My precious, darling niece Anora turns two years old on Friday. As she enters “the terrible twos,” she has a new favorite catch phrase: “It’s MINE.” As her favorite Auntie, (she says “Ah-knee!”) I gently remind her to share. I have loads of sharing experience. Not only did I grow up with four siblings, but I am also a millennial, the generation born between 1980 and 2000. We are categorized as digital natives, the “me” generation and really good sharers.
Social media platforms could be the genesis of this sharing—in many cases, over-sharing—categorization. Millennials have a tendency to announce our every movement and opinion online. This has led to an overabundance of social commentary on everything from pictures to current events to products and services. And while millennials are characterized by their willingness to share these opinions, they are also known to take the opinions of others into strong consideration.
A recent report by Epsilon, titled “#marketingtomillennials: A Guide to Understanding Today’s Millennials,” stated that 22% of millennials make purchases that are influenced by their friends’ social media activity. And when you consider that 47% of millennials age 18-24 have had recent activity in the last seven days on Facebook alone, that’s a huge amount of spending based on the shared opinions of others.
But the sharing doesn’t stop with opinions, it extends into ownership. Millennials are responsible for what is being dubbed as “The Sharing Economy.” In essence, millennials are spurning the purchasing priorities like buying a car or home that are held by older generations, and are instead leasing or renting. In fact, in 2005, 52% of millennials rented; in 2013, that number jumped to 60%.
It’s yet to be seen if this trend is a characteristic of the generation or if those now renting are only hitting the “pause” button. The Epsilon study showed that more than 70% of millennials are planning to buy a house sometime in the future. Yet some economists, like Jeremy Rifkin, are doubtful if the sharing will ever end, especially when it comes to purchases made more frequently. In terms of autos, Rifkin says, “25 years from now, car sharing will be the norm, and car ownership an anomaly.”
Membership over ownership is proving to be preferential for millennials for smaller purchases like music and movies as well. Instead, millennials are choosing to rent or subscribe to services that provide access to products without awarding the title of “ownership.” For instance, I have Netflix and Spotify memberships that allow me access to millions of TV shows, movies and music without buying a single CD or Blu-ray.
This economic shift has created a lot of opportunity for marketers. It has extended the platform to service providers who offer free or limited subscriptions with ads (like Pandora or Hulu) and has made social media a viable marketing space. In fact, 35% of those 18-35 indicate that when a brand uses social media they like the brand more. It also signifies that the customer journey and quality of the product are more important than ever, with social commentary being a driving force for many purchase decisions.
I am trying to be a good role model and teach Anora the importance of sharing. As they say, sharing is caring. You, for instance, could share this blog. It would make millennials everywhere, and your Aunties, very proud.
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