Millennials Want Deals, Not Discounts

Nielsen declared 2009 the “year of the coupon comeback” with coupon redemptions soaring 27% overall and as much as 71% in discount channels. That’s 3.3 BILLION coupons. With new online and mobile methods of accessing coupons, the pace is expected to continue in 2010.

While I don’t have data to back this assertion up, I suspect coupons are not as effective among Millennials as other demographic groups. Gen Y, sometimes referred to as ‘Gen Frugal’, is just as cost conscious — if not more — than other age groups. But they have a different way of looking at value and the art of the deal.

Millennials want to know they got a deal, not just a discount. This may sound like hairsplitting but bear with me, according to our Gen Y ‘super consumer’ panel, there is a difference.

First, Gen Y is into saving money. According to Fiserv, 75% of Gen Y consumers have a savings account, 5% higher than any other generation. Their overall credit card debt has gone down, despite the fact that many are either unemployed or under-employed. Fiserv says they are ‘fiscally responsible’ as well.

“Several of the consumers interviewed by Fiserv expressed the sentiment that, “if you don’t have the money to pay for something, you shouldn’t buy it.” Gen Y consumers are selective when making big ticket purchases, and spend a lot of time researching products on the Internet. Many said they were more interested in having fun experiences with friends than having a lot of material possessions.”

But Gen Y does spend on things that matter to them. They will spend less overall, and make many sacrifices in order to afford more expensive items that many would consider “luxuries”, like the latest technology, a great pair of shoes, or even jewelry. These are seen as ‘investments’ rather than consumption as they are carefully considered for their return, not just as items of instant gratification. When a luxury buy is needed and fulfills a Yer’s purpose, it is considered a smart buy. For example, a suit that is needed for interviewing for jobs can easily be rationalized. They also spend on experiences. Millennials account for 12% of all travel spending in the U.S.

When Gen Y buys, they want to know they got a deal. A deal means exceptional quality at an exceptional price, not just a sale on everyday wares.  National Jeweler (“Ready for the Gen Y Tsunami, Jewelers?”), put it this way:

“Beware of putting items on “sale.” Gen Y consumers consider that word to be the radioactive kiss of death. They strongly prefer the word “deal” as a way to communicate bargains or price reductions. Getting a great deal sounds–to their ears, anyway–better than getting something on sale.”

In order to better understand the distinction, I asked Brand Amplitude’s Gen Y “Super Consumer” panel of marketing experts, “Is there a difference between a ‘sale and a deal’? Between a luxury and an investment?” Here’s what they said.

1. A ‘deal’ suggests exclusivity

It’s not even so much about about the “sale” vs. “deal”. Although I admit “deal” does sound better to us, its about the exclusivity of the offer and product. Ultimately depending on the situation, I would beware of both the use of “sale” and “deal”. When it comes to luxury vs. investment, I would say their close. But still not close enough. They hit it dead on when by stating we expect exceptional quality. But we also except longevity and again, exclusivity. What’s the point of paying the dollars for “luxury” when everyone else is wearing the same thing?.”- Josip Petrusa

2. A ‘deal’ is more emotionally satisfying

“I’ve always associated deal with some sort of extra value added into it. Sale to me is just a reduction in price. Don’t get me wrong, I love both 🙂 but deals are a better “experience” for the simple fact I am getting some personal satisfaction in the value I am getting. I think “deal” has much more of an emotional connection (for me at least) than a sale.” – Joshua Opinion

3. A ‘deal’ is less gimmicky

“I do think they hit it on the head with the appeal of Deals to Gen Y instead of Sales. How many of us are members of sites like GroupOn, Woot, even Rue-La-La in the closely comparable high end clothing industry where we are able to see special Deals. These one-off, limited time offers certainly attract more attention that the standard Sale at your local car dealership, jewelry stores, etc. Frankly, I just assume that Sales are a gimmick and the prices have been so vastly marked up ahead of time in order for the “Sale” to seem like a bargain. I’m not biting.” – Kyle Judah

So there you have it. A deal is special while a sale is business as usual. ‘This week only!!’ feels gimmicky because it’s simply not believable.  To these insights I would add one more, a ‘sale’ seems less impulsive, while a deal is more considered. Clipping a coupon may encourage a purchase that otherwise wouldn’t have been made at all. And that is the heart of frugality.

Josip Petrusa offers the last word, a caution against a wholesale rush on the word ‘deal’. If deal starts to replace the word ‘sale’, it too might lose its punch:

“Deal” does sound better than “sale” however in the minds of many people it implies being cheaper. I would say that if “deal” started to replace “sale” in use both would ultimately receive the same meaning. In my opinion “deal” should be used less often to keeps its value and attraction.” — Josip Petrusa

Contact me to learn more about Brand Amplitude’s Gen Y Marketers “Super Consumer” Panel. Why talk to a general sample when you can talk to the experts?