Generation Y and When

Patience is a virtue, apparently, but as brands pander to consumers demanding instant gratification, we’re growing increasingly intolerant. As such, Generation Y are obsessed with when.

This impatience has infected all areas of our lives. From our careers (two years in one company? Please!) to dating (swiping from one cringey profile to the next) to ordering a taxi, screening films, finding takeaway and the list goes on. This new appetite also affects how we consume content; we’re after ‘quick fun’, such as a cheeky Angry Birds session, instead of indulging in a print magazine (remember those?), a novel or a longread newspaper article.

When it comes to retail, Generation Y love a good Google; they’ll do some thorough browsing to find the best deal. They’ll know the chosen products inside out, all their pros and cons, before narrowing down a list of potentials. Once upon a time we might all ask a friend for a recommendation, but word of mouth in the digital world means we now rely on reviews to know we’ve made the right decision before even thinking about committing with a ‘Buy Now’.

Our digital needs have been condensed into a tiny tablet in our pocket so everything is quite literally there at a click of a button. This makes purchases – even booking holidays – effortless. We’ve developed a sense of entitlement along with higher expectations – a dangerous mix. Retailers have to keep up with the pace; nowadays consumers expect same-day delivery and free returns without question. If the customers aren’t happy, online reviews and social media have granted them power to destroy brands with a fleeting tweet. Our urges are almost lustful, and god forbid someone slows us down.

So how do brands adapt to that? We have some simple algebra that we live by: U + X = Y. Generation Y are incredibly website savvy, so they’ll probably judge a brand on its User Experience before the actual products. Swishing text and a sleek colour scheme makes a sucker of us all. There’s a lot of noise out there, so a brand websites have to stand out the second consumers hop on that landing page. And it has to be seamless. Generation Y never developed the trait of patience and they’ll click off if they’re made to wait a few seconds for a page to load (how very dare they?), while muttering about bad brand experiences as they tweet furiously until placated by a response.

It’s also about values; Generation Y are more likely to dedicate time and money if there’s a personal connection. In some cases, this means aligning a brand to an experience, such as a free fitness class or smoothie giveaway, therefore associating a product with a sensory memory or event. In the same way, tone on social media plays a huge part in consumer behaviour and – if done correctly – this ‘window shop’ into the brand and its ethos could cement their loyalty. Generation Y consider heavy advertising intrusive, but the trick is to use clever content that humanises a brand and makes it relatable. Enter sneaky ‘digital influencers’ who would often disguise sponsored content as if revealing a secret to friend: ‘I’ve found this amazing new product…’ These crafty tip-offs work. Carefully chosen brand partnerships are also key, such as charity sponsorships or equal rights activism, as these align the brand with important issues; the same issues that are probably bothering the browser.

The good news for retailers? Generation Y are spenders rather than savers. They don’t look at the long term, which means they’ll impulse buy frivolously, rather than putting money aside for the future. If there’s no immediate gain, where’s the fun in that? So as patience grows thinner, so do wallets, and that’s a world of opportunity for retail brands to cash in on.


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