A declining economy since the dot-com bubble burst, changing technology and a demographic shift in the spending population have ushered in a new age of consumerism, Sarah Sladek, founder of management consulting firm XYZ University, told participants during "Converting Gen Y to Gen Buy: Close-up on the Millennial Consumer," the fifth of six NEW Multigenerational Leadership webinars.
Millennials — who have grown up with an awareness of lying politicians, corporate failures and violence in the news — have a "high, high need to trust and it stems out of this distrust and negativity that they've been raised with," Sladek said. The Millennial mindset: "If I can't control some of these influences, what can I control? I can control who I spend my time with, where I spend my time and how I spend my money and I want it to be positive."
Generation Y expects to have a voice, and be treated equally, at home and from the brands that court them. Customarily rewarded for participation, the so-called "Trophy Generation" has an ingrained need for return on investment.
"If I am giving you my time, my money, my skills, I want you to give me something in return," said Sladek, describing Generation Y's motivation for spending. "I want to know that I am somehow making a difference."
While Millennials were raised in a recession, they spend $600 billion in the United States each year, according to Accenture. "Recessionistas," as the debt-ridden generation is known, are very smart consumers. "There is something thrilling to them about getting a deal," Sladek said. "They want value. And they invest heavily in technology with access to assets."
As digital natives, Millennials expect more access, information and relationship-building opportunities than any previous generation. "If you've never known life without technology, you've always known the world in a grand, authentic 'dialogue,'" Sladek said.
As a result, customer obsession is a more effective corporate stance than mere customer service, and a never-ending improvement process is key. "Your voice and your 'reviews' matter," Sladek noted.
Millennial shoppers are willing to buy from — and invest time and attention in — smaller companies who offer great service and a highly personal experience. "If you're not offering customization, now is the time," Sladek said. "Millennials love that."
The NEW Multigenerational Leadership series is designed to help the industry's leaders and aspiring leaders, of all ages, manage today's multigenerational workforce. The webinar series continues with "Workforce 2020: Getting Ready for Tomorrow's Talent," Nov. 12, 2015 at 1 p.m. ET. The series is free to NEW members, who may catch up on past webinars in the NEW Study Hall. Non-members may view webinars for $99 each.