Digital Strategy & Innovation

Millennials: legend or reality?

Millennials are frequently referred to and taken as reference chiefly when talking about digital change. This generation seems now to be the all-important example to follow, indeed is practically a legend, especially in some fields such as market research and consultancy (and not just there… a taxi driver was talking about this at the pub).

I was tempted to explore this subject, trawling through Digital Innovation Observatory research and other sources, to try and mould its features a little more precisely. While this work is still far from finished, I have come across some points that made me think and, indeed, have driven me to delve deeper.

As of today, two factors have surprised me the most (but I am sure I will find others when I look harder).

In first place, Millennials were not born into a digital world, but are simply more familiar with digital technology and internet communication (as Wikipedia and many other sources say “… the generation is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies”). So, at least in Italy, this category does not include youngsters who have used digital tools on an extensive scale from when they were little (Millennials had at most a mobile phone or games console). The category is restricted to people born before the mid-nineties or at very most before the end of the nineties. This period was not yet dominated by electronic instrumentation. Just think back to how train or plane tickets were sold or how most cars or televisions worked.

In second place, Millennials often do not behave any differently from other “older” users. We recently conducted a study on Mobile Banking, and it clearly revealed that Millennials (young people between 18 and 35 years of age, under a “purist” definition) use these services more or less in the same way as any other category. One of the few substantial differences is linked to their tendency to activate a series of instalment payments using a payment card, but this seems to have nothing to do with the technology of their birth time and place, and is simply the product of being born into greater financial well-being. Even in the way they use social media, these “legends” are not particularly different from other consumer groups.

What clearly emerges is that simple socio-demographic segmentation for marketing strategy purposes and in CRM is outdated, and in all age groups there are consumers strongly influenced by digital progress in their behaviour and purchasing choices. At the same time, if we want to understand the changes brought about by digital innovation for consumers in plenty of time, we must keep a beady eye on the true digital natives – Generation Z – and start thinking about the mobile natives (the current under-sevens).

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