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Generation Y is ready to buy—and we’ve brought five credit cards and all our Facebook friends. As a member of Gen Y, I’m proud to share that we are the fastest-growing consumer demographic in the United States. In fact, we’re the future economic engine for global growth.
Our spending power already exceeds $200 billion each year in the United States, and that’s only a drop in the bucket. By 2017 we’re expected to outspend the baby boomers. That’s right; if you thought we were fast at downloading songs on iTunes, just wait until you see us with a virtual wallet.
You’re probably asking yourself (and if you’re a baby boomer, you’re definitely asking yourself): How does Gen Y—currently ages 17 to 35—have any money? Aren’t they broke and drowning in college debt?
Well, yes… and no.
On one hand we have the highest unemployment since World War II, but on the other hand, those of us who have jobs are starting to slowly move forward. Many of us Gen Y’ers do have college debt, but we’re also expected to earn significantly more over our lifetime than those without college degrees. We’ll keep paying that debt for decades, but it’s not going to keep us on ramen noodles forever. It just so happens we like ramen noodles.
When we put on long-term goggles, it’s clear that the oldest Gen Y’ers are now entering the “wealth accumulation” life phase. This is where our income starts to pick up as we advance in our careers.
The Gen Y’ers with harder-to-find degrees—such as software engineering—are already seeing this rapid increase in their salaries. On the flip side, more seasoned generations are entering different life phases, including “less is more.”
The bottom line is that Gen Y brings three valuable strengths to your business right now:
1. Gen Y has the greatest lifetime value of any generation in today’s marketplace. Whoever gets us now wins.
2. Gen Y has the least loyalty to brands and purchases. This evens the playing field dramatically.
3. When we have a great buying experience we tell all our friends, including thousands of virtual ones.
So what can you do today to make the most of Gen Y’s emergent buying power? Bridging the generational buying divide is my specialty. Here are three steps you can take ASAP that are virtually free:
Step 1: Tell us we’re special. Seriously. This is like getting a ribbon for 28th place. We love it, and Mom will frame it.
Step 2: Connect to our new life stage—“adult-olescence.” We’re making all the big life steps at an older age than previous generations. Show us you understand our situation, and we’ll be instantly more comfortable making big purchases.
Step 3: Add the unexpected to your customer experience. One of my favorites: Send us a video of you singing happy birthday on our special day. You only have to record it once and post it to YouTube. Imagine all the “shares” you will create! You won’t have to buy a lead for months.
Gen Y has the potential to be your ideal customer. We’re bursting with pent-up purchasing demand. We love to refer our friends. And we’re about to have real money. All you have to do is meet us where we are and take credit cards, because we don’t carry cash.