As young consumers seek cosmetic procedures earlier in life, one of the pressing issues for medical aesthetic practices is finding the best strategy for targeting, acquiring and retaining patients in this demographic. While Baby Boomers and Gen-X groups continue to drive most of the aesthetic procedure volume, the largely untapped Millennial generation of 20- to 35-years-olds represent the most important long-range future growth opportunities for our entire industry.
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, make up the demographic cohort following Generation X. While the exact date range of the Millennial generation fluctuates slightly, the largely recognized characterization are those born in the early 1980s to late 1990s.
Ethnically diverse, tolerant of cultural and personal differences, and confident in most things, Millennials are now the largest consumer generational group in the U.S. They have about $200 billion in annual direct purchasing power and account for $500 billion more in indirect spending through parents or guardians. The U.S. Census Bureau also estimates that by 2030 Millennials will account for 75% of the American workforce.
People in this emerging demographic group often view aesthetic treatments as a way to enhance their lifestyle and appearance, rather than waiting until later in life to address them. According to Suneel Chilukuri, M.D., a cosmetic and dermatologic surgeon in Houston, Texas, this is one thing Millennials do that other generations did not. “They are not afraid to try aesthetic and cosmetic treatments. Compared with Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, Millennials want to enhance their futures and are willing to change what they perceive as flaws.”
Prevention is on the Millennial patient’s mind, noted Sheila Nazarian, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Either they are following a social media influencer or celebrity who is doing aesthetic procedures, or they don’t want to age like their parents.”
The Millennial’s approach is proactive versus reactive, stated Tim Sawyer, president of Crystal Clear Digital Marketing (Orlando, Fla.). “They want to get ahead of the curve on anti-aging. They’re careful with how they spend their money, but once they become familiar with a product or service and feel it is organic in nature, and that it is proven – and by that I mean celebrity-endorsed – they will spend their money. They are also very comfortable talking about their procedures.”
By comparison, previous generations were more likely to keep their aesthetic work private, noted Mara Shorr, partner and vice president of marketing and business development at Shorr Solutions (Coral Springs, Fla.). “Key influencers on social media and celebrities talk about which treatments they’re having done. Sometimes they broadcast their procedures on Instagram or Facebook. This sets off a trickledown effect to the rest of the population where now we see cosmetic surgery is no longer taboo.”
In addition, by effectively utilizing various media outlets, including the Internet, the medical aesthetic industry as a whole has done a much better job of educating consumers about procedures, emphasizing preventive therapies more than ever. “We know a whole lot more than we did when Baby Boomers were the age that Millennials are now,” stated Ms. Shorr. “When my parents and grandparents were young there wasn’t even an SPF number on sunscreen.”
Although Millennials do have distinctly different needs from earlier age groups, some similarities exist, expressed Dr. Nazarian. “They are alike in that they are willing to invest in their appearance and do quite a lot of research on the Internet to find their physician. However, Millennials are actually very excited to have preventative and optimization work done, as opposed to Gen-Xers that are more concerned with not looking fake and often express that opinion.”
Overall, Millennials are attuned to taking better care of themselves because, as Mr. Sawyer put it, “They are much more of a ‘me’ generation. And they spend so much time on their social platforms it is no surprise they are being swayed by that influence.”
Aesthetic practices are making adjustments to accommodate this wave of Millennials, said Deepak Dugar, M.D., a facial plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, Calif. “The over-40 crowd was my major demographic until the Millennials came along,” he shared. “More recently, I’ve been seeing an uptick in the number of patients in their 20s. They’re willing to do neurotoxins, PRP and energy-based, non-surgical devices like radiofrequency and lasers, in a preventive approach to aging.”
Research shows that the average age of a new BOTOX user is now about 25 years old. “Think about that for a second,” Mr. Sawyer noted. “These are 20-somethings who have done their research and view neurotoxins, chemical peels, fillers and a strong skincare regimen all as a normal part of an overall health and wellness regimen.”
Within the Millennial demographic, the largest group of patients is female, but males are certainly open to treatments, Dr. Dugar added. “The average Millennial female is starting earlier in their 20s; while most of the males are in their late 20s and early 30s when they seek anti-aging approaches.
Typically, 80% of a practice’s revenue comes from women and the rest from men, however, recent trends show this is changing. According to Ms. Shorr, “In the past, if you were a man you were ‘not supposed to care what you look like as you grow older.’ That is simply not the case anymore.”
Ultimately, though, male and female Millennial patients, like their forbearers, basically ask for the same types of aesthetic procedures, stated Jason Emer, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board certified dermatologic surgeon in Beverly Hills, Calif. “They want fillers, neurotoxins, methods for wrinkle prevention, facials, and to address their skincare,” he stated. “They don’t want to look tired or like they have sun damage. They want a chiseled and youthful appearance. These patients are also looking for a whole body approach, and that includes a big increase in body shaping, as well as female rejuvenation. Women want to treat their vagina like they’re treating the skin of their face, and men are doing PRP and stem cells to address penile problems.”
In addition, non-invasive, energy-based approaches seem perfectly timed for this group of patients that don’t really need any major work, but just want spot treatments here and there. Other emerging popular procedures include lip enhancement.
“Very often, these patients will come in for skincare, maybe a retinol and proper sunscreen,” Dr. Chilukuri advised. “Let’s say they are in their 20s and they are starting to show a little aging around the eyes. We can use energy-based technologies to keep the collagen stimulated and achieve very natural looking outcomes. Non-surgical approaches appeal to them because there is minimal to no downtime associated with these treatments, the safety is so much greater and you see immediate results.”
The key is understanding the different facets of the Millennial patient base, stated Ms. Shorr. “You have younger and older Millennials and you have to speak to 20- or 21-year-olds differently than you would a 30- or 35-year-old. A 20-year-old and a 35-year-old are going to read different publications, view different websites, and other media; however, both will find frank discussions of surgical and non-surgical procedures. It’s very mainstream and a topic of daily conversation. I think it is all about understanding who and where they are in life, and fishing where the fish are biting.”
Targeting, attracting and maintaining Millennial patients comes down to knowing how to communicate correctly. If practices can successfully navigate the social media universe then they have an opportunity to attract prospective Millennial patients. “From a marketing standpoint, practitioners that want to capture this diverse demographic have to be willing to put themselves out there a little bit,” Mr. Sawyer expressed. “What really moves the needle in social media – for the Millennials especially – is showing patients and staff having fun in the office, so that they can identify with the clinic as full of friendly, professional human beings and not just a dry, sterile provider-patient type atmosphere.”
No matter how they manage to arrive in your clinic, keeping these patients involves a few simple points. As Dr. Chilukuri pointed out, over time, the practitioner’s goal is to develop long lasting relationships with their Millennial patients. “We’re catching them earlier in life and can do tweaks along the way. Many Millennials are looking to enhance their appearance through cosmetic approaches, skincare, diet, exercise, etc., and we have the opportunity to keep them as clients throughout the entirety of their lives.”
The nuts and bolts issue then, for practitioners, is how to convert these fickle patients to lifelong customers. “While most practitioners work with older patients, I’m dealing with Millennial patients day in and day out,” Dr. Dugar shared. “It is a huge market on which to capitalize, but the trick is learning how to keep them coming back in. You have to determine this according to your specialty.”
Some Millennials have gone as far as calculating a lifestyle that assumes regular aesthetic treatments, noted Dr. Emer. “I have patients that have planned it out. They know that every three to four months they will get a treatment of some kind, plus a filler and a facial twice a year, and they put money aside.”
Another major driver of this upsurge of Millennial patients is the development of new technologies in the past decade that have made procedures much safer. “As more treatments become non-surgical, they also become more affordable,” Ms. Shorr noted. “What was once a $10,000 procedure could easily decrease to a couple thousand dollars due to technology advances, which in turn can be more easily financed. This appeals to a younger audience,” Ms. Shorr said.
As with the practitioner, the Millennial patient’s primary motivation is not only to observe quality results, but also to develop a relationship with the physician. “They want to believe in your abilities,” Mr. Sawyer indicated. “Apply the appropriate outreach and social media tools to draw them into your special beauty event, for instance. You want to attract them into the clinic and start building that relationship, rather than see them go somewhere else. To me, this demographic is a cash grower. We’re all going to get our fair share of 40-, 50-, and 60-year-olds, but if you can tap into the Millennial market, you’ll discover an unlimited shelf life.”
“The Millennial phenomenon shows no sign of dissipating,” Dr. Nazarian concluded. “Considering the extent of our mobile lives and the importance of social media, I don’t see it stopping. Everyone wants to look their best. Trends come and go, but looking your best is not a passing trend.”