CEO Mitch Barns: Millennials Aren’t the Future, They’re Now

Last week, Mitch Barns, Nielsen’s CEO, participated on a panel entitled “Global Millennials: The Data-Driven Facts” at The Global Summit of the Global Consumer Goods Forum held in Singapore. Joining him on stage was moderator Michael Chui, Partner, McKinsey & Company and McKinsey Global Institute, and panelists Kevin Lee, COO & Managing Partner, China Youthology, and John ROSS, CEO, IGA.

Speaking to an audience of hundreds of retail and manufacturer CEOs, the panelists discussed how Millennials are no longer the generation to watch for in the future—they’re here now. And they account for a significant proportion of today’s consumer base around the world.

Mitch opened the session by setting the stage for understanding this diverse generation. He talked about two important factors: fragmentation and trust.

Fragmentation is being enabled by technology and an “always on” mentality.

“Millennials basically live their lives through their mobile phones. It’s this intense form of hyper connectivity. As a result, they have access to so much information. That increase in information leads to more choice, and increase choice leads to fragmentation, which informs the way they consume media and their purchasing behavior,” said Mitch.

In India, 92% of Millennials prefer mobile payments, while in China, 51% of Millennials use mobile devices to shop. The preference for mobile is especially pronounced in younger Millennials and Generation Z, who have grown up in a smartphone age.

Commonly tagged as disloyal, Mitch said he sees Millennials as having a wider brand consideration set. Because of that, they shop differently, spreading their loyalty across more brands than older generations. In Indonesia alone, 75% of Millennial households are using more than 75 fast-moving consumer goods brands.

This trend is visible in media as well. In the U.S., Millennial households are consuming 27% traditional TV and four times more content on TV-connected devices.

The panelists agreed that Millennials and the generation after are designing their way of life online first. And this tendency toward digital first is changing and elevating their expectations in-stores and when it comes to media consumption.

Mitch and the panel also talked in-depth about trust and expectations. For Mitch, this means resonating with consumer values.

“Millennials don’t extend trust as readily as previous generations. That includes government, big corporations and mass brands. Therefore, smaller brands are more on-trend if they’re relevant and align with Millennial values—then they have a big leg up. That’s a trend that we haven’t seen level off,” said Mitch.

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