Millennials are known for different things- social media experts, driven to make a change, tech-savvy, or constantly chasing experiences. While some millennials are headed back to school, others are traveling the world, volunteering, getting a full-time job or starting their own company.
But what many of us have in common is what we’re looking for, or rather, what we’re looking to accomplish in life. We want to live, experience life, and learn. We want to feel fulfilled, excited, and have an opportunity to get to know ourselves and the world around us on a deeper level. Studies show we are continuing to spend less money on buying things, and more on doing things.
But what has caused the shift from acquiring goods to acquiring experiences? Here are 3 main drivers behind why millennials are valuing experiences rather than goods.
1. We don’t want to be sold to
It’s true, millennials are skeptics, and for good reason. Everywhere we look, we’re being sold with messaging that screams at us, telling us to buy something, try out a free trial, or telling us why one product’s features are better than the next. And quite honestly, it can be exhausting.
With so many companies fighting for the attention of the millennial consumer, we turn to solutions to help tune out the noise. We love blocking and skipping ads, and we even mentally tune them out when the dreaded unskippable ad appears. Our brains aren’t accepting of the majority of ads unless it does one thing: appeals to our emotions and our values.
Millennials just aren’t passive buyers. Instead of listening to what we’re told by major corporations, we question traditional forms of advertisement. With so much information at our disposal, we don’t need to rely on what companies say – we want to do our own research and come to our own conclusions.
Because of this skepticism, there has been a shift in the way we spend our money, and more than that, what we choose to do with our lives. We are more interested in exploring and discovering on our own terms. If you tell us to buy something, we’ll run the other way. Instead, we want to spend our money on the journey of discovering, learning, and experiencing.
2. We want to invest in ourselves
We are searching for better areas to spend our hard-earned money and it’s by investing in ourselves. We want to spend it in on something that makes us feel better than the temporary pride of buying a car. Why? Because it’s easier to get ahold of luxury items now that it ever has been and we understand the fulfillment isn’t the same as an experience. Simply put, we are searching for opportunities to make us feel more than the short spurt of accomplishment.
In fact, 69% of millennials said they believe attending live experiences helps them connect better with their friends, their community and people around the world. What’s more is that 8 in 10 millennials said experiences help shape their identity and create lifelong experiences.
3. We want control over our spending
Owning a car, house, or anything else is simply not on the radar for many millennials – at least not like it used to be. Instead, millennials are turning to services like Uber, AirBnb, Spotify, and many more. Take a moment to think, how many of these services do you use in a month? Or even a day?
Ownership is simply not as relevant today as it once was. We don’t want to be sold to, but instead, we want to explore products, services, and experiences on our own. If we have a need, we want to call the shots. We want to determine what we want and when we want it. We want convenience, accessibility, and choice.
Millennials are skeptics
We live in a world where we’re exposed to more information than ever before. With the ability to look up anything with a mobile phone, we don’t have to take anything at face value. Living in a world of information overload has led us to be selective of how we spend our money, and as a result, we are turning to purchases that add significant value to our lives, instead of a status boost. The more we’re sold, the more we seek experiences that we can curate for ourselves.
We want lasting benefits
How people feel before they make these purchases, for example, booking a flight for vacation or even going to the movies, is very different from how they feel when shopping for a new car.
A study conducted by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University came to the conclusion,
“Don’t spend your money on things. The trouble with things is that the happiness they provide fades quickly.”
Gilovich and his colleagues asked subjects to think about either an experiential or material purchase they were planning on making very soon, evaluate whether their anticipation made them feel excited or impatient, and rate the overall pleasantness of the anticipation.
The study indicated that anticipation of an experience is more exciting and pleasant than the anticipation of a material purchase, regardless of the price of the purchase.
In fact, people in line for an experience, such as a play or admission to a theme park, generally are in better moods and on better behavior than those in line to buy material goods. Gilovich asserts, “our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods, you can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless, they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
Rather than buying the latest iPhone or a new car, Gilovich suggests you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences such as going to art museums, hiking, learning a new skill, or traveling.
In fact, studies have shown that people are happier when their money is spent on living, rather than on owning. Mintel’s report projects that over the next five years, total spending will grow by nearly 22%, with the “non‐essential” categories, including vacations and dining out, expected to see the greatest gains.
Spending money on a plane ticket for a vacation is significantly more satisfying in the long run than purchasing a new TV for the exact same price. Although material items last longer, they lose novelty as we adapt. Experiencing new things, traveling, and making lasting memories is a lot more powerful than the short spurt of excitement we get when purchasing a material item. Experiences broaden our horizons, fuel our growth and development, bring us closer to others, and understand what’s happening in the world.
At the end of the day, connecting, learning, growing, and experiencing are elements of a happy, fulfilling life, and the items we purchase are simply extras.