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What You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Millennials

Millennials as a generation are probably the most speculated and talked-about generation in human history. A reality that is not entirely unwarranted.

There are 75.4 million of them, making the cohort born between 1981 and 2004 the largest living generation of Americans. They are also the first generation raised nearly entirely in the shadow of the internet — and are thus often called the world’s first digital natives.

More seriously, millennials are increasingly viewed as a generation a bit in peril. The data as gathered by Raj Chetty, professor of economics at Stanford, and several other of his academic colleagues indicates that only half of all millennials will ever best the earnings potential of their parents. At best. Or, as Karen Webster put it somewhat more directly, “while they enjoy many FinTech innovations, most millennials don’t have a snowball’s chance of earning more than their parents — ever.”

That is a very serious issue — one that will likely have very serious consequences for what the future of financial services, commerce and payments will look like for the next several years or decades. It’s also a conversation we’ll be undertaking at great length this year at Innovation Project since this year’s theme is Betting On The Future: The Who, What, Where, When, How. If you aren’t signed up yet, well, obviously, get on that.

But luckily for us all on a Saturday morning, not all of the information about the generation that will soon be running the world is not quite so serious.

Nope — some of it is about bowling.

Millennials Bowl

That is not a metaphor. We mean bowling as in rolling a heavy ball down a heavily lacquered floor with the goal of knocking over 10 pins.

As it turns out, millennials love sriracha, yoga pants, Netflix, chilling, Snapchat and bowling.

According to new data out from the industry, bowling equipment in the United States — pins, balls, shoes, etc. — is a growth industry. Why? Because women and millennials love bowling. It’s active but not too active, social media–friendly, good for families in the era of non-smoking lanes, all weather–friendly and done in teams. You can bowl ironically or seriously — bowling lanes don’t care as long as you pay.

This news was surprising to us, since bowling sounded a bit old-school for Generation Digital Native.

And it led us to wonder, what else do we not know about millennials that perhaps the world needs to know?

The surprises abounded.

Millennials Don’t Eat Cereal

Cereal sales have been in decline for a while despite being the world’s most perfectly designed food. Breakfast cereal sales have dropped around 30 percent over the past 15 years, and the future looks uncertain.

Some of that is drift in consumer taste — breakfast wraps and sandwiches have become more popular, for example — while some of it is due to a change in lifestyle, as low-carb and breakfast-free consumers are also more common.

All of that you probably could have guessed. What might be more surprising a headwind is that millennials don’t eat cereal, according to a study by Mintel.

That should be surprising since data from Mintel also indicates that snacking has displaced meals for consumers under age 35 — and there is no meal snackier than cereal. But cereal is considered an inferior snack because, well, it’s messy.

Yes, the reason millennials tend to eschew cereal in favor of breakfast bars is that cereal must be eaten out of a bowl. With a spoon. And then washed. As it turns out, only 24 percent of millennials were given household chores as children (as opposed to 60 percent of baby boomers, and that has rendered them a generation that would rather forgo Captain Crunch than wash the bowl. Whole-bean coffee sales now know a similar fate — as has ground coffee that doesn’t come in pre-measured pod form is eschewed.

Plus, millennials are more likely to eat or order out than their parents’ generation — further adding to lower enthusiasm for labor-intensive meals like cereal. And millennials as a generation are more able to get to know their local takeout joint because …

Millennials Also Don’t Move

Millennials are often referred to as Generation Mobile — which is a little bit ironic, since they don’t tend to move around all that much. Unlike previous generations — who tended to move around fairly extensively when they were that age — 80 percent of millennials live at the same address this year as they did last year.

That again is a bit eye-catching, because millennials, statistically speaking, lack the three main things that make older people less likely to relocate year in and year out than younger people: a house, a spouse or a child. Millennials are putting all three of those events off until later in life — and as such there had been expectations that Generation Mobile would be as personally mobile as their tech is.

But according to Census Bureau data interpreted by Pew, the factors that are keeping millennials from buying homes, getting married and having kids are also keeping them from moving. Remember that statistic about half of all millennials not outearning their parents? Similar influences are at play with this one: Because millennials started their careers during the worst days of the Great Recession, they are basically running five to 10 years behind previous generations. Most Americans who report moving, particularly in the under-35 crowd, report doing so to take a job.

Pew did note, however, that most millennials did report their intention to buy a house — and that additional mobility may be viewable in the future as millennials move to actually buy those houses.

But as of now only 6 percent of millennials who moved in 2016 did so to purchase a house — so that trend has clearly not developed all that much yet.

Which leads us back to some of that serious stuff. While it is amusing — and perhaps a little bit concerning — that a generation of over 75 million is intimidated by washing a cereal bowl, it is more concerning that Generation Mobile isn’t moving.

But that’s that serious conversation again. And we promise it will be had much better on Harvard’s campus at IP 2017 in a little under two weeks.

Until then — well, there’s always bowling. We hear it is what all the cool kids are doing these days.

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

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