As one of the largest generations, millennials are a constant topic of discussion. Businesses of all sizes are trying to figure out the best way to appeal to this large and diverse demographic of the population. Plenty of articles have discussed topics of what makes up the millennial generation, but millennials have changed as time has passed (as any generation does as they age). Who are the millennials in 2019? Have their wants and needs changed as they have become a larger section of the work force? How has that affected their buying potential?
Are The Millennials Today?
If the term millennial brings to mind young teens or college kids,
then you better think again. The 2015 U.S. Census data they found there were 75.4 million millennials,
based on Pew’s definition of the generation, which ranges from those born
between 1981 and 1997. That means the youngest millennial is 22 years old, while
the oldest is 38. With that age range comes a diverse set of needs and
interests. When speaking to millennials, you aren’t just speaking to the young
adult who’s starting a career, you are also speaking to the young couple
starting their family and the person who is almost 20 years into their career.
They are also the most educated generation to date. In 2016 pew research found that 46
percent of employed millennial women ages 25 to 29 had a bachelor’s degree or
more. For millennial men, it was 36 percent in 2016. Unfortunately, this
education increase doesn’t mean higher salaries, since many millennials entered
the work force during the great recession. According
to U.S. Census Bureau, the median earnings for full-time workers ages 18 to 34
was $35,845 in 1980. In 2000, 18 to 34 years olds were earning $37,355. But
during 2009 to 2013, full-time workers between 18 and 34 had median earnings of
Those lower wages are accompanied with student loan debt as well. As of
June 2018, the national student loan debt total reached $1.5 trillion.
Individuals who graduated in the year 2016 average about $37,000 in student
debt. This, combined with the drop in salary, puts many millennials in a tough
financial spot, which is reflected in many of their purchasing decisions.
Another trend with millennials in the workforce is their interests in
entrepreneurship. A study conducted by America’s Small Business Development
Center in 2016 found that 30 percent of millennials have already started some
sort of business, and 49 percent of millennials dream of starting their own
business sometime in the next three years. Many millennials have grown
disillusioned with the type of benefits offered at different companies along
with low pay. That, paired with the ease of access that current technology
provides, makes the idea of starting one’s own business very appealing.
Beyond financials, millennials are the most racially diverse generation. The 2015
Census reports that nationwide millennials are 55.8 percent white and nearly 30
percent “new minorities”, meaning Hispanics, Asians, and those identifying as
two or more races. In states such as California and Texas, the diversity is
even greater, with Caucasians only making up only one-third of the millennial
Overall, while many try to paint over this large group of people with
broad sweeping statements, it is always good to keep in mind how diverse they
are—whether that pertains to their stage of life, their cultural and racial
backgrounds, or their employment situation. Their spending habits are one of
the few similarities.
Many have noticed that the spending habits of the millennials are
not aligning with those of previous generations. Several different articles are
making the rounds pointing out how millennials are choosing to forgo products
such as napkins, diamonds, dryer sheets, and chain restaurants. These markets
and others have had declines in sales. Many claimed this was because the millennials
simply aren’t buying their products nearly as much as their predecessors once
At first, many assume a shift in culture. Multiple articles have claimed
that the millennials were prioritizing their purchases differently, choosing
local establishments over national chains or using other rare gems rather than
diamonds due to ethical reasons. While there does seem to be some smaller trends
in conscious consumerism among the younger generations, the main reason for
their spending habits is simply money.
A recent study conducted in November of 2018 by the Federal
Reserve Board found that the spending habits of millennials actually was not
that far off from that of the previous Generation X and the boomers before
them. What is different is the number of finical factors that are simultaneously
affecting the younger generation. As stated earlier, millennials came of age
during the economic recession of 2007 to 2009. They entered the work force with
fewer jobs available and less creditors willing to give out loans. Those
factors, combined with the rise of both education cost and healthcare cost,
which has grown past inflation, only adds to a tighter budget. It isn’t that
they aren’t buying the things their parents did out of choice; it is that they
simply cannot afford to do so. Now what is up for debate is whether these
conditions will affect their spending habits in the long run as their wages and
the economy improves.
What they are spending their limited funds on is just as diverse
as their demographics. As mentioned earlier, some trends are supporting more
local business instead of larger conglomerates; this can be seen in the rise of
certain things like craft beer and other artisanal items. In addition, millennials
are eating and drinking at home more often than previous generations. They’ve
also seemed to have greatly boosted the wine industry with their interest.
Moreover, the do-it-yourself movement has increased with the
ability to simply Google any tutorial and watch a YouTube video with a thorough
step-by-step process. An increase in the awareness of environmentalism and
health concerns has them questioning many of the ingredients and packaging of
the products they do purchase. For example, cleaning supplies, laundry
detergent, and hygiene products have seen a rise in using ingredients that are simple
and non-toxic as many millennials move to reduce the waste they produce,
whether it is the amount of plastic they are throwing out to what they are
washing down their drains.
Increasing housing costs across the country and their finical
position has also pushed many to reconsider the number of things they own. Many
are living smaller both out of desire and necessity. The Tiny House Movement, the
push to build or purchase houses less than 400 square feet, has gained momentum
in the last five years. Many choose to go this route to help eliminate debt,
while others use it as a way to focus more on acquiring experiences as apposed
to focusing on the acquisition of things. Millennials are much less likely to
hold on to items handed down to them from previous generations. This is due to
the lack of space they have in their own homes as well as the prevalence of
websites and apps such as Facebook Market Place, craigslist, and Offerup that
make selling their used items very simple.
As mentioned before, being an entrepreneur is a growing trend
among millennials as well. With many new vocations appearing with the expansion
of social media, such as YouTubers, bloggers, video game streamers, and
freelancers, many are looking to turn their favorite hobby into something more
lucrative. The trend is only increasing as more companies are outsourcing to
freelancers and independent contractors. With fewer benefits offered at
companies across the country, the appeal of being their own boss is pushing
many to have a side gig. The internet makes this an easy reality with plenty of
sights like Linda.com or Skillshare, offering courses in every topic imaginable
from industry experts.
Across these trends there is a variety of interests within the millennial
generation, but the common thread through it all is the push to gain better
The Self Storage Association’s 2017
Self-Storage Demand Study narrows in on how the millennials are utilizing
the self-storage industry. As seen in Table 1, 28 percent of the millennial
population is using self-storage. It’s no surprise that the millennials also
have the largest percentages out of every generation of student and military
self-storage renters as well. Millennials as a whole seem to be using self-storage
for short periods of time and have stated they will continue to do so. The
question then becomes will that continue as they age, or will they follow the
same trajectory as the generations before and slowly start renting for longer
periods of time?
This depends on how millennials spending habits will evolve. As
stated above, it could be their shift toward being thrifty based on their lack
of finical holdings may turn into a life-long point of view. So even as they do
gain more finical stability, they could continue to cut costs wherever they
The Self-Storage Demand Study also backs that the millennials are the most educated and the most racially diverse generation to date. What’s more, millennials aren’t getting married nearly as often as previous generations. Many have attributed this trend to their lack of financial stability. The prospect of settling down can seem daunting when you are worried about just supporting yourself. The study found that the majority of millennial renters continue to be in the lower income brackets. As seen in Table 2, whereas 16.9 percent of all self-storage renters have an income of $125,000.00 or more, only 8.4 percent of millennials fall into that income bracket.
Millennials are still more likely to live in an apartment or condo
than any other generation at 38 percent, but the majority (61 percent) live in
a single-family home. This is again a reflection on their lack of ability to
qualify for a home loan with the student debt affecting their debt to assets
ratio. Millennials are also more likely to live in urban areas than the older
generations, but this smaller space doesn’t necessarily translate to storing
more in larger units. Millennials are more likely to rent smaller units, which,
given the prevalence of different online platforms to sell unwanted items,
there is little reason to store something when you could turn a profit. The
number one reason for them to use self-storage is temporary storage while they
change residences at 44percent; the second being not having enough space in
their current residence at 36 percent.
The most intriguing findings involve the features the millennials
consider important when renting self-storage and which of those features they
would pay more. The most popular features were 24-hour access, electronic
gates, pest control, and facility website with features such as online payments,
reservations, etc. Millennials visit their units more regularly than the
previous generations too.
Yet, every single feature was rated as important by at least one-fourth
of millennials. This may be because of the easy access via the internet that millennials
have to pursue multiple facilities in their area and see all the features
The data also shows that millennials aren’t too keen on paying
much more for these extra features, which makes sense given their financial
situations. Millennials are the most likely to research a facility first online
before stopping in, but simple facts about your product or service on your
webpage won’t be enough to capture their attention.
To Connect With Them
Millennials love technology because it allows for more interaction
and connection. Social media has grown to be the main center of information for
this generation because of the way the information is delivered. Across all
platforms, whether it is blog post on a website, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook,
Snapchat, or even something as simple as a review on Yelp, millennials are
looking for one thing: authenticity.
The original draw of all these online platforms was that they were
providing a more down-to-earth version of entertainment content. Production
value could vary between lower quality to studio-quality photos and videos. What
mattered was the personality behind them and whether there was a genuine
expression from the creator. The content that performs the best is educational,
entertaining, a combination of the two, and seeks to interact with its viewer.
The popularity of how to style content and behind the scenes of
life in the form of vlogs (video blog) shows the millennial audience craving a
more stripped back style of entertainment with which they can connect. The ease
of access to create your own content is also an appealing factor. People on
these platforms don’t need a huge production budget with fantastic editing
skills to get their content seen. This reality makes the divide between the
creator and the viewer smaller than that of Hollywood celebrities in movies,
commercials, and TV shows. The ease of access to communicate with the content
creator allows them to be way more relatable. Content creators who commit to
authenticity find their audiences reaching out and interacting with their creations
and brands on a much deeper level.
Social media is media that isn’t a one-way street. All the
platforms allow the audience to directly interact with the creator. The social
aspect of this technology creates a community-like environment where things are
questioned and discussed continuously, allowing the viewer to feel more
involved with the creation. This also allows for the creator to constantly
adapt to what their audience wants.
Commercials and ads that play before videos or appear next to the
content of a popular blog post are more likely to be seen more by the millennial
population, but nothing will compare to making your own content for your
perspective clients. With the ability to just turn to our phones or click away
the second something appears on our screen that bores us, there is no better
place to be than in the actual content itself. Creating your own is the easiest
method; with the low barrier of entry with social media, any one can create
videos, pictures, or write articles about an educational or entertaining aspect
of their business. But building a following and getting your video seen can be
a little more difficult today as more places like Facebook deploy algorithms
that push you to pay to even get your content in front of all of those who have
already opted into seeing your posts.
Influencer marketing is another way to get in front of those eyes
without having to build a huge platform yourself. Sponsoring a video of a YouTuber
or having another profile shout you out on Instagram as they are using your
service or product will get you in front of many more people. Finding a YouTuber
will a smaller audience under 100,000 people in your local area is especially
beneficial as such influencers won’t be charging very much for a sponsorship;
some may even give your business a shout out for free or in exchange for a free
product. Using influencers as your marketing will not replace having your own
presence within these platforms. As stated by the 2017 SSA Demand Study, millennials are the top generation to
research a facility online first before calling or making an in-person visit.
Overall, as diverse as they are, the millennials have two common
factors regarding their purchasing decisions: convenience and cost. Convey
those two things in an authentic way across the different social media
platforms and you will tap into the millennial market.
Samantha Traina is the publishing coordinator at MiniCo.