We all know that millennials love convenience. An Economist Intelligence Unit survey confirmed this when 70% of respondents said millennials care most about convenience when it comes to making purchase decisions. I can’t remember the last time my friends waited by the TV for their favourite show to come on, when they knew they could just as easily watch it online on their own time, without any commercials. How about the last time a millennial went to the local record shop to buy a CD instead of simply downloading it online? Forget waiting for business hours when you can get the same thing at 2 A.M. online. And then there’s food. Take a stroll through a campus café to see for yourself how popular those pre-made sandwiches are. I myself was making my wallet suffer through this daily habit up until this year, and it has taken extreme discipline to get myself out of that hole. My friends and I often discuss how we are victims of the on-campus eateries: even though the sandwiches and other food are pretty gross and by no means satisfying, we still manage to shell out seven bucks a sandwich on a daily or even twice daily basis. What could be making us behave this way?
Some may argue that we have less time than other generations; however, I would hypothesize that this is not in fact the case. The amount of time we should sleep hasn’t increased – we still have to get 8 hours per night, though most of us don’t. We still have roughly the same amount of school and study work…perhaps even less than other generations. Plus, I’d be hard-pressed to find a friend who has done every single one of their assigned readings this school year (sorry for any professors reading this).
How about economic factors? Are millennials spending their extra time in part-time jobs to make more cash, thus leading to a need for convenience goods? Doubtful. In my experience, very few of my peers have held jobs during high school, college or university. Although it’s true that many of us have money issues, there are other, more popular ways to deal with this than to take on part-time jobs.
Could it be possible that there is a new physiological need for my generation and the ones after it? We need air, water, food, sleep and sex…but we also need screen time. Buying non-convenience products requires that we spend time away from our screens. While some might argue that screen time is a psychological need, based on watching how my generation interacts with technology, I can strongly confirm that it has turned physiological. Thumbs twitch when they can’t reach a Blackberry in class. Hands punch when the internet is down. What is the first thing millennials do when they get up in the morning, and the last thing they do before they go to bed? You guessed it – check their screens. Millennials can’t go more than a few hours without checking if they have any new texts, emails, Facebook messages, or tweets. Or else they get antsy.
I would like to argue that it is millennials’ psychological need to keep up with one another that is fuelling their need for convenience products. Why spend time cooking dinner when you know your neighbour is hard at work on that essay you haven’t started working on yet? Similarly, are you really going to toil away at making a three-course meal when all your friends are out partying? To solve both these problems, you can turn to convenience products. Millennials want to keep up to speed with their peers, both academically and socially. This encompasses engaging with another social aspect of today’s world: social networking. I would argue that social media is what is single-handedly driving convenience products into the hands of millennials. Every time I hear a classmate saying how busy they are or how little time they have these days, I can’t help but wonder how much time they’ve spent on Facebook recently. But they shouldn’t be faulted for this…social networking is undoubtedly a necessary evil for millennials. If you’re not on Facebook, you don’t exist. This may sound harsh, but not if you’ve witnessed as many people saying it as I have. Social networking is the most pervasive form of communication between millennials, far outweighing email.
So how did we get this way? Well, we’ve had the world at our fingertips since we were born. Thanks to the advent of new technology, we can get answers, shop, and get responses from our friends instantaneously. Taking a page from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers book, we’ve spent our 10,000 hours online and now we’re experts…on instant gratification. We get our news, music, video, entertainment and books online. We text message, use social networking sites, instant message, play video games, and surf the web. We want things when we want them, and can’t stand to wait. The lesson for marketers? Make your products and services available all the time, or someone else will. Make them fast, make them available in locations close to us, and make them online.