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Understanding millennial patients and staff


Millennials, also known as Generation Y, can drive Generation Xers and baby boomers crazy. Many Gen Xers and Boomers don’t embrace those young, fresh faces because their approach to life is so foreign.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, can drive Generation Xers and baby boomers crazy. Many Gen Xers and Boomers don’t embrace those young, fresh faces because their approach to life is so foreign. Whether your practice wants to market to millennials or you need to hire them to be part of your eyecare team, understanding these up-and-comers is the key a successful relationship.

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Millennials, Americans born between 1980 and 1994, are the largest generation in the United States. They exceed the large baby boomer generation and are poised to be the largest generation in world history. Currently, they represent one-third of the total U.S. population in 2013.1 With approximately 92 million people in their ranks, millennials will become influencers of politics, the economy, and societal trends. Their influence is already being felt. By 2017, millennials are projected to spend roughly $200 billion annually and $10 trillion, cumulatively, over their lifetimes in the United States.2 Buying power means that advertising will be tailored to them in both content and delivery.

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Appealing to millennials

While they will be spending billions of dollars annually, getting millennials to value your product and invest in it is a little tricky. The mean income for this generation has dropped by five percent over the last 10 years, and its student loan debt has more than doubled.3 With less disposable income, they’re driven to make purchases out of necessity.

The question is, how do you make your practice and products a necessity? Brands aren’t as critical for this generation. They look for value and quality over the name on the label. Stocking a boutique optical with the likes of Tom Ford, Jimmy Choo, and Oliver Peoples may not draw crowds of this generation like it would Xers and boomers. Only nine percent of millennials strongly agree that they always try to by a branded product.

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Rather than brand names, millennials seek brand love. They want to build a relationship with companies based on helping a greater good. Some 50 percent of millennials would be more willing to make a purchase from a company if their purchase supports a cause.4 Toms, a forward-thinking company founded in 2006, was one of the first to welcome the “one for one” concept. For every pair of Toms shoes purchased, the company promised to deliver a pair of new shoes to a child in need in one of many countries around the world. In the first six months, the company received nine times the available stock, and 10,000 pairs were sold.5

Toms was one of the first companies to embrace the kind of corporate responsibility that appeal to millennials in a big and public way. It is joined by other companies like Fetch Eyewear who donate 100 percent of profits to animal rescue”6 and Warby Parker’s “buy-a-pair, give-a-pair program.”

Next: Reaching out to millennials


Reaching out to millennials

These young consumers are considered digital natives. Most of them don’t remember a time when the Internet didn’t exist. Not surprisingly, they utilize technology to connect socially, determine goods worthy of purchase, and execute those purchases.

Thirty-seven percent of millennials say they regularly enjoy social media for fun and entertainment. (Generation Xers are not far off that number with 35 percent, and boomers lag behind at 23 percent).7 About 46 percent of millennials have 200+ Facebook friends compared to only 19 percent of non- millennials. While a retiree might be on Facebook, odds are she isn’t connected with many people, and her “likes” and “shares” won’t necessarily carry much weight.

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While it’s debatable which social media outlet appeals to the most people and translates into tangible profit for a practice, few can argue that raising a practice’s brand awareness won’t pay off over time. Alan Glazier, OD, and ODs on Facebook founder, says, “The older generation used traditional media like radio and television, the younger generation uses social media. The channels most popular are Instagram and, surprisingly, YouTube.”

A social media outreach to millennials, who are often classified visual learners, may require an unconventional approach to be impactful.

Millennials as employees

Millennials are generally late to the party. Any party. They marry later, have children later, and often buy homes later. Similarly, they enter the workforce later, which means they have less “real world,” or work experience to offer your practice. Most baby boomers had covered a lot more ground by age 25 than their present-day counterparts.

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Millennials prefer to communicate via text/instant message, email, social media, by phone, or in person. They can be valuable employees in your practice as staff or associates, but they have different expectations about an employer-employee relationship. Not quick to conform, they presume employers will search for a middle ground, not dictate. Millennials will leave a job quickly if they don’t perceive it as a good fit or if it affects their life balance. However, they will forgo a more lucrative job if they feel valued in their current position. Often they’re raring to go on their first day of employment and will challenge the status quo. Many practices don’t like nor look for change but may need it. Millennials also have a higher expectation that employers will invest in their training and education. Depending on their role in a practice, education can mean supporting the yearly continuing education of an associate or formal technician training.8

Next: Beyond millennials


Beyond millennials

Who’s next in the lineup? iGen, or Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2009, will soon be nipping at the heels of the millennials. They’re predicted already to take on the jobs that millennials won’t, and they have a stronger work ethic. These youngsters are expected to be industrious and perhaps anxious about the future after spending their formative years during “the Great Recession.” Millennials have yet to solidify their place in the workforce and had better stay on their toes before the younger go-getters rock them on their heels.8,9

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1. The Council of Economic Advisers. 15 economic facts about millennials. 2014 Oct. Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf. Accessed 5/25/16.

2. Solomon, M. 2015 Is The Year Of The Millennial Customer: 5 Key Traits These 80 Million Consumers Share. Forbes. 2014 Dec 29. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/12/29/5-traits-that-define-the-80-million-millennial-customers-coming-your-way/#496c02f12a81. Accessed 5/25/16.

3. Berridge, S. Millennials after the Great Recession. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2014 Sep. Available at: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2014/beyond-bls/millennials-after-the-great-recession.htm. Accessed 5/25/16.

4. Fromm J. ‘Idea Brands’ Will Win Big with Millennials: How To Attract Them. Millennial Marketing.  Available at: http://www.millennialmarketing.com/2013/09/idea-brands-will-win-big-with-millennials-how-to-attract-them/. Accessed 5/25/16.

5. Fisk, P. Gamechangers: Creating Innovative Strategies for Business and Brands. Hoboken: Wiley, 2015.

6. Fetch Eyewear website. Available at: https://www.fetcheyewear.com. Accessed 5/25/16.

7. Goldman Sachs. Millennials coming of age. Available at: http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/. Accessed 5/25/16.

8. The Center for Generational Kinetics. Marketing, Selling to and Employing Millennials (aka Gen Y). Available at: http://genhq.com/millennials-gen-y-generation-y-info/. Accessed 5/25/16.

9. Williams, A. Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z. NY Times. 18 Sept 2015. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/fashion/move-over-millennials-here-comes-generation-z.html?_r=0. Accessed 5/25/16.

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