Everybody’s talking about millennials and it’s no wonder; they are a very influential cohort. There are two important contexts that compel small businesses to better understand millennials: marketing and the labor force. Millennials are a desirable consumer demographic, and businesses need to understand how to grab their attention and how to appeal to their distinct preferences.
Additionally, as boomers exit the workforce en masse over the next decade, the workplace is being reshaped by millennials. Employee retention and motivation are changing, and savvy employers must stay ahead of that curve.
In a recent presentation on marketing to this group, Maurisa Potts, CEO of Spotted MP, pointed out that, by 2030, millennials will outnumber baby boomers by 22 million. They will account for one third of all retail spending in the next five years, and soon, millennials will be 50% of the workforce.
Each generation is shaped by the circumstances they grew up in, so millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) have different living, working, shopping and socializing preferences from the preceding generations. This was the first generation to grow up accustomed to unfettered access to technology and the internet. As their cohort reaches adulthood and occupies a greater percentage of our workforce and society, we’re paying attention to their preferences, and those preferences are increasingly influencing the shape of our communities and institutions.
Recognizing the characteristics and preferences of millennials is the first step. The greater challenge is to determine what your business needs to do in order to successfully incorporate millennials into your workplace. The Alexandria Small Business Development Center conducts occasional programs on generational issues; some on marketing to millennials and others on engaging them as employees. You can sign up for program announcements at the bottom of the center’s home page (www.alexandriasbdc.org) and can also register for no-cost educational programs.
There is also a wealth of research and news on millennials. These articles cover everything from their spending habits, to how they consume advertising, to what office configurations they prefer. A quick online search of your specific industry or needs can help small business owners gain a better understanding of millennials and generate ideas on how to appeal to them.
In Alexandria, we are fortunate to have access to a growing millennial labor force. In fact, Alexandria has one of the fastest growing millennial populations in the country. In general, millennials feel a greater sense of connection to their friends and peers than previous generations, which translates to a preference for mixed-use developments and walkable, urban communities. Alexandria has this sense of community and the amenities that millennials are seeking.
With access to a millennial workforce and guidance on how to successfully engage this generation, both as employees and as consumers, Alexandria businesses are in an excellent position. It is important for businesses to start planning for the changes spurred by millennials, and Alexandria has the resources to support businesses with any transitions.
This article first appeared in the Alexandria Times on May 28, 2015.