I’ll admit it: for years, I’ve hated to be called a millennial.
With the spotlight on our generation in the news these days, the label has felt burdened with negative connotations: I’m lazy, spoiled, selfish, out-of-touch with reality, demanding… and unwilling to spend money on “necessary” major life purchases. And some of the facts behind these labels are undeniable: we have limited resources, we’re struggling with success in the economy—and who doesn’t want a break from all that?
But with some new data that’s been released, it’s clear that our generation is different—in a good way.
And with these facts, I’m excited to reclaim what it means to be a millennial.
This infographic from AdWeek offers a great example of the facts and figures that are giving me hope. While I’m weighted down with student loans and economic worries, I’m not alone. And together, our purchasing power matters.
For starters, millennials have consumer clout. Our purchasing power right now is estimated to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, $430 billion of which is considered “discretionary” (non-essential) spending money. And what’s even better, is that the oldest millennials are just now reaching their peak earning years, so that number will likely increase from 2020 onwards.
We’re also altering what it means to be a consumer. Instead of demanding that we own everything we use (a hallmark of previous generations), we’re more conscious of our social and environmental impact. Therefore, most of us “prefer access over ownership,” which (Business Week speculates) is why we love the sharing economy and sites/applications like Netflix and Spotify.
But the most important point stressed by these infographics? Millennials are thoughtful consumers. We have to be: although we have a ton of money as a group, we’re worried about how far our money can stretch, and what it means to buy something.
How are we judging which companies to buy from? We’re doing a lot of research into social causes that the brands support: nearly 60% of us believe that brands should work to improve social causes. From the infographic, we can see that “socially responsible” is the third most important brand characteristic, behind “high quality product” and “would recommend to others.”
Over 70% of us are brand loyal, once a company has proved itself to be in alignment with our values, and over half of us (51%) consult 4 or more sources before buying. That proves that we want access to information about everything we buy, and technology provides that link—and brands are having to demonstrate constant (24/7) attention to their reputation, because customers are always watching (via social media).
We’re changing the way brands and products are marketed, because we have the means to make a difference.
And in that way, we’re voting with our dollars, for the world that we want: a retail market that is held to higher ethical, sustainable, and financial standards.
Kelsey Ryan is the editor of Groundswell’s magazine. She’s a linguist, fledgling Tolkien scholar, knitter, Oxford comma proponent, and firm believer in the use of stories for social good. Explore her website, or connect on Twitter: @kryanlion.