For anyone looking to get a handle on what makes the influential millennial consumer tick, don't forget this simple truth: not all millennials are alike, and this is especially true when it comes to the sexes.
Like all populations, millennials can be segmented into unique and specific subgroups, and you'll want to add gender to the top of your list when approaching your segmentation strategy. Because when it comes to the sexes, there are some key differences in their lifestyle and purchase behaviors.
What are these differences? First, some stats. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are quickly climbing the ranks, earning 60 percent of master’s degrees, about half of all law and medical degrees, and 42 percent of MBAs. In the workplace, women have also made strides, now holding over half of managerial and professional jobs—up from 26 percent in 1980. And in the professional fields, close to one-third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms.
Despite these advances, women continue to face barriers with pay equity being a key concern. Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act, women are still paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. But take heed: according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, 40 percent of American working wives now already out-earn their husbands, and according to one blog on the subject, referencing a Boston Consulting Group study that predicts, in 15 years, women will not only close the income gap with men but out-earn them.
Given this assertion and assuming things relatively equal in terms of buying power between millennial guys and gals, here are three key differences:
1. Millennial males are more likely to be early adopters
From the research, millennials, across the gender divide, are 2.5 more likely as non-millennials to be early adopters. But when parsing the differences between the sexes, millennial men express a heightened interest in being the first to try the hottest new technologies available.
This finding holds true when considering their shopping habits. Indeed, eMarketer recently highlighted a 2013 DDB Worldwide survey of US Internet users that underscores the increasing influence of male shoppers between the ages of 18 and 34. Not only did 40 percent of male millennial respondents say they would buy everything online if they could versus 33 percent of female respondents, but male millennial consumers are more likely to shop online auction sites, more likely to use a mobile shopping application and request a price match via their smartphone and are more likely to use a retail store app than female consumers.
The bottom line? Given their early adoptive nature, the male millennial consumer is an increasingly interesting target for digital marketers these days. Case in point: The Dollar Shave Club, an online razor subscription service, became a household name and go-to brand for men thanks to a viral video and a bevy of amused millennial males who couldn't wait to share the hilarious video with their friends.
2. Men are "lone rangers"
In general, millennials are highly social, both off and online, and are significantly more likely to do things in groups, like traveling together, than non-millennials, research shows.
But, again, when parsing the differences, the research shows that you're more likely to find millennial men enjoying a "lone ranger" lifestyle from eating to shopping to traveling alone. On the other hand, women like to do things with their gal pals and families in greater numbers, according to one study.
To reach them effectively, create custom experiences that appeal to these consumption behaviors. For instance, in the case of male travelers, focus on providing efficiencies like quick check-ins and outs via kiosks where human interaction could be viewed more as a nuisance when a long wait time is involved. When targeting women, consider offering group travel discounts or "girls night out" exclusive brand experiences for the ladies to win their loyalty.
3. Moms are taking charge
With this final point, it's not that moms matter more than dads. However, according to the research, millennial moms are finding themselves in the position of being the key decision makers on big decisions, as opposed to the past, when men were the heads of the household. Today, moms are "calling the shots" when a situation involves major household purchase decisions.
Indeed, a Pew Research Center survey found that the woman makes decisions in more areas than the man in 43 percent of all couples. Men make more of the decisions in only 26 percent of all couples, while couples that split the decision-making responsibilities comprise the remaining 31 percent.
"Mothers are now directly influencing the for a family unit," says Christine Barton, as quoted in Marketing to Millennials (AMACOM 2013). "Not surprisingly, there is a lot of consumption of mom opinions thanks to an overwhelming number of mothers, especially first-time moms, turning to social media for product research and advice. There is a tremendous amount of power in mom advocacy as a unit."
These moms are indeed influential, with 50 percent of them making a brand or product recommendation either daily or weekly, and 21 percent talking to their friends and family members about products at least once per month. So when targeting millennial parents with a new or existing product offering, step into the shoes of these savvy moms and think about how you can cater directly to their needs.
Given these differences, it makes sense to think of millennial men and women as two different groups. Spend time getting to know your target consumers and the differences, whether by segment or by gender. It will lead to a bigger payoff in the end.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Christie Garton is the founder of U Chic Media, a publisher of books and online content targeted at high school and college-aged women. She is the co-author of Marketing to Milllennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever (AMACOM 2013).