There are currently an estimated 83.5 million people between the ages of 22 and 38 in the U.S. – approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population. Known as the millennial generation or Generation Y, this trillion-dollar demographic will soon hold the majority share of national buying power. And when you add to that the post-millennial generation (Generation Z) – those currently 21 and younger and estimated to number 84.7 million by 2020 (although not all of those are currently consumers), the numbers and buying power become even more significant.
“Getting inside the minds of Generations Y and Z shoppers will help you develop sales, marketing and service strategies that will attract them and make them loyal customers.”
It’s important to note that there are significant differences between Gen Y and Gen Z in virtually all the characteristics and traits that define a generation; however, in this article, we accept that the purchasing drivers of younger millennials and older postmillennials (those most likely to purchase flowers and plants) are similar because they both hover around the somewhat nebulous line of demarcation between the generations.
As you probably already know, these groups think, act and make decisions differently than the generations that precede them, and they don’t respond to traditional marketing methods and strategies. In addition, it is widely believed that these “next generations” are not big flower buyers – plants, yes, but cut flowers, bouquets and arrangements, not so much. And some research supports this assumption.
One possible explanation is that consumers under the age of 40 don’t see enough value in cut flowers to warrant purchasing – i.e., flowers die too quickly. This group seems to be more into experiential things, but heck, many of them are into craft beers and indie wines, and a bottle of those products don’t last nearly as long as a vase of flowers! (The consumption of beer and wine is often associated with or part of an “experience,” so maybe that’s the difference.)
Our industry can attract these demographic groups as customers, but how do we position our companies and products to appeal to them? Obviously, we have to communicate the value of flowers, and one way of doing that is drawing a correlation between flowers and the quality of life and well-being. This applies to both purchases of flowers for oneself and as gifts. There are several industry studies that prove that flowers and plants positively affect both of these things, and we need to share this information with this consumer group (visit safnow.org/health-benefits-research). We also have to make their visits to our stores and websites personalized experiences (there’s that word again!).
In addition to the value proposition, “Gen Next”ers have to believe in the “authenticity” of the companies with which they do business and the products and services they offer, so we have to promote that our companies and products are aligned with the values and issues that are important to them.
In order to do any of these things, though, we need to understand these consumers – how and what they think, how they make buying decisions, what things are important to them, and what appeals to them and what turns them off. To help you understand these consumers and to develop sales, marketing and customer service strategies that will resonate with them, we consulted five experts on how these groups think and act:
• Jeff Fromm president of FutureCast
• Sean Gordon CEO of Intelliverse
• Emil Kristensen CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote
• Abdullahi Muhammed founder and CEO of Oxygenmat
• Bill Murphy Jr.Some Spider Studios
Here are their nine top pieces of advice.
Don’t be too sales-y with millennials and post-millennials, and don’t oversell. High-pressure sales tactics and aggressive attempts to persuade turn them off. Instead, offer help instead of a sales pitch. Tell them how a specific product or service you offer will benefit them. Saying that your product is the best or cheapest out there will get you nowhere. These consumers won’t buy those claims, and they will probably prove them wrong with a quick Google search (they’re prodigious fact-checkers). Rather, focus on educating these customers about why your products or services are the best possible options for them specifically.
The biggest shift when it comes to selling to younger consumers is the transition from “closing a deal” to “helping the customer.” The selling model that revolved around the traditional ABCs of sales (Always Be Closing) has now become the modern ABCs (Always Be Collaborating). These shoppers want to be shown and equipped with an understanding of a product before coming to a conclusion, and they look to salespeople to be their advisers.
These consumers are constantly tuned into their smartphones and electronic devices, and the best avenues for reaching them are through those devices. The Center for Generational Kinetics, a generational research and solutions firm (genhq.com), reports that Generations Y and Z prefer to communicate in this order:
• Text messages and texting apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber
• Email (subject line is very important here)
• Social media
• Phone calls
• In-person interactions
Keep this hierarchy in mind both when outlining your sales and marketing strategy and thinking of customer support.
For general questions and quick inquiries, text messages and texting apps work well, as do social media and the private message options on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. Emails and phone calls are better for lengthy transactions or inquiries, business-related matters and those concerning personal information.
Also, make available multiple ways of contacting your business because different customers prefer different methods, and each method offers different benefits.
The younger generations have been raised on sound bites and quick hits, and they do their business and life chores on the go from smartphones. Their attention can be constantly diverted by various updates, notifications and phone buzzes; therefore, they want information fast.
If you want to reach them, you have to speak their language and do it at their speed. They are curious, but they are also busy and fast paced. They’ll pay attention only to what they want, so make your point, then stop speaking. Your goal is to convince them why they need your product or service in the least amount of time possible, leaving out more detailed information.
If you have an online video campaign, for example, it shouldn’t be more than two minutes in length. Quick, brief and descriptive pieces that can be absorbed in seconds are the most effective.
These demographic groups are tech savvy and skeptical, and they’ll immediately research and fact-check whatever you’re offering and telling them, using multiple sources. They are also notorious whistle-blowers about anything they consider to be fraudulent or misrepresented.
Due to the amount of information that is now available to consumers, these shoppers are more knowledgeable and in control than were previous generations. Be consistent and transparent with what you tell them about your products or services; they want real, down-to-earth people who will present them with the truth, and they want the presentation of information to be unbiased. They want authenticity to counteract their skepticism; truth and authenticity matter most to these consumers.
A lot of things are a big deal for Gen Y and Z; they care deeply about more things than other generations – economic inequality, social injustice, climate change, animal rights, water contamination, recycling and many other issues they feel will affect their futures. Their emotions are one of the ruling factors for their engagement tendencies. Give them something that will have an impact on their beliefs and their world. If you want these consumers to pay attention to your company (and to talk about you on social media), your message must be not only authentic but also emotional.
In addition, these groups expect the companies they choose to do business with to stand for more than their bottom line. When they believe that a company genuinely cares about them and the issues that are important to them – and not just the dollars they are spending – they will quickly develop an affinity for that company, and they will be loyal to that company.
Getting the “next generations” to bond with you and your company is a smart way to win their affection. This can be done in a couple of ways:
• Through storytelling – Don’t be afraid to get personal and wear your heart on your sleeve. It could be a rant, it could be a personal issue that deeply affected you or it could be a “learning from my mistakes” kind of post. Give your brand a distinctly human face that these consumers can easily relate to.
• Choose a cause you’ll stand by – Obviously, you shouldn’t just pick a cause for the sake of raising profits. Fakery is a killer with this group, as we mentioned in No. 4, and if you get busted being phony, there’s no winning them back. So, choose something you really care about and want to support, and broadcast it on your website and social media posts.
Impressing millennials and post millennials requires that you come across as the expert about both your business and your products and services, and how those things relate to their lives. Particularly important to these consumers is you having a knowledge of trends and styles.
Research current trends, as well as what kinds of “problems” you can address with your products and services, then create content about those things. Being aware of trends and understanding their needs will enable you develop relationships with them and make your business trustworthy, in their judgment.
People in these generations are often stereotyped: They have short attention spans, they’re always glued to their smartphones, they’re entitled, they’re not loyal and jump from product to product and company to company – and so on. Eliminating preconceived notions about generational traits and learning to understand these consumers’ mind-set can be key to developing a successful following and to guiding your marketing strategy.
You have to get to know and understand these buyers. Hopefully, this article and the others in this issue will be a start, but also, there is much new market research about Generations Y and Z that will help you to understand their buying habits, preferences and other unique characteristics. This information will enable you to develop tailored sales approaches. During your research, determine which traits assigned to these consumers are unfounded stereotypes and which are true.
By doing your due diligence, you’ll learn about their values and the issues that are important to them. You can then showcase how your products or services align with those values and issues, such as what your company is doing to help the environment and reduce waste and its carbon footprint.