The world changes. Millennials in America now outnumber baby boomers; many of the oldest are in their 30s; and they’re an economic force to be reckoned with.
Millennials aren’t just customers, however. They’re the new generation of investors, and as the torch is passed to them — as they live longer and acquire more capital — organizations are going to need to learn about their habits and preferences. Investors, too, will benefit from understanding current market forces in order to make wiser decisions.
Energy, Sustainability and Ethics
It never helps to overgeneralize a group, especially one as large as an entire generation. However, millennials have and continue to create change across every industry. One need only peruse the multitude of articles bemoaning all the things that millennials are “killing” to understand that the change is here, and organizations that haven’t yet adapted are already behind.
Renewable energy and environmental responsibility is a powerful social trend, although America in particular has been slow to adopt green energy politically. The current political climate is friendlier to fossil fuels, but globally the winds are shifting. However, that isn’t to say that oil won’t remain a competitive investment for a long time to come, since so much of the developed and developing world relies on it. As green energy gains more traction, however, companies who maintain CSR and environmental initiatives are likely to reap the rewards of a friendly market.
Tensions Between Powerful Cultural Forces
In general, millennials put greater stock in social issues and causes than older generations. However, not all millennials care about the same issues, and sometimes the issues they care about are in direct opposition to one another. One example of this tension is the question of globalism versus isolationism.
On the one hand, a large number of millennials are concerned about issues such as economic inequality, not just at home but across the globe. This has manifested in several consumer trends such as tracing products and their components to their place of origin, the popularity of “fair trade” and an eagerness to support makers and creators from developing countries directly.
On the other hand, the American political climate is leaning toward isolationism in a way we haven’t seen since post-war foreign policies. Many people, millennials included, are distrustful of companies that outsource labour and manufacturing abroad.
This is the difficulty that comes with a generation that is so “hooked in” and passionate about current events at home and around the world: Not everyone wants to achieve the same things, and even if they do, not in the same way. So while it can certainly be beneficial for businesses to align themselves with certain causes, no matter what end of the political and social spectrum they happen to be on, doing so is increasingly likely to alienate another segment of the market.
Millennials continue to shake up industries, create volatility, and force businesses to adapt to shifting social circumstances. Mastering the ebb and flow of this market is critical, for both investors and businesses, to avoid being the next casualty on the long list of things they’re “killing.”