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The biggest spending market is now Millennials

As the world progresses towards becoming more digitally sophisticated, marketers are grappling with how to better engage with Afrilennials (African Millennials), one of the biggest and more tech-savvy African consumers, says Madelain Roscher, managing director at PR Worx.


While the exact qualifying period that constitutes who is a Millennial and who's not is up for debate — the characteristics and spending power this generation has are not.  Researchers and popular media use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years — with 1981 to 1996 a widely accepted defining range for the generation. In the Unites States alone, Millennials spend $600-billion USD (R9.1-trillion) a year. But traditional selling won't cut it with this technologically-shrewd breed of buyers. The first mistake marketers make when targeting Millennials is to clump Afrilennials together with their western counterparts. Afrilennials and global Millennials have unifying traits in terms of their general behaviour. But where Afrilennials mostly differ is in their family responsibilities. Afrilennials often have more dependents at home, who look to them for financial assistance. "Ubuntu tax dictates their spending and saving frequency, what they can and can't buy, and whether or not they are willing to commit to long term debt or not. Afrilennials are also Pan African, being intent on shaping Africa to be how they imagine it," says Wandile Cindi, account director at PR Worx. Afrilennials who have a level of affordability consider it worthwhile to make longer-term purchases such as cars and houses. This is unlike their global counterparts, who don't want to invest in expensive and long-term projects and prefer to rent and move around using ride-hailing services. Due to historical setbacks, older Afrilennials are often playing asset 'catch-up' to their global peers. Some of the elements that inform how both Afrilennials and global Millennials make buying decisions for their organisations include:

  • exterior historical dynamics

  • advancements in mobile technology

  • increased information

  • more market transparency, and

  • data analytics. 

According to LinkedIn, of the 87 million Millennials on its platform, 11 million are in decision-making positions. Not only are Millennials making an impact on their organisations, but they are also redefining their value systems to include social, economic and environmental responsibility. Marketers should be in the spaces where Millennials are the most: online. Companies should be listening to what they are discussing and, rather than try and 'hard-sell' to Millennials, brands must find ways of collaborating with them. They must aim to create something that is unique and offers value to the individuals they are engaging with. Rather than trying to correct the behaviour of Millennials and Afrilennials, brands, organisations and their leaders must aim to connect with them. According to ResearchGate, Millennials are the firstgeneration that doesn't need an authority figure to gain access to information. This is resulting in a unique and advanced group of workers and buyers. But Millennials do rely on their peers' evaluation of a company or product. It is this peer review that has seen an increase in brand-influencer partnerships. Millennials are the first global generation connected by the Internet and social media; they know how to source deals that are specific for their needs. Brands, therefore, must be agile in their communication methods. Cindi advises brands to utilise surveys to better understand the Millennial market. She says that, rather than calling or sending emails, buyers must leverage mobile-friendly surveys and ask these three questions:

  • How these individuals search for products/services?

  • How do they prefer to communicate?

  • What associations or social networks do they belong to?

Having grown up in the perpetually changing world of technology, Millennials embrace fluidity, which extends to their identities, brands, traditional family values and other lifestyle choices. This is supported by ResearchGate's finding that 75% of Millennials are still single, with demographers and scholars noting that perhaps other goals and priorities have out-shined the focus of older generations on the family and home. Sellers looking to engage with the Millennial and Afrilennial market must learn to communicate less in traditional selling methods and tune in more towards the buyers' communication preferences. A new generation of buyers requires a new approach to selling. For Millennials, brands must be:

  • accessible and responsive at any time

  • able to provide knowledge and insight that their market can't research on their own

  • willing to collaborate with Millennials to show how and why their product or service can solve the generation's problems, and

  • able to provide authentic experiences and engaging content if they wish to tap into the biggest buying segment.


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