Lately it seems to be all about the Millennials. Everywhere we look, articles, ads and studies are giving insights into how to reach the generation known as “Gen Y,” or Millennials, and throwing around labels like ‘short attention span’ and ‘entitled.’ But as SIA Research Director Kelly Davis points out in SIA’s GenY Report, “18-35 year olds represent the largest segment of the snow sports market. In order to grow, or even maintain participation levels in snow sports, Gen Y must be engaged. And it’s important for us to understand that increasingly in snow sports, they are us.”
Because this generation now represents our majority, clearly it’s time to dig past the labels and delve into the facts and research. We need to understand why people born between the years of 1985-2000 think differently and buy differently, and this article will be the first in a series looking at ways that snow sports brands can learn how to engage with this important demographic.
First, to get a big picture perspective on Millennials and what’s so important about them, we spoke with Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer at The Center for Generational Kinetics. Dorsey is commonly known as “The Gen Y Guy,” and has been featured on 60 Minutes, 20/20, The Today Show, and The View, and his client list includes Mercedes-Benz, Four Seasons Hotels, SAS and VISA.
When we asked Dorsey why Millennials have become such a focus, he explained, “Millennials and Gen Y are suddenly important because retailers, brands, employers and even politicians have realized we’re a demographic tsunami. We’re now the fastest growing demographic of consumers and employees. We also have the least established brand or store loyalty, are the most connected generation ever, have tremendous pent-up purchasing demand and, frankly, we buy differently than any previous generation. This is a huge challenge and a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
So what are the consequences if manufacturers and retailers don’t learn to communicate with this generation? Dorsey said, “Going out of business. Seriously. And it’s not just because there are 79.8 million Millennials in the U.S. With over a trillion in spending power. It’s that Millennials are likely to outspend Baby Boomers by 2017 and then the spending diverges as Millennials become more affluent and enter different life stages. Even more concerning for brands – every other generation is starting to communicate, shop and buy like us. Almost all of our consulting clients want us to help them solve the digital and retail sale riddle, because what worked five years ago is not working now. Even worse, what worked five years ago is increasingly not working with other generations either.”
That is certainly an attention grabber. It seems that the big issue for all industries, snow sports included, is the basic fact that Gen Y is the first who have been born into a world where cell phones, social media and technology is a given. They are ‘digital natives,’ which leads them to think and make buying decisions differently. This leaves those of us who are still using flip phones feeling a bit behind when trying to connect with this new generation.
To get some insight into how to bridge that divide, we spoke with experts in our industry to give us some perspective about challenges specific to snow sports brands. Jenny Sullivan, brand and insights manager at Fuse Marketing, a leader in youth action sports marketing, and a supporting member of SIA, explained, “A lot of opportunities are missed because people may not understand the basics of how Gen Y thinks, and especially how they shop. Of course these are regular people, with the same concerns as anyone: relationships, money, career, family and friends. But they were born into a world where communication happens very differently, and if you don’t find a way to connect where they are, which is on a host of media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, print magazines and TV, then you’re missing a huge segment of your potential market. You can’t put all your eggs in one basket, you’re competing for attention between all these sources and there are simply more touch points that you have to be a part of to get that attention.”
Specifically, Sullivan says adapting to the way Millennials shop means having a presence on social media that is authentic, engaging and original. “Eighty percent of Millennials own a mobile device and are using it to make buying decisions. The main thing for brands to be sure of is that their presence on social media is authentic. That’s huge – Gen Y’ers can smell it the minute a brand is trying too hard. For snow sports brands specifically, there is huge potential for companies to tell their unique stories, and their athletes’ stories, in authentic ways to connect with their Gen Y customers.”
In the SIA Gen Y Report, Davis concludes, “There are 8-million-plus members of Gen Y involved in snow sports, and they represent $200 billion in spending power. A deeper knowledge of what makes Millennials unique may help snow sports brands truly engage Gen Y consumers and grow participation in snow sports. Understanding and engaging Gen Y will take more than a list of labels, it requires an understanding of the environment they were born into and required to adapt to in order to thrive.”
It may sound like a daunting task, but understanding Millenials and meeting them where they are on social media can be done, even if you’re not a digital native, or even if you’re starting from scratch. Over the next few months, we’ll take a look at specific ways for the smallest or most technologically challenged companies to get involved and effectively communicate with this important demographic.
Stay tuned for our articles featuring more insights from Jason Dorsey, Jenny Sullivan and Kelly Davis. In the meantime, be sure to check out our Gen Y Report, Fuse’s Millennials Insights Remix white paper, and visit Jason Dorsey’s website at JasonDorsey.com