Understanding Millennial Sales Behaviors

by Mike Gergye

Is your sales organization attuned with Millennials? As the generation takes center stage, their attitudes about technology, communication, and interaction will determine the efficacy of sales and marketing efforts.

The Millennial generation, currently ages 18-34, will represent more buying power than any other generation in American history. It will also represent the largest cohort of professional workers. “As of the first quarter of 2015, one-in-three American workers were Millennials at just over 53 million,” (Fry, 2015). Millennials will determine the consumer buying preferences that sales organizations must target over the next 20-30 years and the values that govern purchasing decisions.

Millennial Insights:

Millennials are a unique generation with beliefs and preferences shaped by the technological revolution that has served as the context for their development. It’s important to start this discussion by examining some primary insights. After reviewing this data, we can examine the potential impact these qualities will have on sales strategies.

Millennials are:
  • Ambitious: Millennials are the most ambitious generation in history despite what you may have heard. “53% of employed Millennials say that they aim to get to the top of their career – a much higher rate than Generation X or Baby Boomers (38% percent and 25%, respectively). 28% of employed Millennials dub themselves workaholics, which is commensurate with both Boomers and Gen Xers.” (Gray, 2015)What it means: You can count on Millennials to continue to grow in earnings and purchasing power.
  • Socially Conscious: This generation is focused on the ethical behavior and the social contributions of the companies with which they interact. “83% of Millennials made decisions about companies based on their positive social impact, 77% based on a company’s purpose. 47% of Millennials stated specifically that part of the purpose of a company was to improve society or to protect the environment.” (Deloitte, 2015).What it means: How you do business and the business you are in will soon be as important as the products you sell.
  • Connected: Millennials are a connected generation. Multiple devices and multiple platforms are essential to how they live. “25% of Millennials believe that their relationship to technology is what makes their generation unique.”What it means: Conventional channels of communication are no longer sufficient. Online marketing, social networking, and multi-platform integrated marketing strategies are now key components of success.
  • Educated: The Millennial generation has the highest rates of college enrollment and graduation of any generation in history. “In 2013, 47% of 25 to 34 year-olds received a postsecondary degree (associates, bachelor’s, or graduate degree) and an additional 18% had completed some postsecondary education.”What it means: Millennials will represent not only the most connected but the most educated purchasing group in history. Sales presentation don’t just need to be concise and available on multiple platforms. They must speak to an educated and savvy audience.

Sales Strategies:

Millennial Customers | MarketSource

Having examined these broader attributes, what impact will Millennial attitudes and preferences have on your sales strategies?

Online Information is a Gateway

There is a persistent myth that Millennials prefer online shopping over other channels. While online shopping is a larger component of their shopping experience than other cohorts, the truth is that Millennials prefer a multichannel experience with online data as the information gateway. Research shows that 68% of Millennials demand an integrated, seamless experience regardless of the channel. That means being able to transition effortlessly from smartphone to personal computer to physical store.

Millennial shoppers visit brick and mortar stores for product demos and purchases. However, if the offers or information found online is inconsistent with the store experience, the opportunity for a sale is lost. Rather than looking at sales from a multi-channel perspective, a consumer flow that includes information at all touch points ending in brick and mortar may soon become the new norm.

What it means for consumer sales:
The days of separate marketing strategies for channels are over. The cost savings generated through individual channel marketing offers is not worth the brand image damage and loss of recurring sales.

What it means for business sales:
Consistent with consumer preferences, business information and offers should be coordinated across all platforms. Prospective business sales contacts will investigate the company through a number of data portals.

Social Media is Fundamental

Millennials are the first generation actively seeking interaction with companies. The expectation is that the interaction is recurring and reciprocal. Five out of six Millennials chose to connect with companies on social media. Many expect something in return in however,  Millennials do look for rewards in return such as discounts, free swag, and world-class customer service.

Millennials also expect companies to actively work for their business. “95% of Millennials want brands to court them actively, and coupons sent via email or mailed to their homes currently have the most influence on them. Other channels, such as text messages, have an influence on just over half of all respondents in terms of their shopping behaviors,” (Accenture, 2015).

This means that companies have to look at social media as an integrated part of their customer’s lives. Rather than appointing one person to separately oversee online marketing strategy, companies should integrate this component into all customer touch point efforts.

Finally, considering the accelerating adoption curve for new forms of interaction, companies should also integrate social media as the start of marketing and sales mapping exercises.

What it means for consumer sales:
Social media in many forms should be an integrated early part of your strategy. Designating this ongoing touchpoint as a priority can create long term customer loyalty.

What it means for business sales:
Social media is not something that is outside of the business sales sphere. Engaging in platforms like LinkedIn and ensuring ongoing relationships with key decision makers will make a difference in penetration efforts over time.

Cross Device and Platform Marketing

Millennials communicate in a varying number of ways. They expect media to be presented on an array of devices and in a range of formats. “55% of Millennials watch video several times a day on different devices, and 72% want to connect to news across all devices,” (Gray, 2015). This generation will expect more to a sales pitch than slides or a sign in the store. It must be interactive.

What it means for consumer sales:
The integration of multi-platform marketing means that the point of sales experience should include multiple media formats. Consider the impact of product videos and interactive tutorials in the retail space that tie to text message offers with targeted offer codes.

What it means for business sales:
Again, the ability to tie in multimedia presentation tools that provide seamless information will be a key to Millennial decision makers. Rather than a sales meeting, interactive product demos, video sales presentations, and multichannel efforts are likely to become the new norm.

Millennials represent a foundational shift in consumer attitudes. They will continue to grow in their purchasing power and are more open to conventional marketing and sales efforts than any prior purchasing group. The key factors that this cohort has identified are the consistency of the experience and the clarity of a company’s message as key purchasing pivots.

The consumer experience is transitioning into a true interactive ecosystem thanks to online marketing and new channels for engagements. The companies that win big will be the companies that understand how to convey their message clearly and consistently to the new power purchasing generation.

  1. Accenture. (2015). Who are the Millennial shoppers? And what do they really want? | Accenture Outlook.
  2. Council of Economic Advisors. (2014, October). 15 Economic Facts About Millennials.
  3. Deloitte. (2015). The Deloitte Millennial Survey.
  4. Fry, R. (2015, May 11). Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in U.S. labor force | Pew Research Center.
  5. Gray, C. M. (2015, July 14). Marketing to Millennials: 6 Studies & Reports You Need to Read
Topic: Retail


Mike Gergye is the practice leader for new services and continuous improvement. As a 20+ year veteran of hardlines, softlines, and telecommunications retail, Mike leverages his experience to identify, design, and coordinate the testing, implementation, and continuous improvement of new capabilities at MarketSource.

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