Millennials Prefer Experiences, and Brands Are Listening

72 percent of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences like concerts, social and athletic events, and vacations rather than material things.

The eldest of them is only 36, yet much has already been written about millennials, currently the largest demographic in the United States at over 75 million strong. Considering they account for $1.3 trillion in annual consumer spending, their status as a “favorite discussion topic” should come as no surprise. Like nearly every other generation before them, millennials have become known for disruption and bucking tradition. The paradigm shift that this younger generation is spurring plays out in nearly every facet of our lives — from the workplace to transportation to shopping.

recent study by Harris Group found that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences like concerts, social and athletic events, and vacations rather than material things. While millennials appear to be driving this transition, they aren’t going it alone. Since 1987, generations across the board have increased spending on experiences relative to total consumer spending by 70 percent.

This shift towards experiences is forcing brands to reevaluate strategies employed to win consumer business. The same Harris Group report cited consumers’ desire to create, share and capture memories as one of the primary drivers of this transition. Here at Blackhawk Network, we help brands like Studio Movie Grill, the leader of in-theater dining exhibitions, and, a leading online accommodations provider, provide these much-desired experiences with the help of digital gift cards in a variety of ways.

Studio Movie Grill kicked off its online gift card program in April 2015 and has since reported a 300 percent growth in sales, proving that consumers not only want to partake in experiences, but gift them as well. With the addition of eGift cards Studio Movie Grill was able to integrate gift cards into nearly every facet of its business.

With travel becoming a priority experience for millennials, started offering digital gift cards in an industry that has relatively few gift card options. In doing so, enabled its customers to give the gift of travel without tying the receiver down to any particular property or chain.

Have you experienced creative drinking yet? If not you, it’s likely someone you know has experienced a Paint Nite social painting event in which people create individual art pieces at local bars. Creating a dynamic gift card program was a priority for Paint Nite, which sought to market its in-person experiences in a digital way.

Not only are brands like Paint Nite meeting consumer demands by offering plastic and digital gift cards online, they’re also helping to fuel their B2B sales, as more companies are looking to reward employees with highly-desired experiences as recognition versus material goods like paper weights and plaques.

For brands that don’t sell experiences per se, personalization is the key to building an experience around a gift card. While gift cards were once perceived as impersonal, now brands are using the Blackhawk Network platform to provide their customers with several personalization options including personal messages, photos and videos, as well as various faceplate designs to create an elevated experience, making it memorable and engaging for both the giver and recipient.

By elevating the gifting experience itself, brands like Paint Nite, and Studio Movie Grill are not only connecting with their most digitally savvy and engaged clients, they are strengthening relationships through thoughtful, continued engagement. Whether or not your brand offers an experienced-based product, creating an experience through the shopping and gift giving process in and of itself is crucial to continued brand affinity. We will be exploring this topic further in an upcoming post, so be sure to check back to learn more!