With 2015 now here, it’s the perfect time to take a look at recent trends among Millennials and make a few predictions for what we will be seeing from this generation in the coming year — and what colleges and universities, employers and retailers can do to stay on top.
Already the core of the U.S. student population, Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are becoming the predominant age-group entering the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials are expected to make up half of the workforce by 2020, and by 2025, they will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce.
As this generation prepares for its future, The College Student Mindset – For Career Preparation & Success, a comprehensive study commissioned by Barnes & Noble College, has shown that one of the most important factors in choosing a college or university will be a school’s reputation for job placement after graduation. For this reason, it will be important for colleges and universities to understand more about their current and future students’ perceptions and motivations as they relate to career influencers and career preparation, so they can provide their students with the tools and resources they need to be successful in the workforce and differentiate their school to help reach their recruitment and retention goals.
While Millennials are the best-educated generation in American history, they are also saddled with a mountain of student debt and hampered by lower wages. So why are retailers still courting the generation that loves to shop, but rarely spend? The answer simply is in the numbers. Consulting firm Accenture predicts that Millennials annual spending will grow to $1.4 trillion by 2020, representing 30 percent of all retail sales.
Online shopping, shopping from mobile devices, and preferences for “new entries to the marketplace” over established brands, will continue to challenge retailers, leading Forbes to coin the term “Cybrids,” for Millennial consumers who prefer to use a variety of devices to shop and who rely primarily on recommendations from others when making their purchasing decisions. Retailers who embrace these preferences for integrating technology will win Millennials over, but incorporating new technologies won’t be enough. While unlimited access to information through smartphones and apps may cater to Millennials’ demand for shopping the best price, retailers must also contend with their need for instant gratification.
The Accenture study also found that many members of the digital generation prefer visiting stores to shopping online. As one Millennial in the study put it, “You want to touch it; you want to smell; you want to pick it up.” This finding was corroborated by the Houston-based retail consulting firm Baker Katz that found physical stores will maintain a competitive edge over online-only competitors based on their ability to provide Millennials what they want, when they want it. No shipping speed can compete with the instant gratification of purchasing in-store.
Millennials have a great desire to travel. According to Hotwire.com’s 2014 American Travel Behavior Survey, approximately 33 percent of Millennials plan on traveling in 2015 — that’s more than their parents’ generation — and they intend to take one or two large vacations in the coming year (35 percent vs. 23 percent of those ages 45-54). For college-aged students, those travel plans also include studying abroad. The number of U.S. Millennials studying abroad has risen steadily in recent years, with an astounding 144 percent increase over the last decade. As businesses and educational institutions become more global, colleges and universities are encouraging students to participate in study-abroad programs before graduation. According to the Institute of International Education, fewer than 10 percent of American undergraduates currently study abroad, but that number will most likely increase as more Millennials look to see the world.
There’s no denying that Millennials have embraced mobile technology in a big way. According to a recent Nielsen survey, Millennials are currently the largest group of smartphone users — which makes sense. They’ve grown up with digital devices that handle everything from communication to entertainment, shopping to mapping, and education all in one.
As with any new technology and innovation, no specific group holds a monopoly on adoption, but there’s no denying that Millennials have embraced mobile technology like no other generation. In 2015, we’ll continue to see Millennials using mobile technology and a host of apps to run practically every aspect of their lives — from planning and scheduling jobs and school assignments to buying and managing textbook orders to connecting with friends and family. It’s all just a screen tap away.