Are Millennials Killing Your Business?

If yes, you probably deserve it.

Has this ever happened to you?

  • You start your day opening up shop. You get a few customers here and there but can’t seem to manage to draw the crowd that you used to.
  • You have many more of the above types of days and notice that your sales begin to either slow down or fall into negative territory.
  • You notice one day that there is a hip new business or website that is selling the exact same thing, perhaps at a cheaper price.
  • You stand in awed horror as you see younger (and perhaps older) customers flock to this new business or website.

If this has happened to you, inevitably two factors of blame cross your mind: the new generation of customers, and the new types of businesses that are serving them. This isn’t your fault. It can’t be your fault. You make good quality products, you provide decent service, and you have been serving the economy and the people that make it for years and years. It isn’t your fault. It’s the fault of the Millennial generation. The generation of entitled narcissists. The generation that thinks everything should be given to them. The generation that demands instant gratification, no matter the costs. Yes, it is all their fault and no fault of your own!… Right?

Millennials: The Ultimate Serial Killers

Traditional businesses have been having a rough time. These businesses include brick-and-mortar retail, big box stores, sit-down restaurants, golf, housing, movie theaters, department stores, and traditional fast-food, just to name a few. Sales are either down or slowing down as the newer generation flocks to businesses that emphasize health, cheapness, and/or convenience. These include businesses such as Amazon, Netflix, Blue Apron, Zillow, and Zappos.

Despite the never-ending mockery of businesses casting blame on Millennials for their current issues, the truth is, marketing and drawing in this new generation is incredibly challenging. In fact, from a traditional business and marketing standpoint, reaching out to Millennials is nearly impossible. Millennials tend to do a lot of showrooming, they don’t answer honestly in focus groups, they respond less to advertising than previous generations, and they are far more opinionated. We are living with a generation of people that seem to have already made up their minds about themselves. And one of their communal thoughts are that they will choose to trust no one outside of their circle of compatriots. Therefore, the marketer’s dilemma isn’t just that they need to make Millennials aware of their products. They also need to win them over. Many articles reference the lack of innovation, as well as the changing of times, that show the migration of consumers from one business to another. While these factors are indeed relevant there is no doubt that part of the problem rests in a lack of ingenuity among businesses toward Millennial consumers.

So, how do you win over Millennials and prevent them from becoming the ultimate serial killers of your business? Well, you actually care about them of course! When you look into the past of an actual serial killer, do you often find that they had a loving family, had a lot of friends, and were scholars beloved by the community? Of course not! Commonly, they began killing people because they were mirroring the indifference to life that others had shown toward them. Think of how that is reflected by Millennial consumers and your business. Has your marketing and business strategy only shown targeted indifference? Because the only thing you will get out of that is indifference to your business in return. The difference between Millennial consumers and actual serial killers are that actual serial killers take horrifying unjustified actions to people’s lives to show their indifference, while Millennial consumers take justified inaction to show their indifference to your misguided strategies. Nowadays supply-side ingenuity is a must among this generation of consumers.

Take, for example, the ways Millennials respond to certain marketing strategies. Advertising, for instance, is not trusted among 84% of Millennials, while word-of-mouth is their number one influence in purchasing a product. This is relevant because advertising in its nature is often disconnecting for consumers since it is considered completely in the hands of the people making and selling the product. On the other hand, word-of-mouth is based on people genuinely expressing interest in a product and/or service. So again, the question remains: how do you win over Millennial consumers enough to talk about the product?

The Art of Actually Caring

About 72% of Millennials say that they tend to spend money on experiences rather than spend money on material objects. What should that tell you if Millennial consumers aren’t coming in? That should tell you that your business is being seen as soulless that either provides a bad experience or an experience that results in indifference. In order to turn your business from that to something for Millennials to write home about, you should make an attempt to show ingenuity aka the art of actually caring.

The first thing you should do is get rid of the perception that the cold and distant Mad Men style of targeted marketing is relevant today. The world is far more connected (need I explain?) and because of that, perceptions are changing constantly. Therefore, marketing can no longer be decided by a group of men in suits coming up with ideas on what they believe customers want. Today, marketers and strategists are dealing with moving targets and what customers want today could disappear into the void of lost time tomorrow.

The second thing you should do is eliminate the perception that data is king. This isn’t to say that data should not be heavily utilized. Data is an incredibly helpful tool when it comes to tracking what is going on and coming up with a framework as to why something is happening. However, that is all that data is: a framework. Data is not emotional and can often lag behind the changes of human perception. Also, data has the tendency to be misinterpreted by analysts and could be read from multiple different angles, some right and some wrong. Therefore, while data is an incredibly useful compass, that does not mean that business owners and marketers should not look up every once in awhile to make sure they are not walking into a tree or falling down a cliff.

The third thing you should do is actually talk to your customers, listen, and respond. When I refer to talking to your customers, I am not referring to you asking about demographics nor basic questions of your product and asking what improvements can be made. I am referring to actually getting to know your customers as individuals. Where do they come from? What are their dreams and aspirations? What are their fears? The question shouldn’t be, how do I get people to buy my product and/or service? The question should be, how does my product and/or service fit into the lives and aspirations of my customer? Only then could you apply the correct innovation needed that will turn your business into an experience.

One fantastic example of this is the way that some movie theaters are responding to changing trends. Many movie theaters nowadays have installed relaxing new recliners instead of their packed-in seating of the past. Furthermore, they have loosened restrictions on alcohol, and have implemented a reserved seating system in order to encourage online booking and to allow the convenience of buying a ticket without having to wait at the theater for long periods of time in order to get a good seat. Does this solve every problem that movie theaters are experiencing? No, it is unlikely that it will, but it will give Millennial consumers an experience that they can tell others about to hopefully encourage further movie-going to mitigate the losses and preserve the showing of films in theaters.

Don’t be Stubborn to Change

To implement the art of actually caring and gain Millennial consumers, you cannot be resistant to change. Change is difficult, especially if your business has been doing the same thing for years and years without fail. But at the end of the day, change is also a necessity if you want to succeed at your business. If successful at implementing this strategy, you will be experimenting with new ideas. Most ideas will fail, and some ideas will succeed. It will be those ideas that fail that will discourage you, but even so, keep driving forward, because maybe there is something to that failure that will drive you to success.

If you are stubborn, resistant to change, and don’t take this article seriously, then I leave you with this: Maybe you are the entitled narcissist since you believe that your business is perfect. Maybe you are the one that thinks everything should be given to you because you have been around for years and years. Maybe you are the one that demands instant gratification since you seem to think that you can achieve new consumers without change. Maybe they aren’t the problem, maybe you are.

But what do I know? I’m just a Millennial.

Further Readings:

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