No matter what type of business you own, whether you sell B2B or B2C, and even if you don’t directly cater to them, Millennial customers matter to you. Why is this generation, born between 1982 and 2000, so important to businesses? Consider these statistics.


  • Millennials (also known as “Gen Y”) are the biggest generation ever born in the U.S., topping 83 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Older Millennials—those aged 25 to 35—are entering their prime spending years. Accenture has projected that by 2020, Millennial spending will reach $1.4 trillion per year, and that this age group will account for 30 percent of all retail sales.

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Size and spending power are part of what makes Millennials important—but as with the Baby Boomers before them, what matters most is their influence. Here are nine ways they are re-shaping the world and impacting small businesses.


1. They’re less interested in ownership. Millennials care less about “things” and more about “experiences.” With heavy student loan debt limiting their disposable income, they tend to spend what they do have on technology and travel. With ownership less of a priority, “sharing economy” business models such as Uber are thriving.


Related article: Selling to Millennials: 5 Tips to Market with Authenticity


2. They’re tech natives. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with computers as part of their daily lives – they go online, and mobile, for just about everything. Bank of America has reported that 96 percent of younger Millennials (aged 18-24) say mobile phones are the most important product in their lives. This “mobile-first” attitude is transforming retailing, marketing and banking, with mobile payments rapidly becoming a necessity for all types of businesses.


3. They’re taking a different approach to adulthood. Millennials are delaying marriage; 18 to 34-year-olds are more likely to be living with their parents than in any other type of living arrangement, Pew reports. Rather than marrying or buying homes, they’re focusing more on education. One-third of older Millennials have a four-year college degree or higher, making this the best-educated generation in the history of the U.S.


4. They’re becoming parents. Millennials want to be good parents and tend to take a more lighthearted approach to parenting than the generations right before them. In 2015, Millennial moms accounted for more than eight in 10 births.


5. They want it now. Trained to expect immediate gratification, Millennials expect businesses to make their lives easier and more convenient. They rely on mobile apps for everything from chatting with friends to banking or booking travel arrangements. Because convenience is paramount, they’re less brand-loyal than prior generations.


6. They’re influencers. Millennials have impact both up and down the demographic ladder. They influence their children’s purchases, and influence their parents’ in turn. For instance, Millennials are likely to be early adopters of new technology; once Millennials become comfortable with technology, the older Gen X’ers and Boomers will adopt it as well.


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7. They trust peers, not ads. Having lived through the Great Recession, Millennials tend to distrust institutions—including businesses and traditional advertising. Instead, they turn to their friends, family and peers for recommendations. Fifty-five percent of Millennials say they learn about products, promotions and offers on social media. Millennials are making user-generated content, social media and online reviews the primary means of earning trust.


8. They’re racially and ethnically diverse. More than four in 10 Millennial adults (43 percent) are non-white, Pew research says—more than in any prior generation. By 2043, the Census Bureau projects, the U.S. population will become majority non-white, and Millennials are leading the way. Stereotypes or marketing messages that aren’t inclusive won’t work with this generation.


9. They’re socially responsible and expect businesses to be the same. For Millennials, social responsibility goes beyond caring for the environment. It extends to issues such as how you treat your employees or whether your products are fair trade. Whether you get involved in social causes by donating money or volunteering, make sure your efforts are legitimate—Millennials can smell inauthenticity a mile away.


About Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.


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