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Don't Over-Generalize My Generation

Posted by Reed Guerino

Wed, Apr 12, 2017

group in park

I’m sure you’ve heard that Millennials are entitled narcissists (or mold-breaking visionaries) and Gen Z expect instant gratification (or they have the most integrity of any generation yet). Of the companies pouring millions of research dollars into generational research, who’s getting it right? Well maybe nobody.

In fact, we can’t even agree on where one generation begins and the other ends. Millennials are generally considered those born between 1980 and 2000, but there’s disagreement over the exact years—some say it’s as loose as the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s while others say strictly between 1980 and 2000.  When you’re comparing mid-1970 to 1980 and 2000 to mid-2000, it’s not a huge discrepancy. However, the point is that there is a discrepancy. And with growing interest in the emerging generation (Gen Z, “Post-Millennials”, "iGeneration", "Plurals"), once again we face an arbitrary age designation and battle over who best understands these future consumers.

As a market researcher myself, I'm the first to admit that researchers will be tempted to define and assign attributes to Gen Z early on because of our natural tendency to categorize and bucket into mutually exclusive groups. However, in our need for clean groups with labels, we forget that some groups aren’t mutually exclusive, and different groups (or in this case, generations) might share some overlapping qualities.

What’s more, generations aren’t as homogeneous as we’d like to think. While normally there are overarching behaviors and attributes assigned to each age group, there can be room for variations among the cohorts. For example, we released a report where we found a segmentation of Millennials revealing five distinct personas with various preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. Our self-funded study focused specifically on financial behaviors, but it can serve as a microcosm for the rest of the generation. You can learn more about it here. This research underscores the potential for inaccuracies that can result from defining a generation too narrowly.

There will always be a place for analysis by generation, but we have a lot more data to consider today than ever before. In his 2013 book "Buyographics", Matt Carmichael reaffirms the importance of demographics, but emphasizes analysis shouldn’t stop there. He explains, "Demographics drive consumer behavior, and that's as true today as ever. We just have better means, thanks to more data sources, of measuring those behavioral impacts and targeting around them. All data needs to be considered through a broader lens and put into context."

Cuts by generation alone ignore the impact of geography and make assumptions about how age influences behavior and psychographics. For example, we often find our psychographics (e.g. our attitudes and aspiration), regardless of age, are good indicators of who we are and who we want to be. In fact, these aspirations (e.g. Who do I want to be?) are strong motivators of brand consideration and loyalty. This means if two people from separate generations can identify with the same type of person, they'll likely share an affinity for the brand because of that identification, not their age.

We'll hear a great deal about who Gen Z is in the next few years until they are eclipsed by the next group. But researchers, advertisers, and marketers should take heed against categorizing Gen Z—and the ensuing generations—solely by their date of birth. Without a multi-faceted approach to understanding consumers (considering demographics, psychographics, etc.), we'll continue to yield narrow insights that may result in marketers producing ads that alienate their target audiences.

Reed Guerino is a Data Manager at CMB who is an entitled millennial on the side and is bitter he missed being the “mature and in control” generation by 1-5 years.

Topics: millennials, Consumer Pulse, research design

New Study: Busting Millennial Banking Myths

Posted by Megan McManaman

Thu, Mar 03, 2016

Why does MasterCard want to replace your password with a selfie? How did Venmo become a verb? Why did JPMorgan Chase's CEO fret about Silicon Valley's start-ups to investors last year? Part of the answer lies within the attitudes and needs of that much talked about generation. . .Millennials. As part of our self-funded Consumer Pulse research, CMB partnered with leading venture capital firm Foundation Capital to explore how and why Millennials are helping redefine the banking industry

In this new report, insights include:

  • Millennials are not a homogenous group. We conducted a segmentation of Millennials, revealing five distinct personas with varied brand preferences, attitudes, and behaviors 
  • Most Millennials still use traditional financial products and services. Just over a third of Ambitious Adopters and Financial Futurists—the most forward-looking of the segments—say they’re most open to non-traditional financial services. 
  • Millennials place considerable importance on finance apps and tools. Asked which apps and tools they could not live without, Millennials mention financial tools and apps at the same rate as apps used for texting and messaging.

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 Download the full report here!

Topics: infographic, financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, market strategy and segmentation

Millennial Women and Planning for the Future

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Wed, Jan 27, 2016

Millennials_investing.jpgMy first real job came with an important-sounding title (Project Director) and all the things grown-ups look for in a position, such as health insurance and a 401K. I was 22 and didn’t know anything about retirement plans; retirement itself seemed to be in the infinite distance. My dad told me, “It’s free money. You can’t turn it down,” so I dutifully enrolled in the company’s program. When I left that job for a bigger title and a better salary, I promptly liquidated my 401K and took the cash. Retirement still seemed really far away and besides, even with my important sounding title, the salary hadn’t been nearly as impressive. Receiving a paycheck just once a month had left me with a lot of credit card debt, and I thought paying that down might be a better use for the money I had painfully put into a 401K each month over the previous several years. 

Since that first step on the career ladder, I’ve enrolled in other retirement plans with other employers, opened a SEP when I worked for myself, and acquired other investment vehicles over the years. Even so, based on many articles I have read, I will likely never make up for not contributing and staying invested in those first early years. 

CMB recently conducted a thought-provoking, nationally representative study on Millennials and money, and I wondered what young women today are doing and if they’re smarter about retirement and investing than I was at 22.

According to our study, overall, women ages 21-30 are driven, idealistic, and interested in furthering their education—more so than their male counterparts.

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Many are confident that if they budget and plan well enough, they will be shielded from financial setback. Further, a plurality feel they will reach their long-term financial goals and the majority plan to have more than just their employer-sponsored retirement plan when it comes time to retire. Most of these young women feel confident that they are saving enough for their future! So far, so good.

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But wait—nearly twice as many young women don’t feel confident making their own investing decisions compared to men, and more than four in ten feel they would invest more if they understood it better.

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While young men and women participate in an employee sponsored retirement plan at about the same rate, women are significantly less likely to own mutual funds, individual stocks, and to have their own brokerage account.

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Certainly, there has been a great deal of reporting on women’s reluctance to discuss financing and investing. Women often indicate feeling less confident in their knowledge, even as they tend to have lower risk portfolios, which perform just as well as those of male investors.

Traditional financial services investment firms have made efforts to tailor content and offerings to younger women, and websites like GoGirlFinance have also sprung up to fill a real void. But are these new sites reaching young women in a compelling and meaningful way? 

As co-author of our Millennials and Money study and partner at Foundation Capital, Rodolfo Gonzalez notes: “The financial services industry is at a critical juncture. We are seeing a lot of companies emerge to address the financial needs and expectations of the Millennial audience. The Millennial consumer expects a mobile, on-demand, simple, and useful user experience as they are the first digital natives. In the future, we can expect to see start-ups emerge to focus specifically on women and financial services.”

Even so, are they reaching young women in a compelling and meaningful way? A very good question.  Not wanting to rely just on our statistically meaningful, nationally representative study, I conducted an office poll...

They feel unprepared to invest on their own:

 “Not confident in my knowledge about investments; seems like a risk.”

“I have thought about trying it, but I feel uneducated on what would be a good investment. I would like to try to dive into investing on my own and experimenting with a small amount of money in the next few years.”

 “I am not at all confident in investing on my own. It is very foreign to me, so (although I feel like I probably should be) I just don’t do it.”

Further, closer-in priorities tended to over-shadow investing and saving for retirement:

“I am most focused on saving for my wedding and a house down the line.”

 “College debt is a huge one, I graduated with over $80,000 in debt, so that’s a huge hindrance to reaching some of my financial goals.”

“In addition to college debt, there’s my car payments, saving to buy a house/condo, and getting married in the next few years.”

 “My college debt is a concern, but mostly I just focus on my day to day expenses (rent, activities, and food). In my mind, any savings I have are designated for travel.”

Many of the young women in the office combine traditional banks with online tools like Mint or Personal Capital to manage their finances:

 “Currently I mainly manage my finances on a pen and paper ledger #oldchool but I check my accounts daily – Bank of America, Citizens, Capital One—and I log on to all loan platforms multiple times a month. I have used Mint before.”

“I use the app Mint to keep track of my finances. I also use apps for each savings/checking account I have (Bank of America, Charles Schwab, USAA) that I monitor.”

“Mint.com is great for monitoring all my accounts at once since it all pipes in, but not for budgeting. I just use Excel to actually manage my finances.”

While these women certainly have dreams of retirement in the abstract, for many it still feels very far away:

“Retirement is so far away for me right now—I just let my contributions go into my account automatically and hope that what I’m doing now will be enough and will be worth it when retirement time comes.”

 “What I’m contributing right now feels like it should be enough, but how can I know what will happen in the next ~50 years?”

“I wish I was more involved with my retirement and could a higher percentage of my paycheck, but I know I’ll have that chance down the line, so I’m not worried right now.”

It’s clear financial service providers, both traditional banks and start-ups, have a lot of work to do to educate, motivate, and inspire young women investors. 

Want to learn more about Millennials’ financial needs and expectations as well as what that means for your industry?

Watch here!

Lori Vellucci is an Account Director at CMB.  She spends her free time purchasing ill-fated penny stocks and learning about mobile payment solutions from her Gen Z daughters.

Topics: financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, webinar

Busting Millennial Money Myths at Money 20/20

Posted by Megan McManaman

Thu, Oct 22, 2015

money2020.pngEvery day there’s a new report about Millennials—they’re in debt/they’re saving for retirement, they’re mobile/they’re going off the grid, they’re hard workers/they’re too entitled to succeed—the list goes on. Brands are desperate to learn what makes this generation tick, but the current research lacks actionable insights for the marketers trying to serve them.

To dig deeper, we partnered with venture capital firm Foundation Capital to clear through the clutter and to learn what Millennials are doing and thinking about when it comes to their money. Through our Consumer Pulse research program, we surveyed 1,055 Millennials about their tech use and financial habits, and we included three “deep-dive” sections covering attitudes and preferences towards banking, investments, and insurance.

On October 26thCMB’s Lori Vellucci will join Foundation Capital’s Charles Moldow at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas to unveil new insights into the needs, perceptions, attitudes, and actions of Millennials. They’ll take a look at the very different needs within this most talked about generation, the coming disruption, and the wave of innovation required to address their financial needs.

If you can’t make it to the conference, don’t worry! We’ll be sharing takeaways from our research in November.

For the latest Consumer Pulse reports, case studies, and conference news, subscribe to our monthly eZine.

Subscribe Here 

Topics: financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, conference recap

When Only a #Selfie Stands Between You and Those New Shoes

Posted by Stephanie Kimball

Thu, Aug 13, 2015

mobile, shopping, mobile walletThe next time you opt to skip the lines at the mall and do some online shopping from your couch, you may still have to show your face. . .sort of. MasterCard is experimenting with a new program that will require you to hold up your phone and snap a selfie to confirm a purchase.  MasterCard will be piloting the new app with 500 customers who will pay for items simply by looking at their phones and blinking once to take a selfie. The blink is another feature that ensures security by preventing someone from simply showing the app a picture of your face in an attempt to make a purchase.

As we all know, passwords are easily forgotten or even stolen. So, MasterCard is capitalizing on technology like biometrics and fingerprints to help their customers be more secure and efficient. While security remains a top barrier to mobile wallet usage, concern about security is diminishing among non-users. In addition to snapping a selfie, the MasterCard app also gives users the option to use a fingerprint scan. Worried that your fingerprints and glamour shots will be spread across the web? MasterCard doesn't actually get a picture of your face or finger. All fingerprint scans create a code that stays on your phone, and the facial scan maps out your face, converts it to 0s and 1s, and securely transmits it to MasterCard.

According to our recent Consumer Pulse Report, The Mobile Wallet – Today and Tomorrow, 2015 marks the year when mobile payments will take off. Familiarity and usage have doubled since 2013—15% have used a mobile wallet in the past 6 months and an additional 22% are likely to adopt in the coming 6 months. Familiarity and comfort with online payments has translated into high awareness and satisfaction for a number of providers, and MasterCard wants a slice of that pie. Among mobile wallet users, over a quarter would switch merchants based on mobile payment capabilities.

mobile wallet, wearables

Clearly the mobile wallet revolution is well underway, but the winning providers are far from decided, and MasterCard is taking huge leaps to see how far they can take the technology available. If MasterCard can successfully test and rollout these new features and deliver a product that their customers are comfortable using, they can capture some of the mobile wallet share from other brands like Apple Pay and PayPal.

So what’s next? Ajay Bhalla, President of Enterprise Safety and Security at MasterCard, is also experimenting with voice recognition, so you would only need to speak to approve a purchase. And don’t forget about wearables! While still in the early stages of adoption, wearables have the potential to drive mobile wallet use—particularly at the point of sale—which is why MasterCard is working with a Canadian firm, Nymi, to develop technology that will approve transactions by recognizing your heartbeat.

Since technology is constantly adapting and evolving, the options for mobile payments are limitless. We've heard the drumbeat of the mobile wallet revolution for years, but will 2015 be the turning point? All signs point to yes.

Want to learn more about our recent Consumer Pulse Report, The Mobile Wallet – Today and Tomorrow? Watch our webinar!

Watch Here!

Stephanie is CMB’s Senior Marketing Manager. She owns a selfie stick and isn’t afraid to use it. Follow her on Twitter: @SKBalls

Topics: technology research, financial services research, mobile, Consumer Pulse, retail research