Millennials: From Self Centered to Super Center

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Millennials are growing up, and maybe they aren’t that different after all.
It wasn’t long ago (2013) that Time magazine’s Joel Stein labeled Generation Y as the “Me Me Me Generation.” However, as Millennials enter their next life stage, they seem to behave surprisingly like all other generations, merely delayed by a few years. As they buy homes, start families, and move to the suburbs (according to the NAHB) their retail needs are changing from spontaneous, fashionable purchases, to practical one-stop shopping at superstores.
Even in our last Millennial market report (Rewards Over Relationships), Millennials stressed the importance of their allegiance to themselves. Yet, while Millennials certainly aren’t old (ranging from the age of 18-34 according to Pew Research), their older members – aged 28 to 34 – are hitting a new stage of life. And, with this new stage of life comes a new set of priorities, responsibilities, and behaviors.
We conducted a mobile video ethnography with Millennials aged 28 to 34 who self reported at least one of the following happening to them in the last 12 months: getting engaged or married, buying a house, having their first child, or moving from an urban to a suburban area. Our questions asked participants to describe the stage of life they’re currently in, how their personal habits have changed and the effect of that on how they shop.
Older Millennials described the stage of life they’re in as a more serious one. “I’ve had to grow up which means getting more serious – not going out and partying on a Friday night,” Jill F explains (28 yrs old). She goes on to describe her life as “definitely less of a self-centered life these days.” Other participants mirrored this description, mentioning that this stage of life was “the fruition stage,” “adult,” or a “transition to more stability.” This transition is brought on by a re-adjusting of priorities. Besides a uniform desire to be more healthy, participants are focusing their energies on building a family or the foundations of stability for a family. No longer is their number-one focus on number one.
With these readjusted priorities, retail shopping behaviors are changing as well. With the idea of a family looming, participants find that they have less freedom in their retail habits. 28-year-old Nolan D. states:

I used to only have to worry about myself. I would just go out and – I didn’t have to make a schedule for anything. I would just buy things when I needed them or go sort out a list and just buy what I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about allocation of money and now I do. Now, I do, I have to be a lot more organized. […] A lot less window shopping. I would say, I’d come in a little more focused and knowing what I’m going to get and try to stay to that plan just because I have a budget and I have other people to worry about. I can’t necessarily indulge this much.

Other participants mentioned that they focus on going to stores that have deals or coupons that they can use to get the best deal since they’re working on a tighter budget now that there are more factors to take into account than simply their desires. Across the board, participants wanted their dollar to go further, which means “spending less on frivolous things” (Pearson B. 29). That shift in mindset goes hand in hand with buying in bulk.
While Amazon (“the everything store”) remains a favorable option for these Millennials, they’re also shopping at brick-and-mortar “everything stores” as well. “In my newly domesticated life, I shop at Walmart and Target 15 to 20 times more often than I used to,” explains Jason G. (34). Participants mentioned price and convenience as the most important factors when deciding on which store to go. Being able to go into a superstore and pick up a lot of items at once is an attractive proposition for older Millennials. “That’s why going in the superstores … are more important to me because I can get a lot things there all at once” (Nolan D. 28).
Perhaps, then, Millennials are less mysterious than they’re built up to be. As the years wear on, and building a family becomes more of a priority, the “Me Me Me Generation” is rebranding itself and its needs as more traditional. With Millennial Marketing reporting 53% of Millennial households as already having children, the behavior shifts above may become the norm.