The Value of Shared Values

How millennials are driving a market for niche online retailers

The word “millennial” is thrown about by marketers left and right. Recognized for their tenacity, desire to stand out and willingness to support socially responsible brands, millennials make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population (equal to roughly 80 million adults). Given the size of this market, it seems as if a majority of brands are bending over backwards trying to appeal to it. But just because brands have identified this segment as a major opportunity, it doesn’t mean they understand how to best accommodate their wants and needs. One of the key spending traits of millennials is their willingness to pay more for a product if it aligns to their values (Mintel), and we’re seeing this come into play with the rise of a new wave of brands we call “enhanced necessities”.

Enhanced necessities are household and wellness staples that go a little beyond the basics, promising a mix of function, peace of mind (sustainability), quality and style—all at attainable price points. We’ve noticed this trend as more and more young people are furnishing their homes and bathroom cabinets through a mix-and-match of niche online retailers. Example brands include sofas from Burrow, bath towels from Weezie, bedding from Brooklinen or Buffy, dishware from Year & Day, a suitcase from Away, cosmetics from Glossier or a toothbrush from Boie. All of these emergent players raise a question: When you could purchase all the above from your local Target or, what’s the appeal in making several separate transactions across e-retailers?

1. They offer just the right assortment of products.

Today, the sheer abundance of variations of any one item can be overwhelming. Enhanced necessity brands limit the complexity of choice. With just one style of towel or plate, but the freedom to pick between a handful of colors or add embroidery, goods feel exclusive and high-end, but unpretentious. Even though you only have one or a few options to choose from, each item has been intentionally designed to be the best it can be.

2. They make it easy to be a responsible consumer.

Enhanced necessity brands are transparent with consumers about where their products are made and how their materials are sourced. Millennials are especially focused on choosing environmentally friendly options. According to Nielsen, 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable offerings. By being upfront with consumers and assuring them you’re providing sustainably sourced, well-made products, these brands are making it easier for consumers to simply pick the color they like and checkout guilt-free.

3. The value of the product and the overall experience makes it worth spending a little more.

While enhanced necessities are surely not priced as low as generic everyday goods, millennials are willing to invest more in these products because of the added quality and convenience. Product information is made readily available, and these brands make it fun to shop online with their highly visual, easy-to-navigate websites. Furthermore, another key selling point these brands leverage is being direct-to-consumer, which results in cost savings for the buyer and signifies the company has their customers’ best interests in mind.   

As millennials are more considerate of their impact on the world, brands that fail to accommodate their consumers’ values won’t succeed. Paving the way for the future of e-retail are enhanced necessity brands—brands that have recognized the value of shared values and carefully curated their product selections to match what millennials desire. Ultimately, their consumers can make a purchase and feel good about it, knowing they’re getting a high-end product without sacrificing their values or their wallet.

Hannah Fox, Assistant Account Executive, contributed to this article.