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The Indie Woman

Her virtual image is as important to her as her real-world one
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She’s single, urban and loving it—but she’s no Carrie Bradshaw. Not necessarily looking for a husband, nor looking for just a good time, this leading-edge millennial woman, age 28 to 34, has a career to tend to and money to make.

With a median income of $33,200 and a college degree, she’s putting off marriage and kids. “This is different from other generations. She’s no longer settled by the time she’s 25,” says Judy Hopelain, a partner at Brand Amplitude’s Millennial Marketing Unit.

Young professionals “often find it’s easier to [build their networks and careers] if they don’t have obligations to others,” adds Eric Klinenberg, author and professor of sociology, public policy and media, culture and communications at New York University. Moreover, living alone, he says, gives them control: “They can work late or go out late, and they can bring home whoever they want.”

She does want to settle down and have children when the time is right. Even then, though, marriage may come after the baby carriage. According to Pew Social Trends, a record 41 percent of births were to unmarried women in 2008. Demographic Intelligence projects the number of children born out of wedlock to rise to 50 percent by 2023, with more than half born to cohabiting couples.

As the stigma of having a child before marriage falls away—with a Gallup poll indicating that 51 percent of Americans think it’s OK—this segment views weddings more as parties than as some obligatory step toward building a family. According to W. Bradford Wilcox, president of Demographic Intelligence and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, with the average cost of a wedding at more than $25,000, “celebrating in grand fashion signals that you’ve made it.”

In fact, these women had proms glamorous enough “to be on a level with [their] parents’ weddings,” notes Kit Yarrow, chair of the psychology department at Golden Gate University and author of Gen BuY. Combine this with the likelihood that their parents were affluent, and you have people confident they’ll eventually be able to buy whatever they want. In other words, says Yarrow, they have “a higher expectation of what is normal consumption.”

Not surprisingly, brand affiliation is strong. This segment aspires to luxury brands across categories like travel, clothes, jewelry and automobiles, according to Milo.com. (Think Chanel, Prada, Ritz-Carlton and BMW.)

“The Web,” says Hopelain, “brings it all to her.” Indeed, she’s as occupied with her virtual image as her actual, real-world one. Much of her heavy social media usage is likely to be via a mobile device. Women 25 to 34 are by far the largest segment on the network of mobile ad network Jumptap, accounting for 35 percent of all traffic. (Yet women of all ages are much less likely to click on a mobile ad than men, 0.29 percent vs. 0.53 percent.)

When she does spend, she loves to hunt for bargains. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed by Milo.com purchase from discount or flash-sale sites.

While women of all ages splurge on luxury beauty products, 40 percent of this segment spends less than $49 a year on beauty. They’re most swayed by online reviews (23.75 percent), with in-store sampling and recommendations by friends (18.75 percent each) the next most influential, according to Total Beauty Media Group.

Still, she looks more than she buys. Hopelain says it’s unclear whether that will change as her income grows. Will anyone, Hopelain wonders, “be able to monetize that love of fashion, not from an ad-platform standpoint but from a merchandising standpoint?”

Photo by Alfred Maskeroni
STYLING: WENDY MCNETT FOR AGENTOLIVER.COM; HAIR & MAKEUP: DORA SALGADO FOR AGENTOLIVER.COM; MODEL: JOI LEE FOR IKON MODELS


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