After polling nearly 5,000 respondents, the telecommunications giant revealed some compelling reasons to cater to younger consumers. Nearly half of the millennials (16 - to 34-year-olds) surveyed by AT&T said they were willing to part with more of their hard-earned cash to support small business, that compares to 38 percent of Gen Xers (35- to 49-year-olds) and 42 percent of Baby Boomers.
In total, 76 percent of respondents across all age groups said they support small businesses. The numbers don't lie, small businesses support is on the upswing, said LaKendra D. Davis, assistant vice president of Small Business Solutions at AT&T.
Millennial Purchasing Power
"The survey results underscore a renewed interest in small business support, particularly among millennials. Our research shows that approximately half of millennials, ages 16 to 34, are willing to pay more to support a small business," Davis told Small Business Computing. "Millennials have tremendous purchasing power and small businesses have the opportunity to tap into these younger generations."
Although most millennials haven't worked at a small business (59 percent), they are willing to drop more cash into the tills of small businesses, according to AT&T's data.
And the way to a millennial's heart is through their tech.
"Small businesses have something to gain by embracing technology as it plays a critical role in reaching millennials – from in-store Wi-Fi and digital advertising to social media marketing and mobile payment options," Davis added.
Twenty-three percent of all respondents said they want small businesses to offer Wi-Fi connectivity. Ten percent said they want the ability to make mobile payments.
To rake in those millennial dollars, it requires more than just showing up with the services and capabilities they expect. Small businesses must also make an effort to connect with millennials, particularly on social media, advocates Davis.
Embrace Social Media
"Given the likelihood of millennials to shop small, and the level of millennial engagement on social media – small business can deliver a differentiated customer experience and grow revenue with an effective social media strategy," Davis said. "It's more than just having a 'presence' on social media, you must engage with your followers to build emotional connections, demonstrate that you listen and convert them to advocates."
Don't just fire off a tweetstorm, however. Some planning and careful consideration pays off when establishing yourself in the social media scene.
"You should also be deliberate in where you show up in the social stratosphere – social media is more than Facebook," Davis advised. "Are you sharing on Instagram and Twitter? Are you using geo-filters on Snapchat? If your business targets professionals are you on LinkedIn?"
Small Businesses Are Part of Life
The small business community is a big part of the average consumer's life. Ninety percent of respondents said they shop at a small business once a month. Nearly half of them shop at a small business each week.
Those small businesses typically include restaurants (58 percent) and retail stores (40 percent). Coffee shops, hair salons and healthcare providers were also popular (35 percent apiece).
AT&T also found that many consumers just want to contribute to their local economies. Nearly half of those surveyed (48 percent) said they wanted to support local employment and wanted to keep their money local (47 percent).
Among millennials, supporting local employment was a big priority. Millennials also like the convenience of being able to pop into a nearby small business.