Making the Millennial Sale

Dec. 29, 2017
How to sell RO systems to America's largest consumer group

About the author: Erik Koglin is field manager for the Water-Right Group. Koglin can be reached at [email protected].

A lot of things have been said about the millennial generation, but one thing is clear: Millennials are entering the time of life in which they start families, buy homes and make a host of major purchasing decisions. Looking at sheer numbers, there are more millennials than baby boomers, so many industries are trying to understand how to reach consumers in their 20s and 30s. For those in residential water treatment, reverse osmosis (RO) systems present a unique opportunity to offer young homeowners a point-of-use (POU) solution.

Traditionally, sales conversations around residential water treatment start with a focus on water softeners and improving aesthetics. For millennials, however, you may want to consider an RO-focused approach, because quality drinking water is very important to this group.

If water treatment professionals present the right benefits and connect with millennials on values they hold close, the opportunity to sell these POU systems could be a game changer for your company.

Convenience Is Key

You may think of millennials as tech savvy, but a better description might be “tech dependent.” They do not necessarily have a desire to understand how technology works. It is all about how a new product could improve a millennial’s way of life.

Do not spend too much time explaining the features and operations of the equipment. You can talk about membranes, carbon filtration and polishing steps all day long, but what millennials really want is an easy button. They will take the path of least resistance nearly every time.

Explain the convenience of having quality water at their fingertips next to the kitchen faucet. No more trips to the filling station. No more lugging around 5-gal drums. No more recycling bins overflowing with plastic bottles.

One challenge you must address is the need for ongoing maintenance and upkeep, such as changing filters. That is why some water treatment dealers offer filter replacement and maintenance as a service, which also gives them a chance to visit customers’ homes and upsell them on other solutions.

RO systems offer long-term cost savings and environmental benefits over bottled water, which millennials may find appealing.

Cost-Saving Advantage

Bottled water is the RO system’s biggest competitor. Bottled water is convenient. You grab a bottle, drink it, toss the plastic and forget about it. Bottled water is booming. In 2016, it overtook soda in sales for the first time.

Millennials were in their formative years when the Great Recession hit. Many graduated from college during a time when the U.S. economy had little to offer, and they are still dealing with burdensome student loan and credit card debt. It should come as no surprise that millennials can be somewhat price sensitive.

Cost comparison is an effective way to gain a competitive edge. Bottled water is perceived to be an inexpensive option, and there is an initial investment involved with purchasing an RO system. Water treatment professionals know a POU solution saves money over time, but you need to educate the public about this fact.

Demonstrate this with a pay-per gallon price comparison. A gallon is the same as almost 11 12-ounce bottles of water. If a consumer bought bottled water at 99 cents per bottle, it would cost more than $10 a gallon. Buying in bulk is less expensive, but would still cost approximately $3 for an eight-pack of 12-ounce bottles. Compare that to the pennies it costs to get a gallon of quality drinking water from an RO system. That is a persuasive comparison for any generation.

Lifestyle Needs

There is an important caveat to the price sensitivity of millennials. If a product supports a millennial’s core values, he or she often is prepared to pay a premium price for it.

Nielsen reported in 2015 that millennials are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings, which includes environmentally friendly packaging. However, the packaging that is kindest to the planet is no packaging at all.

While plastic water bottles can be recycled, that only is true if they actually make it to a recycling facility. A 2017 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances found only 9% of plastic waste gets recycled and 79% ends up in landfills. The Association of Plastic Recyclers reports that the plastic bottle recycling rate in the U.S. declined by 2.4% in 2016. Preparing your sales team with statistics like these helps make the case for switching from bottled water to RO.

Another common attribute of millennials is a lifestyle built around health and wellness. Millennials exercise more, avoid vices such as smoking, and eat healthier food than past generations.

Promoting the health benefits of drinking RO water over alternatives involves consumer education. Do your potential customers realize that if you tested 12 brands of bottled water, you would get different results? They all come from different places and use different purification methods.

An RO system offers confidence in water quality. It is a POU water treatment option that gives the homeowner control over in-home water quality. It also tastes great. Many families find that they start drinking more water at home after an RO system is installed.

The lead contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., caused a ripple effect around the country, and homeowners are more aware of water quality than ever before. RO treatment is a solution that gives homeowners peace of mind, which is something millennial parents will appreciate.

Millennials expect quality drinking water, and RO systems provide it. From a sales perspective, you should always connect with millennials on their core values. Go beyond basic features and benefits. You are not just selling an RO system—you are selling a more convenient home, a sustainable lifestyle, a way to save money and a healthier beverage choice.

About the Author

Erik Koglin

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