Generation Y: It’s not all digital

Picture of young people shopping in London
By Generation Y’er, Alex Burden, Student Blog

29 July 2016

They’re here, they’re qualifying, and they’re the future: Alex Burden reports on the myths surrounding Millennials, and what traditions will be revived by this generation of CAs.

We live online

It’s all just digital with these millennials! Well, no it isn’t actually. We spend a lot of our time online and so more and more people are reaching out to more ‘traditional’ methods of communication. Like greeting cards, for example: a report by the Boston Globe revealed that there have been dramatic increases in sales of greeting cards, day-planners, and young people taking up calligraphy classes to complete the perfect place card for social events. In fact, ‘digital’ millennials now buy more cards than baby boomers.

“I think that especially in the digital age, paper now has more value than it ever has,” stated Sarah Turk, stationery analyst for IBISWorld. The Globe’s interview with Carlos Llanso, president of the Greeting Card Association, picked up on the fact that repeatedly wishing people ‘Happy Birthday’ on Facebook has added an impersonal factor to daily lives.

And if Generation Y are the ‘hipsters’ of the century, then you can be sure they won’t be grabbing a card from Tesco for special events – a homemade effort, boutique selections, online designers – anywhere but the standard retail venues.

I think that especially in the digital age, paper now has more value than it ever has.  Sarah Turk, stationery analyst for IBISWorld

Naomi Baron, linguistics professor at American University, researched students in Japan, Germany, Slovakia and the US and their uptake on paper books versus e-books or other digital methods of reading. It turned out that 92 per cent of those surveyed preferred paper books for any serious reading, and digital for light stories such as news articles.

This is a generation who are used to receiving everything in digital format, and Royal Mail’s research into mail-opening behaviours found that millennials are more likely to open envelopes than the +55 group. Even the act of receiving something through a mailbox rather than as a digital alert is attractive, and consumers could decipher something about the sender from the paper used and quality of printing.

TouchPoints also found that physical presence, such as having a paper voucher, would make it more memorable for Gen Y – an emailed voucher was likely to be forgotten, and we are likely to trust printed information more than internet information.

Don't purchase from physical retail outlets

The British Land report revealed that millennials are more at home with physical shops than online shopping; 80 per cent of sales to 25-34 year olds are made in physical shops. Their decision may have been made through hours of online research, but the act of purchase is often made in person. It’s one of the reasons that Amazon decided to open their first physical bookshop.

Terrible with money

Research by Tetrapak in 2015 revealed that millennials are spending close to $600 billion annually, and willing to spend more on convenient products. However, it turns out we are also savvy shoppers and realise the value of products. 

This research was backed up in a Forbes article with global investment management firm, T. Rowe Price, who also found that Gen Y were better at budgeting, contributing to a pension, and saving; 75 per cent of Gen Y respondents tracked their expenses compared to 64 per cent of baby boomers.

Anne Coveney, senior manager at T. Rowe Price said: “[Millennials] are exhibiting financial discipline in managing their spending and defying stereotypes that this generation is prone to spend-thrift, short-sighted thinking.”

Where does this financial savviness arise from? It’s easy to see the impact of external financial issues – like Generation X before us, we’re one of the first generations to have received redundancies in their 20s (especially in the aftermath of the 2008 recession), and frequent career changes are as much guaranteed as expected. A lot of us graduated into high unemployment rates and frozen wages.

The Telegraph reported that 55 per cent of Generation Y can expect to be made redundant at some point in their working life, and this is already ringing true for British Home Stores staff. We retire later, are likely to live for longer, have smaller pension pots and lower full-time salaries than our parents or grandparents.

The good news is that this financial shrewdness lends itself well to the next generation of CAs, who have been exercising their own risk-management strategies in their personal lives - never mind auditing, reporting and sorting for a range of sectors and industries as a student CA!

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