, a leisure activity on its own, full of social interaction (both in person and online) and the instant gratification of spontaneous purchases. While some say that brick-and-mortar is on the way out, the online shopping industry will never be able to make clicking the add to cart button as satisfying as walking out of the mall with bags full of new purchases.

To wrap it up (hey, I’m a millennial, my attention span is short), a lot of the myths about my generation are not rooted in reality. Feel free to disagree with my explanations, but the numbers don’t lie. Yes, we do things that do not make sense at first (don’t get me started on fidget spinners) but understanding millennials is an imperative for today’s (and tomorrow’s) economy.

Make sure you are our list to receive updates on the newest discoveries about millennials and other generations, as well as other important insights on industries like retail, grocery, and more.

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