Expecting the unexpected

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The Millennial generation is defined as people born between 1980 and 2000 (aged between 18-34 years in 2015). This large cohort of young adults will be the next biggest consumer group and is projected to surpass the number of Baby Boomers in 2015 (to 7.3 million in the USA alone), so understanding how their behaviors differ from previous generations will be key for the future of travel.

In a recent report, more Millennials (37%) than any generation before them identified with the term ‘I consider myself more a world citizen than a citizen of the country I live in’, and it is this very attitude towards belonging that gives them nomadic characteristics. Factor this in with the ever-increasing freelance job market and we have a traveler for whom travel is not just leisure but also work, play and discovery all rolled into one. There is a sense of productivity about the Millennial traveler – that their travel experience is an opportunity to further their educational or work agenda, traveling to learn a new language or volunteering their skills in a foreign country.

In short, the Millennial traveler is proactive, productive and purposeful. To tap into the core needs of the Millennial traveler, brands and retailers must provide a fusion of flexible and efficient services and combine them with serendipitous moments that allow them to learn, play and experience.

An example of creating serendipity can be seen in a pop-up restaurant at Copenhagen Airport that was created to encourage solo travelers to sit and dine with another person by pairing together two strangers. In San Francisco International Airport there is the Converge lounge – a place where working Millennials can use the space to work, meet and host talks and workshops between flights, facilitating the flexible interplay between learning, working and play.

Utilizing previously underused spaces is also another indispensable way of grabbing Millenials’ attention. In retail, the opening of designer brand Kate Spade’s new store in New Jersey, USA, adopted a creative approach that combined advertising, visual merchandising, shopping and interactivity. Barricades were used as more than just a projection for the opening of the new store with the integration of iPads into them for shopping and style quizzes, while the square cut windows took a playful twist on the term ‘window shopping’. In hospitality, the Ace Hotel in London has gained traction for its open lobby which is always bustling with people eating, drinking, working and hosting meetings, and is used not only by the guests of the hotel but the general public too.

Airbnb is another example of a company that matches hyper-convenience with serendipity and in turn has created a category in its own right, along with other flexible services like Uber. They are successful because they offer an existing service through new and easy logistical systems that help them thrive in an on-demand economy. The success of its convenience lies in its booking platform because it is important to employ the formats that Millennials are familiar with (such as digital and mobile) in order to provide ultimate flexibility.

However, the most interesting part is that Millennials are using these services in conjunction with one another and creating an ecosystem of complimentary elements that build their time away from home. MakeSpace is another example of creating a service around a familiar format: a storage service that has a particularly unique logistical system. Describing itself as ‘your closet in the cloud’, MakeSpace takes the idea of the digital cloud into a physical sphere.

Users of MakeSpace have an online account that can be accessed at any time which includes a visual catalogue of their physical items and enables them to schedule drop-offs and pick ups to desired locations.

Many international customers use this service to store and drop off their belongings to Airbnb points – especially poignant when you factor in that the top annoying aspect of low cost airlines for Millennials are hand luggage restrictions – meaning that they can, and would, afford to splurge a little for services like MakeSpace that ease the carrying load.

Both services provide an unparalleled flexibility through their booking platforms and logistical systems that appeals to the nomadic tendencies of the Millennial, and most importantly – within a format that they understand.

The Millennial traveler is the 21st century nomad – reach out to them by providing authentic cultural experiences, by making learning feel like play, and most importantly, by being proactive by making all processes feel as seamless and as convenient as possible.

May 21, 2015

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