The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming!

Goldman Sachs released a report recently stitching together surveys about the generation of Americans born between 1980 and 2000--and comparing them to those of us (ahem!) born a little bit earlier.

You can read about the study in my post, Let Me Tell You a Little Something About Millennials. But, I think there are deeper lessons for real entrepreneurs. As a leader or a founder, you're probably most concerned with what opportunities these demographic shifts reveal.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the Goldman Sachs report:

1. Demographics are destiny, sort of.

The media horde is chasing this generation for good reason, as they're the largest by pure numbers: 92 million Millennials, compared to 77 million Baby Boomers and about 61 million Generation X-ers. Still, don't forget that those 134 million non-Millennials are a humongous group. Sometimes the best opportunity can be to head where everyone else isn't going.

2. Multigenerational living.

Millennials are staying at home with their parents longer than any other generation in living memory. Nearly 30 percent of those aged 18 to 34 are still with mom and dad, and the trend is growing: up about 11 percent since 2006 alone. So ask yourself, does your product or service provide value to more than one generation, or to generations living together?

3. Less money, at least for now.

This has to be part of the reason for the last item, but Millennials have much less wealth than their older cohorts did at their age. They have higher unemployment for one thing, and it's led to today's young people having a median income that is about 64 percent of the overall national median, down from about 69 percent a decade ago. They're also utterly clobbered with student debt: the median among today's 25-year-olds is about $20,000; double what it was for people the same age in 2000.

4. They're getting married later.

Go back to when the Gen X-ers were born (say, 1968), and more than half of 18 to 31-year-olds (56 percent) were married. Now: 23 percent. But, 70 percent of Millennials say they do want to get married--eventually. Maybe we shouldn't plan on going to so many weddings anytime soon, but there could be chances to market to singles now, and marrieds later.

5. They're having kids later.

Same thing: no kids for now--even though they're into the idea eventually. About 74 percent say they do want to become parents someday. So, if you want to sell to parents in the meantime, maybe focus on selling to Generation X.

6. They don't really care about luxury.

It's hard to know whether it's the result of simply having less money or a shift in culture, but Millennials don't care about brands and status anywhere near as much as earlier generations. The one opportunity here is that 34 percent of Millennials do care about whether brands use social media; only 16 percent of people in older generations care.

7. They value home ownership...

Even though they're more likely to be living at home--or wait, maybe because of that fact--Millennials are eager to own their own homes. They don't have the finances to do it now, but 93 percent say they want to own a home eventually. Compare that to Gen-Xers, of whom only about 75 percent still want to own real estate.

8. ...but they're still renting.

Yes, the share of 25 to 34-year-olds renting homes as opposed to buying them is up nearly 20 percent in the last 10 years. So if you're targeting Millennials in this space, perhaps try to find financial solutions for them, or offer ways to make renting a more positive experience.

8. They don't care about cars.

Sixty percent of Millennials say they either have no interest in buying a car or don't feel strongly about the idea one way or another. Only 15 percent think buying a nice car is "extremely important."

9. They're digital natives.

Goldman Sachs puts a lot of stock in an interesting metric: about 50 percent of Millennials say they play video games regularly, compared to 27 percent of Gen-Xers and 16 percent of Baby Boomers. (Honestly, I'd like to meet those Boomers.) "They're also the first generation of digital natives, and their affinity for technology helps shape how they shop," according to the Goldman study.

10. Health and wellness matter.

Millennials are especially "dedicated to wellness, devoting time and money to exercising and eating right. Their active lifestyle influences trends in everything from food and drink to fashion," according to Goldman. Not that older people don't care about wellness--they do--but Millennials grew up with a more holistic idea of what that means.

11. Millennials don't like smoking and drinking.

This one seems to flow from the previous point. Although it also seems counterintuitive to anyone living in big American cities, where you can find an awful lot of Millennials drinking PBR, statistically they're not big fans of either smoking or drinking. At least, they disapprove highly of other people's bad habits.

12. They care most about value.

If you thought Gen-Xers had reputations for being smart shoppers, wait until you focus on Millennials. One-third of them say that price is the most important factor in purchases, as opposed to 27 percent of other Americans.

13. Think about their parents.

Go back to that big number of Baby Boomers--77 million according to Goldman, a large percentage of whom are still providing significant levels of support for their grown up kids. Imagine that you were the one with the 31-year-old still living in your basement; would you be eager and willing to pay for a solution that would get them out on their own?

14. Think about their older siblings.

So what are you to do if you're offering luxury goods, automobiles, home mortgages, or baby and child products? Maybe you keep focusing on Generation X, which might be a smaller generation but finally has a little bit of money and wants to spend on a more comfortable life. (I speak from experience here, as a true statistical Gen-Xer myself.)

15. Think about the straddle generations.

The future is clearly written in zeroes and ones, but the fact that there are still a majority of Americans alive and working who remember the days before the Internet can offer opportunity. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers combine their adaptability and discomfort for some technology with a true passion for nostalgia.

16. Consider the sharing economy.

The rise of companies like AirBnB and Uber portends a major cultural shift. Millennials are "turning to a new set of services that provide access to products without the burdens of ownership," according to Goldman, which adds the comment of one economist: "Twenty-five years from now, car sharing will be the norm, and car ownership an anomaly."

17. Focus on experiences over things.

Combine all of this, and whether it's a result of financial constraints or cultural shift, people of all ages show an increasing interest in the value of travel and experiences over material goods. So no matter what your business is, you might want to focus on products and services that create memories as much as they produce things.

Published on: Mar 4, 2015
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