by Kevin Brown
December 22, 2017

Millennials? Aren’t they those spoiled, fickle, entitled children who live entirely online, unable to function without their smartphones?

It’s time to bust the myth about this generation of 21 to 35-year-old digital natives – which happens to be my generation. I actually have one foot in the Millennial generation and one foot in Generation X, as the oldest of the Millennials. So I’d like to think I understand all different perspectives in the great Millennial debate.

How U.S. Millennials see themselves - and how they are seen by Non-Millennials

The inside and outside view of Millennials is very different – but if you want to win and keep them as customers, you have to really understand the generation of 21- to 35-year-olds first. Source: BCG Study “The Millennial Consumer – Debunking Stereotypes”.

While it may be true that our generation does expect a high level of speed and convenience, our habits and preferences actually present distinct opportunities for companies to forge long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with them.

Millennials shop differently – and they are highly engaged consumers

A survey of 4,000 Millennials by Boston Consulting Group found that younger consumers shop and spend quite differently from the way members of older demographics do.

True, we spend about five hours per day online – but so do Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers. The difference is in the devices they choose. While older consumers use the old-fashioned internet, Millennials are much more likely to conduct their online lives through the apps on their phones and on social media.

This is not just for the novelty of tech for tech’s sake: According to a study by Accenture, we place a premium on innovative and personalized experiences. This makes us Millennials not indecisive and spoiled, but rather highly engaged consumers. We research and review products, services and experiences on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, and we trust user reviews and our friends’ recommendations over advertising.

Who would have thought: The tech-savvy generation of Millennials is driven by loyalty rewards

Further, The American Marketing Association (AMA) reports that 80 percent of Millennials can be persuaded to switch brands or stores that offer personalized rewards and discounts.

Retailers can tap into Millennials’ expectations by being just as fluid as they are. First, it’s essential to offer a seamless experience on- and offline: 76 percent of my generation browse the internet before shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, where they may simply try or actually buy.

There is little differentiation between physical and online commerce anymore, and Millennials increasingly expect to be able to make purchases wherever they are, whenever they make the decision to purchase. Whether that’s while standing in the store or while scrolling their Instagram feed in bed at 2 a.m., companies today need to be able to respond.

Loyalty through services matters more than brand loyalty to Millennials

Second, while Millennials can be swayed to try a new product or provider, we also want to save money and prefer technology to redeem rewards. The AMA study found that 33 percent check their loyalty program rewards on a mobile app, 27 percent use smartphones or tablets, and 7 percent check for these rewards from a wearable device such as an Apple or Samsung watch.

As brand loyalty fades into the past and shopping becomes an omnichannel, 24/7 activity, the retailer who thrives will be the one who invites loyalty through service: Provide multiple opportunities to browse, learn and buy, and help consumers save money with discounts and cash back incentives. Know the customer and put the right discounts in front of them. Easy to say – difficult to execute.

Reward programs: Get personal to be successful

When building loyalty programs to keep customers coming back, consulting data allows businesses to understand their consumers and develop payment and loyalty systems tailored to their target markets.

Personalized rewards programs that help merchants connect with shoppers in more meaningful ways are becoming increasingly popular and useful. The one I’d highlight here is, in France, the Orange Cash mobile wallet that captures purchase data and sends users personalized offers. Orange Cash users who are near participating retailers receive relevant alerts and offers based on retail category, time frame, and location, and have opportunities to purchase via mobile or in person.

While that’s one example of many, this approach offers numerous benefits to the Millennial – or really any – consumer:

  • personalized service
  • instant awareness
  • savings
  • and flexibility

The benefits to the merchant are:

  • faster payments
  • more accurate buyer data
  • a bigger share of the Millennial market
  • and a chance at winning that most elusive prize – our repeat business.


As a conclusion, Millennials be viewed as a spoiled, fickle, and smartphone-addicted group, but understood and taken seriously as customers. Those who realize this – and all of their clients – will benefit greatly.

And from all of us at Wirecard North America, wishing you happy holidays and a festive New Year!