Generation Y, more commonly known as the Millennials, is currently between the ages of 13 and 34 and quite different from the two previous generations, points out Phillips. “Every generation is defined by the prevailing child-rearing practices and events,” she says, with Millennials being raised in more child-centric families by parents who’ve given them more attention than what occurred in previous generations. On average, their families have also been more affluent than their parents’ and grandparents’ childhood experiences.
Millennials were the first to grow up with ubiquitous information, says Phillips, so they are skilled at accessing information and sharing it with others. They use the Internet extensively, but more as a social tool, says Stovall. That is, instead of delving into published research on a topic, they are much more likely to turn to their contacts on Facebook—some of whom are no doubt strangers—for advice. For Millennials, “quantity suggests quality when it comes to opinions,” says Stovall.
Unlike their parents and grandparents, Millennials do not self-identify with their jobs. “Who they are is not connected to their current job,” confirms Stovall, so marketing messages should focus more on activities they enjoy, such as travel or fitness, rather than job status or title. They are open to new experiences and enjoy trying new things, says Hopelain, whether that might be sky diving or experimenting with a new mascara or gel polish.
More so than boomers or Gen X, however, the recent recession has hit adult Millennials hard. They now shop strategically with an eye toward saving money.
Where Gen Xers are less sure of themselves, Millennials are their polar opposite. They are confident about themselves and what is right for them. Fashion and beauty are their hobbies, and they want the latest and greatest, says Stovall. They are well-informed and prepared, frequently entering a beauty store knowing exactly what they are looking for. They also do their homework before making a purchase, confirming that the product they want is in stock, and will become very irritated if they discover the item is actually out of stock, says Phillips.
Perhaps because of their immersion in technology, Millennials pay great attention to design, especially as it relates to how information is displayed. “Words are a design element on the page,” says Hopelain, rather than content. Millennials will notice how photos are laid out on a page but overlook what is said in the featured article, for example. This fact should impact how beauty retailers communicate with them. Similarly, a store’s visual merchandising is very important to Millennials and affects their interest in and willingness to buy.
Because of their inclination for noticing only design elements, sudden product-packaging changes can be deadly to beauty brands. Explains Phillips, “In cosmetics, if Millennials don’t see the package they expect, they will walk out of the store [even if it’s sitting on the shelf where it has always been], because they’re focused on the visual, not the content.” Millennials need to be warned that a package change is coming and be shown, repeatedly, what the new package will look like, so as not to be frustrated when they no longer see the box or bottle they recognize.
The best way to reach Millennials is online, because that is where they spend much of their time. Retail stores without an online shop will miss out on many of the purchases that this generation makes. “Having a website is essential,” underscores Stovall. But connect with them socially too, through sites like Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube.
Millennials also shop where they live, says Hopelain, and retailers that become local resources for what’s hot and provide reasons for shoppers to come into the store, will win out. For example, she says, a local beauty retailer could host a fashion show, have an Academy Awards party, offer makeovers, or schedule a play day where product samples are available. Such events are a big draw for Millennials in particular.