Generation Y: A crowdsourcing generation obsessed with Gathering Opinions, Curated Choice, and Flexible Loyalties

There is something disingenuous about the Baby Boomer generation calling the folks in Gen Y the "Me" generation.

For the Boomers, which gave us "conspicuous consumption," and who spent their parent's inheritance without thinking of saving for their own retirement, the idea that Generation Y is narcissistic is a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

I call Generation Y the "Crowdsourced Generation."

While the term "crowdsourcing" has gone the way of MySpace in the popularity scale, the behavior is embedded in our society.

Generation Y crowdsources (or "gathers") opinions from their social network, and curates choices presented to them, based on their own evaluation process.

While they are independent in their final decisions about what they do with their lives (thus the "Me" moniker), they're a generation most interested in what others have to say. They don't follow orders, but they do listen to other's advice.

Generation Y, the 80+ million people now aged 16 to 34, are the largest (and fastest growing) of the Generations as defined by marketers. They have buying and brand preferences that in many cases diverge sharply from their parents. As there parents aspired to be like brands (and were defined by them), Generation Y looks for brands that are like them.

Now, back to that crowdsourcing comment...

Gen Y'ers turn to friends and family to make virtually every decision. They look to trusted resources for advice and counsel on just about any decision, including which restaurant to eat at, and even what to eat there.

A recent study (by Barkley in partnership with Boston Consulting Group and Service Management Group) suggests that sixty-eight percent won't make a major decision without running it by their network first.

In fact, Gen Y'ers would rather go shopping with others, rather than by themselves. So, while the Baby Boomer pundits poo-pooed the concept of social shopping/social commerce and Facebook's "Like" button on retail sites, Gen Y went shopping with their social network, and is spending with those who hopped on the bandwagon. 

They're also, interested in another uniquely Generation Y behavior--experimental shopping.

Experimental shopping is something loyalty-based brands hate, and brands looking to acquire new customers love. It is the concept of trying new products and services (and potentially) replacing brands they're been previously loyal to.

This behavior has led Boomers to label Y'ers as having "flexible loyalties." Gone are the days of "locking-in" consumers into loyalty programs and long-term contracts. Gen Y wants choice--and flexibility.

And those of Generation Y don't just like to gather opinions, they love to give them--spreading their social graph far and wide. This is a generation far more likely to give (what Boomers would call) private information into public forums, in exchange for clout, and other incentives.

Some argue that these behaviors are life-stage based and that once the 16-34 year old crowd ages they'll adjust to more brand-based loyalty and will realize the privacy issues around being open on the web, I say we all need to watch, learn and adjust to the behaviors of this "Not-so-just-all-about-Me" generation.

Image source: @RockyMcG

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