Key Speaker: Ms. Nicole Perrin (Executive Editor, e-Marketer) and Mr. Mark Dolliver (Senior Analyst, e-Marketer)


It has wrongly been understood that Millennials are a single group sharing common characteristics. Yet recent observations have highlighted a growing trend of disparity between the older brackets within the group and the youngest members. The group can be considered to be for people between 18 to 39 years of age. While the younger members may still be in college, the oldest of them have already settled into family lives while some may even have children. Marketers continue to make the mistake of categorizing millennials as a single unified group, existing in their digital worlds and forever young. Yet that perception needs to change if they are to truly succeed in marketing to that audience.

Segmentation within Millennials

A lot of life processes such as stable jobs, marriage, kids or house purchase have been delayed for this generation. One of the reasons for this is the Global Recession and the Sub-prime Crisis which disrupted their lives and careers in the later part of the previous decade. This means many of them did not have stable jobs while many had to squeeze in extra efforts in order to pay off their student loans. In spite of that, by now many of them have settled down. Especially those above the age of 30, majority of them now have settled into family lives, some even with kids. On the other end of the spectrum lie the young millennials, who are below 25 years old and can more typically be pigeonholed into the usual stereotype of those forever digitally connected. Majority of them are still students and thus have not yet started family lives or parenthood. The one thing common to both these segments is the constant use of mobile and other smart devices. Digital marketing is thus easily the best way to engage with the generation overall, irrespective of segments.

Products of the Great Recession

While calling them millennial generation the product of the Great Recession maybe a tad harsh, but it must be recognized that that event and the related preceding Sub-prime crisis had a major role to play. Post the recession, millions of youngsters all across North America and in other parts of the world lost their jobs, or were unable to find jobs or got jobs way below their potential levels. This meant that millennials had a lot of unwanted free time in their hands. They used this time to explore the latest of technology enabled gadgets. This period also coincided with the launch of the mass use smartphones and tablets. Millennials also explored gig opportunities where they shifted from one project or job to another leaving them with flexibility but a lack of job security. They thus delayed most of the life processes as already highlighted. Now with the recession a thing of the past and the global economy back to something resembling normal, a lot of improvisations made during that period are proving to be a boon. While millennials explored part time jobs as a matter of need, now the trend towards freelancing has surged. Instead of going for full-time degrees due to financial insecurities, the Executive MBA or continuous learning boomed with the trend continuing to present times. The collapse of the housing market and tightening of mortgage backed loans meant that house buying was at an all time low with this generation. But that has now eased on with the market returning to normalcy.

Shift in Marketer Perceptions

Marketers must realize this change and shift their perceptions accordingly. Millennials are not all young adults anymore. A look at the spending habits and use patterns among the older segments of this group gives clear indications of the ways the demographics is set to evolve over the next few years. The student debts have now been paid off mostly, and millennials are ready to splurge on items of traditional prestige or requirement like cars, baby-care and housing. The percentage of millennials not married is reducing with statistics provided by the US Census clearly highlighting that less than a fourth of the oldest segment of millennials remained never married. Similarly, the same bureau confirms that less than a fifth of women in that age group have not had children. The figure stands at three-fourths for women aged till 24. Nearly three-fourths of those aged around 35 now own a house or condo as per marketing research firm IPSOS. Multi-tasking is no longer the preferable mode as now they tasks involve a lot of mundane family related aspects.

Social Media Use Patterns

Social media has remained an integral part of the lives of the millennials across the segments highlighted. Facebook remains the top across age levels. It has wrongly been attributed that Facebook is being deserted by the younger members, yet that is not true at all though content use may differ. For older people, Facebook is more of a means to stay connected with people, for the younger ones it is more of a recreational pattern for self expression. Facebook plays the role of a utility rather than fun element for youngsters. The mobile penetration has enabled Facebook to seamlessly intertwine with the usage patterns of millennials. Younger millennials are more hooked to Twitter than their older counterparts, yet the gap similar to Facebook is somewhat negligible. The major gap however shows up in Instagram where youngsters are far more likely to be found than the upper limits of this group. Older ones are growing their use of Instagram but the base is lower than the younger ones. By the year 2020, Instagram will be a default app wired to most people. Even more than Instagram, the gap increases when it comes to Snapchat. The recreational aspects of this social media platform are best known and this reflects the greater free time that the younger members tend to have. The fifth major platform Pinterest similar to Facebook or Twitter has less age based variation. It is ideal for creating lists and so gets used a lot for making shopping lists. It is particularly a hit among women especially mothers. An e-Marketer led business research clearly points out that Snapchat usage is for longer single durations whereas Facebook is used for more frequent but shorter bursts of time with Instagram being somewhat in between.

Smartphone Use Patterns

Typically smartphone usage is very high for the millennial group. In fact, the common stereotype continues according to which millennials stare at their neon-lit screens for long durations even while crossing busy streets. The older millennials have been using smartphones for a number of years and so for most of them, these devices are comparatively more prosaic with more functional duties. This is in stark contrast to young users who experiment with their phones, constantly trying out its new features, primarily for recreational purposes. Older users also spend a substantial time on laptops and desktops, thus reducing their time spent with smartphones or tablets where the younger ones steal a march. The overall device usage keeps differing from radio and TV to smartphones, game consoles, laptops or blue-ray devices. As an example one can cite the game Pokémon Go which featured a great usage by the younger millennials but far fewer downloads among those above 30 years of age. The former group is also hooked to sports content about their favourite teams, events or games. On the work emails survey, the older group obviously saw greater usage, but surprisingly the gap was comparatively less. Tablet usage is comparable for the two age groups, but while younger ones use them for personal purposes, the older ones are more likely to hand over tablets to their children.

Video Viewership

Traditional Television is viewed less by younger people than the older millennials, yet even for the former group, it remains the single largest usage. Although the trend is evolving towards hallmark sports events being viewed on mobile apps such as Twitter recently started live broadcast of NFL matches, by and large the trend veers towards live sports viewership on TV. The Olympics for example were almost completely viewed on TV in North America which happens to be one of the most wired regions of the world. Video based digital media such as Snapchat, or Facebook Live have greater penetration among the young adults. Advertising for youth targeted products on such video applications needs to be very subtle as the younger adults do not appreciate advertisements that intrude on their personal usage patterns. Older millennials are somewhat more tolerant to this. Ad blockers have thus gained in usage volumes.

Online Shopping Trends

Online shopping numbers have gone up across the millennial generation. However, older millennials continue to be the greater users primarily because they are busy so this saves time. Also credit card penetration and subsequent use is lower among the young adults forcing them to shop more at the physical stores. In addition, youngsters need to do more single item purchases so online logistics don’t suit them as opposed to the monthly or weekly groceries that older people require. Mothers especially have taken to online shopping in a big way as it is most convenient for them while parenting young babies. Hacking is yet another area of concern across the generation. That is one reason that the Buy buttons across social media forums are not doing their intended task. Millennials are averse to putting financial information online unless they have full faith. They instead use the same only for browsing and getting information. 





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