by Dave Gardener
Within the ongoing sweepstakes to capture youthful recreation dollars, sellers across the landscape of commerce must understand the appetites and lives of the nation’s millennials born from 1981 to 1996.
Applicable data to guide merchant marketing efforts is revealing. According to MarketingCharts.com, one out of four millennial men attend a gym, regularly exercise, or participate in indoor sports, while for females the total logs in at 17 percent.
When planning a cherished outing with friends, 59 percent of millennials prefer to meet at a restaurant, while 30 percent will choose a bar and 28 percent a shopping center. Additionally, at least 75 percent of millennials attend movies and 60 percent patronize night clubs.
Abhijit Roy, DBA, professor of management, marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of Scranton, explained that big bucks are at stake in the drive to sell to millennials. According to data collected by the renowned Pew Research Center, millennials have now become the largest buying group in the United States, with about 73 million millennials now present, and the number increasing to 80 million by 2050.
According to Roy, to understand the spending of the generation, you have to realize that most of them with a post-high school education are carrying heavy educational debt. This is creating consequences within their purchasing abilities and delaying the acquisition of big “stuff” such as a home purchase or getting married.
“In addition, overall incomes have not been rising,” said Roy. “Something with this pattern has to give within a decade.”
Roy cited how various studies have looked at the behaviors of the millennials, and established that as a group they are less confident then their generational predecessors and possess lower self-esteem. In addition, as part of America’s “trophy generation” they may have unrealistic expectations about their ability to accomplish, initially expect an “A” on every scholastic exam, and wind up with a wake-up call when they find collegiate success takes a focused effort.
The digital economy is also embedded within their blood, and the millennials therefore exhibit strong spending on a regular basis for high-tech products.
“Almost every year there’s a new wave of tech products that they have to have, and they will spend with consistency for these,” said Roy.
According to Roy, when it comes to hard-core recreational spending, it must be understood that personal depression rates within the millennials are relatively high. He believes many of their buying habits have to do with attempts to alleviate this depression, and they will use their digital presence to project a positive face to peers.
“We can also expect that the millennials will evolve as they mature and the world changes around them,” said Roy. “They will eventually buy homes, but before this can happen there generally has to be a debt pay-down.”
A millennial-friendly recreational vendor delivering a relatively new form of entertainment utilizes a marketing plan recognizing how millennials, for 60 minutes, will pay to be totally immersed within their own consciousness.
Ryan Hnat, co-owner of Electric City Escape Room with his wife, operates a “physical adventure game where participants are locked in a themed room and must work together to solve a series of puzzles, codes and clues to escape in 60 minutes.”
The business has its roots in a trip to Europe where the Hnat’s saw established escape rooms. This led the elementary school art teacher and interior architect to open in the Electric City.
Various themes are used for the different escapes, which may be purchased by individuals, groups or corporate trainers. These include the Molly McGuires where participants are caught in a race against air and must find their way out, and the Great Houdini, in which a team walks backstage and looks as though caught in a trick, using magic to escape.
Despite the modern nature of the escape room format, Hnat emphasized that old-fashioned business tactics make it profitable. He continually stresses the need for customer service with his employees, and preaches that the best form of advertising for potential customers involves word-of-mouth commentary from satisfied patrons.
“The push-and-pull that leads up to making a sale is always a beautiful thing,” said Hnat.
During the winter and holiday season, Hnat’s team will serve about 1,000 patrons a month. Spring is slower because the escape room is in competition against many additional activities for recreational time, such as graduation parties.
Hnat has studied his target audience, and in regard to the millennials he has noticed how they can review entertainment possibilities instantly because of their digital connections. He said this is vital to understand, because with millennials so deeply in debt from student loans and dealing with a high cost of living, they will analyze recreational purchases carefully before buying.
“Every day is a big hustle for these kids, with different influences creating their buying appetites,” said Hnat. “Often, they have an interest in a subject that goes back to something from their childhood, and a recreational buy will be about reliving these memories. They also love group events.”
Above all, Hnat is selling a time-out from daily living to the millennials.
“This appetite for escape is what kindles their spending patterns, particularly with entertainment,” said Hnat.