Millennials Are Changing—So Should the Way You Research Them

Sep 22, 2016

Millennials are a weird bunch. Not because they themselves are particularly odd, but because they were born and raised in a world unlike any we’ve lived in before: one filled with personal computers, unlimited internet access, and new opportunities for communication and influence. They’re unique because the times and technology that define them are unique. But as those times and technologies continue to evolve, so do the individuals who make up this often misunderstood yet highly desirable target audience.

In terms of generations, Millennials are still relatively young, meaning there’s still plenty of personal and behavioral change to be seen. So it’s important for research, insights, and marketing teams alike to keep their categorical understandings of Millennials as open-ended as possible. Below are a few considerations about Millennials that those trying to research them should keep in mind. Essentially, Millennials are maturing and changing like any other consumer segment, and consistent research will help to understand their growing pains.

Millennials Are Not Fickle—They’re Adaptive

Companies are quick to point the finger at Millennials when they seem to suddenly change their brand loyalties. But these sudden shifts in habit and preference are not the unpredictable symptoms of a supposedly narcissistic segment that is never satisfied. In fact, Millennials are generally more satisfied consumers than Baby Boomers in almost every industry.

Thanks to the internet, Millennials have not only significantly more brand choice, but also more access to those brands. Thus Millennials are able to question and react to brand decisions and practices as they happen, and quickly choose a company that better fits their needs. So if you are not fulfilling on your product marketing or brand promises, then Millennials have no problem choosing another brand that will.

Beyond creating a product or service that works, companies must work to ensure that their brand messaging aligns with their actions. For example, Millennials place a high premium on quality customer service, so if your brand promises to resolve issues quickly, that should actually be the case. Online qualitative research methods are great for understanding consumers’ perceptions of your brand, allowing researchers to probe into the qualities, characteristics, and overall personality associated with a brand name. Researching whether consumers’ experiences meet the expectations set by your brand is an excellent way to make sure your team fulfills its marketing promises.

Millennials Are Moms and Dads Now Too

Even with the rise of Generation Z, businesses and advertisers tend to think of Millennials as younger than they really are. The majority of the generation is actually well into adulthood, and many now have families and children of their own. That means they are now a part of the huge family consumer segment, and your qualitative research design should reflect that.

This means that when categorically targeting Millennials, some of your old notions about them may no longer apply. For example, the common perception of Millennials as self-centered independents probably doesn’t hold true for those with families to support. But remembering that Millennials are still a new generation, this is a great opportunity to rethink how we survey families in terms of what motivations and metrics we consider.

Though purchase drivers and shopping behaviors are often grounded in practical decision-making, we learned from our crash course in behavioral economics that emotions play a big role in our choices and perceptions of consequences, and parents who adore their kids are no exception. In order for market research to effectively appeal to Millennial parents, researchers should probe into the sentiments that surround their purchases in order to better understand their values and priorities. Qualitative research that digs into the goals, hopes, and aspirations of Millennial parents may stand a better chance at uncovering what truly drives parental purchase patterns.

Millennials Value Quick, Efficient Communication

It seems almost everyone has criticized Millennials for an alleged inability to communicate, blaming the prevalence of screens, short attention spans, and abbreviated slang. But rather than not being able to communicate, Millennials are simply used to a different form. Their increasingly technological means of conversation encourage short, efficient bursts, usually in writing, instead of the confusion and rambling that can arise in verbal and phone exchanges.

This preference for speedy communication means many researchers may want to incorporate this thinking into their discussion guides and qualitative investigations. For example, traditional focus groups that take up half a day and whose discussions sometimes—despite the name—lose focus may not be the most appealing form of market research for Millennials. 

Fortunately, the principles of online market research align perfectly with Millennials’ prioritization of efficiency. Conducting quantitative and qualitative research online allows respondents to type thoughtful, direct answers, and allows moderators to efficiently probe respondents for details without interrupting the flow of the discussion. Respondent involvement in online studies is every bit as interactive, but without much of the logistical hassle that comes with organizing in-person research.

Just as the industry of market research is constantly evolving, so are the consumer segments and target audiences that researchers, marketers, etc., are attempting to understand. As Millennials continue to grow, so do their needs, habits, and attitudes. In order for researchers to gain insight into behaviors, they must be prepared to alter their perceptions of which market research methods will help them do so. To learn more about what Millennials and Gen Z value in mobile phone apps, check out the research report below.

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