“Innovation” and “Millennials” are indisputably two of today’s hottest business buzzwords; it seems like just about every company out there is seeking to produce the former and attract the later, but what do Millennials really consider to be innovations that matter in their lives?
Using a visual research platform called GlimpzIt, we asked Millennials (age 19-35) to show us a picture that represents an innovative product or service they’ve purchased recently that made their life better in some way. Our respondents, who were primarily women (90%) with an average age of 29, uploaded images (called “glimpzes”) to visually demonstrate what was important to them about the innovative product or service they chose. They included a short text caption to explain their choice. These images were evaluated by a panel of peers to see which ones resonated with them, resulting in a total of 200 respondents and peer evaluators.
Overall, these Millennials’ responses indicate that innovation for them has much more to do with how it fits in their lives and enables them to meet their goals and aspiration than any actual features or technological advances. Many of the products chosen wouldn’t even be characterized by most marketers as “innovative”, including such everyday items as an alarm clock, a stand mixer, an electric kettle, a baby blanket, and removable storage hooks.
Five key themes emerged from this research: Family, Time, Relax, Easy and Multi-Purpose. The first three things are “life” benefits, the last is product-focused and Easy straddles both. Selected pictures and comments shown below are from those actually submitted by the research respondents.
Lots of the products and services selected improved these people’s lives by offering benefits to their family—more space, ability to cook food everyone loves, comfort/entertain a child, and even the ability to grow one’s family (a fertility treatment!).
Several people talked about the primary benefit of the selected product/service as enabling quality time spent together as a family. One respondent, talking about the meal-delivery service Blue Apron, summarized it beautifully as, “it's not just meals at your door, but it's an experience you can share with your loved ones.”
Time in this context is primarily about saving time. For some people, this means having more time for things they enjoy. The picture and caption above speak to valuable moments re-captured for a busy mom by her electric kettle so she can indulge in a good book before her kids wake up. Another woman thought her new alarm clock was innovative, because with it, she can actually wake up in time to eat breakfast!
On the flip side, several people talked about products that help get the most out of the time they have. One woman praised the multi-tasking ability of her smartphone (“I feel like my iPhone has helped me do so many things at once!”) while another was excited about the additional RAM she recently added to her computer to make it run faster.
With Millennials’ busy lives, finding ways to relax, re-charge, and de-stress are highly important. But the products and services these respondents said helped them feel relaxed and peaceful aren’t all necessarily what you might expect. This photo represents peace and rejuvenation derived from a blender! Another woman talked about how her new phone’s camera took beautiful pictures which helped her feel less stress and more peace.
The take-away here is that products that are a delight to use and make it simple to get the results you want are giving Millennials a sense of relaxation, calm and peace. Winding down after a busy day and getting some much-needed rest is also key. One person shared a picture of her new LED bedroom night light, saying, “…it makes the night so relaxing and calm. I sleep much better now.”
Millennials in this research view products that are easy to use and make life easier as meaningful innovations. In some cases, this may be linked with the earlier time-saving or relaxation themes, as one woman describes about the beautiful pictures her new smartphone takes, “It makes my life easier and less stressful so I feel more at peace.”
Just having an easy-to-use product with a simple, effective design can be a delight in and of itself. One woman shared her Apple TV as an innovation example because of its simple interface, while others love apps that make things easy without professional expertise (e.g. money management, photo editing).
Millennials value products that have multiple functions, uses, or even can be used in multiple locations as making their life better. Several in this research specifically chose smart/connected products that do multiple jobs as their favorite recent innovations.
One woman talked about how she loves that her smartphone “has helped me do so many things at once.” While another showed a picture of her smart TV that also lets her access games and classic movies to share with her kids.
In summary, when seeking to innovate for Millennials, prioritize products and services that help them connect with family, save time, help them feel relaxed and calm, are easy to use and make their lives easier, and serve multiple functions. Consider also how existing products, services, and advertising can be tweaked or adapted to communicate these important benefits.
Sarah Faulkner, Principal, Faulkner Strategic Consulting