Chris Ramey Encourages Retailers to Think Like a Millennial
Millennials are the group that follows Gen Xers and there appears to be no exact dates as far as I can tell as to exactly when this generation starts and ends, but depending on who you ask people in this group were born somewhere around the early 1980s to somewhere around 1995.
That puts this group between the age of 19 and 34 and the best I can tell there are somewhere around 78 million of them out there, compared to the 76 million baby boomers, and these millenials have an annual buying power bordering on $200 billion.
Yes there are plenty of millennials who are unemployed, underemployed, working as temps and living with mom and dad, not to mention struggling with jumbo sized student loans that are outstanding, but there are also top earning millennials, millennial moms, and millennials that earn good incomes and live in the suburbs and buy floor coverings. It is also a group that appears to be much more diverse than the generations that came before them.
The feature came to mind because for most of us, when we hear the word millennial we tend to think these folks were born in the digital age. They’ve never experienced the age of the fax machine and they’ve never looked up anything in the Yellow Pages and, for them, iPhones, tablets, social media and shopping online are the norm. Plus they don’t spend much time on any given day not connected to their mobile phones.
We had an opportunity to talk with Chris Ramey, the president of Affluent Insights, about millennials and how floor covering retailers might keep this group in mind when they’re planning for the near-term and long-term future of their business.
The following are some excerpts from the conversation we had with him that you may find interesting. You can find the complete three-part audio interview in the archives section on the TalkFloor.com website, which is also accessible via Floor Trends’website, floortrendsmag.com.
TF: What about it, millennials are a growing percentage of the population as older generations die off. How do you judge this group from a buying power prospective?
Ramey: I think much of the emphasis placed on unemployment and underemployment in this group is a bit of an exaggeration. Yes that has happened among those who have graduated from college in the last couple of years. But there are many companies out there today that are saying by the end of 2015 millennials will be buying more luxury products than baby boomers.
This is a switch that is happening quickly. And something that should be changing right along with it is the product selection on the average retail sales floor. We need to re-invent who we are and what we sell or we will lose this generation.
For example, I live in Miami, and the hot product here is polished concrete, a product floor covering retailers everywhere should take a serious look at.
TF: We’re certainly aware of the digital preferences of millennials, but are there other factors at play that are important to this group that are radically different from prior generations?
Ramey: I have a friend who recently introduced a product to a group of millennials—this friend incidentally is outside of the floor covering industry. He introduced this product with a picture and he discussed what it did and the product quite honestly was panned by almost everybody in the group.
Millennials are digital natives, they do everything online. The problem with my friend’s presentation was that he showed the product itself and not the DNA of the product and why it does what it does and why it was created in the first place.
This is a lesson for anyone marketing to millennials: You have to sell more than just the product. It’s not a 40-oz. plush with a wear warranty of a certain number of years; it’s what are the values of the company (and how they align with millennials). Millennials will buy your brand DNA and the values that you invest in before they will invest in a specific product and its value proposition.
TF: Regardless of the age group, all generations, even seniors, are using digital media more then ever. When retailers set out to develop a media plan, should they think of millennials as a separate group or just gear their messages more in a digital direction?
Ramey: You have to look at the world as a millennial might. You have to think differently. It’s about brand ubiquity. When it comes to millennials you have to be a part of the conversation, because you have authenticity when you are part of the community.
Rather than constantly going forth with a message of 20% off in your television ads, you first have to recognize that millennials don’t watch that much television. As a result you’re not connecting as much with this group.
In the home category, the shelter magazines are not read like they once were. One really needs to rethink how they are going to connect with these individuals. Not only simply to make them aware that you indeed exist, but to let them know who you are, with whom you are aligned, what you think and provide them as an opportunity to understand your DNA.
TF: Social media doesn’t appear to be just another tool for millennials; it appears to be a way of life. Millennials, I understand, have an average of 300 friends on Facebook and, I also understand, that millennial moms spend on average 17.4 hours a week on social media networks—four more hours than the average mom. This is a media that just can’t be ignored.
Ramey: Social media and blogs are certainly an important and a necessary part of a retailer’s marketing tools today, but we have to be careful. Unlike traditional media that is perishable, messages in this media sticks with you for a long time.
I have read social media and blog entries that have convinced me not to do business with the writer because their opinions were inconsistent with my values. One needs to be very careful when you communicate what it is you stand for. Remember, focus is parallel alienation. [In other words], often by focusing on one group you may well alienate another.
Authenticity is imperative. Don’t talk like you’re 56 years old if you’re talking with 25 year olds. Get someone on your staff who is 25 or 30 and let them communicate in a way that is consistent with the way that age group communicates.
Editor’s Note: As mentioned above, there is a great deal more to this fascinating interview than space permits. In it Ramey points out we are dealing with a demographic that’s becoming increasingly important to everyone in the floor covering industry. He reminds us that yes, lots of recent graduates are unemployed but also that millennial grads as a rule earn more than the generations that came before them. He makes the point that sharp retailers are responding to the marketplace and staying on top of their game and they will be the ones that will end up with more than their share of those millennial dollars.
Millennials are indeed a group that marches to a totally different drummer than most of us are used to and that is the key reason we have to listen to them even more closely.
To hear the three-part conversation in its entirety visit TalkFloor.com, click on the link “More Floor Radio” and scroll down to the parts titled, “Chris Ramey on Selling Millenials.”
We’d also love to hear your feedback of this and other conversations you’ve watched or listened to on the site, as well as any ideas of people or companies you’d like to see interviewed. You can contact either Dave Foster at email@example.com, or Matthew Spieler at firstname.lastname@example.org.