“The future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the present prospects of its youth,” former U.S. President John F. Kennedy once famously stated. While millennials are still youthful, today they are moving into their prime-spending years as the most prominently represented generation in the region’s workforce.
Having grown up with the world at their fingertips, millennials are tech-savvy and always connected. They need instant access to services, greater emphasis on work-life balance, collaborations in the social and professional space and a dynamic approach to brand loyalty and consumption. As end consumers, they are not only changing the way we sell, but also the way we communicate.
Major purchases and investments—things that were must-haves for previous generations—are not prioritized by millennials today. Millennials are open to waiting for marriage, having kids later in life and renting a house instead of buying one. This responds well to the “sharing economy” where they enjoy access to goods and services, but do not necessarily own them.
With regards to brands, the always-on phenomenon plays an imperative role in their decision-making process. Since millennials are always connected, they have unlimited access to product information, peer reviews, price comparisons and more. This is redefining the retail space irreversibly, as these young consumers look for the best value-driven product or service.
Loyalty used to play the biggest role in consumer purchase decision. Today, brands that offer maximum convenience and functionality at the lowest price get picked over others who don’t. Recent Deloitte research showed that nearly 57% of millennials compare the prices of goods before purchasing them. While older generations trusted brands and showed loyalty towards them, millennials need more than just a strong brand to lock in a purchase.
According to the World Economic Forum, millennials in the Middle East demonstrate more brand loyalty than their peers in the U.S., the UK, Japan or Australia. Brand proposition is becoming highly competitive across industries and the flattening of the marketplace through the growth of e-commerce means that the onus is on the big companies to reinvent their product-marketing mix in line with changes in consumption behavior.
In the food and home appliances sector, previous generations placed an emphasis on health, but only to the extent of eating at home and not falling ill. For millennials, the pursuit is towards wellness, being active and enjoying holistic physical and mental health. If they believe something is going to help in this space, they do not mind spending more on the brands offering it to them. The millennial lifestyle demands having more time for personal activities, so appliances must be geared to allow millennials more time for the pursuit of activities they enjoy.
Brands and marketers have taken their time to understand this new generation, and while some have shown a higher level of brand preparedness, almost every brand is now changing its product marketing strategy to accommodate these insights:
Connect with millennials’ values: They are looking for value, connections, relationships and a deeper story. Brands would benefit from creating more engaging content that sends a meaningful message, while keep brevity at the center.
Be always on: With high levels of mobile phone usage, MENA is a unique market. Brands too must stay relevant and agile, especially on social media, where perceptions around responsiveness are created. If a brand’s communication takes too long to receive, it is likely that the millennial audience will have moved on to something new.
Transparency is critical to winning trust: With technology at their fingertips, millennials have instant access to facts, figures, data and more. They also use multiple sources to get their information and are becoming increasingly wary of unilateralism in content consumption. They prefer to get updated on the go and cannot be led with half-truths. The best way to win the trust of millennials is to stay transparent and allow them to feel like true stakeholders.
While there is no silver bullet in consumer business, aligning a brand to the emerging consumption behavior of millennials is the only way for brands to stay relevant in future. It’s time to challenge the status quo.
*Mohamad El Yassir is the Regional Managing Director for the MEA region at Whirlpool. The views expressed are personal.