Millennials get a lot of flack for being entitled or lazy, but the truth is, Generation Y has actually changed the world of business. A few years ago, I saw a void in my businesses that needed to be filled. Our internet presence was severely lacking. While I have an understanding of the internet for research and hiring purposes, I lacked the expertise to make content engaging to a younger generation -- let alone know how to make anything go viral.
It was at this point I brought in a couple of millennial employees who have been on my team ever since. Within months, all of our websites were properly formatted and ranking in search engines, and our social media followings started to grow. The team developed content that was both interesting and informative. The content included elements of both fact and humor. They knew how to be both eloquent and quippy in 140 characters, and taught us that collaboration with like-minded businesses or influencers could help grow the brand exponentially.
Because millennials are so savvy, we had to find ways to appeal to them as consumers as well as utilize their knowledge of the internet in ways business owners never had to before. Quite frankly, at this point I’m not sure we could get along without them.
Here are six ways that the millennials have completely changed business practices for generations to come:
1. They have changed the way we shop
Thanks to a booming tech industry and multiple different app options, it is easier than ever to get things delivered right to your door with the click of a button. Millennials no longer want to wait in crowded lines to get food, clothes or toiletries, and why should they?
Whether you want Postmates or GrubHub to bring you food from a restaurant that normally doesn’t deliver, or you want a subscription service such as Amazon Now to bring you soap because you ran out and didn’t have time to run to the store, apps have got you covered. This also means that businesses need to team up with these apps to keep up with the demand.
A great example is Whole Foods’ partnership with Instacart in metropolitan areas where local residents can use the service to get their groceries delivered at a designated time without any hassle at the store. Subscription boxes have become increasingly popular for the same reason. With these services, you won’t have to remember to order goods. They come directly to your door on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, and can bring you everything from gourmet ingredients, pet food, candles, beauty products or even new underwear.
2. They have changed the way we work
Why should I expect my millennial employees to sit 45 minutes in Los Angeles traffic to get to my office when they could be using that time posting, writing and engaging with my audience right from their own homes? Especially when many tasks they’ve been hired to do can be done remotely or even from a phone.
They have adopted the “work smarter, not harder” mentality, though many have been critical of it. Personally, I think millennials have actually captured the entrepreneurial spirit. If anything, the self-starter mentality is strong within this generation. They seem to get work done without micro-management. Because of this, co-working spaces have become a great asset to new businesses who can’t yet afford a free-standing office space.
Businesses have had to learn to be more flexible with schedules as millennials are steering away from traditional 9 to 5 jobs.
3. They have changed the customer service industry
With social media culture, consumers demand a quick response from the businesses they interact with. This means having a social media and customer service team available pretty close to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a customer publicly tweets a complaint to a business and it goes unaddressed, the whole world can see it and add their own commentary. Because of this, businesses have had no choice but to become more transparent and accessible.
4. They got us to shop local
Millennials seem to be more economically and environmentally conscious than generations before them. A 2015 Nielsen global online study showed that almost three out of four members of generation Y were willing to pay more for a product or item that was produced by a brand that was dedicated to sustainability. They tend to gravitate towards living in cities with roommates to help share bills and have even accepted micro-living apartments as a viable option to the housing crisis, meaning they are actually taking up less space. They have been opting to pay a little more for goods and services from local restaurants and vendors, which supports their local economy rather than shopping at mega stores where they could get things a little bit cheaper.
This has been seen many times in the “farm-to-table” trend that has dominated the restaurant industry in recent years, as well as in the interior design industry. In fact, refurbished materials have become a huge selling point for millennial shoppers.
5. They learned how to start a business with little to no startup costs
Thanks to apps like Poshmark, websites like eBay, hosting sites like Squarespace, and even Instagram, selling items online and taking orders for services has become easier than ever.
For example, a startup candle company could start a lucrative business for the cost of the materials needed and website hosting costs. Even processing payments can be done at the click of a button with services like Paypal and Venmo. Many prolific Instagramming millennials have even created their own followings based on their personal niches or styles. Whether that be outfit ideas, photography, recipe ideas or restaurant recommendations, they have leveraged their numbers for sponsored (i.e. paid) posts, essentially turning themselves into a brand.
6. They have changed the way we market to consumers
The aforementioned style of marketing has been dubbed “influencer marketing,” and it has become a very cost-effective way to reach millions of people in a more personal and organic way than the traditional style of marketing. Why spend $20,000 or more on a commercial when you could spend half that by paying multiple influencers $250-$1000 to promote your product? It works because their followers trust them; they have spent years cultivating an audience that is built on their personal style and taste. Therefore purchasing an item promoted by your favorite influencer [to them] feels almost like getting a product recommendation from a friend. Marketing in this way also gives businesses much more control over their target market because they are promoting their brand to people who are already interested in similar businesses.
Millennials have taught me to think outside the box and find ways to grow my businesses in times of change. They’ve made me more of a free thinker, taught me how a person can be their own brand and even saved me money. In fact, I don’t think millennials are lazy at all, I think they actually might just be brilliant.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.