Admit it, you still have some last minute holiday shopping to do.
We won’t tell anyone.
But don’t be so hard on yourself! Studies show most holiday shoppers procrastinate, so you’re far from alone. Plus, there’s still plenty of time to cross hard-to-shop-for friends and family members off your list.
Here’s a list of the best (and easiest to buy) last minute gifts for the digital natives and millennials in your life.
Audiobooks are not all that new – we all remember the 6-CD boxed sets that would inevitably end up littered on the floors of our cars. Now the packaging has been done away with, and CD’s have been replaced by downloadable audio content.
The company that’s been able to take advantage of that new technology most notably is Audible, started in 1995 and Amazon-owned since 2008. Tellingly, the company was founded by Don Katz, a former journalist and author. Katz positioned his company as friendly to the content creators themselves.
In its current iteration, Audible offers an immense library of books on a wide range of topics. Lately, they’ve even delved into developing and producing original content, like podcasts and serial dramas. Audible’s marketing strategy consists of heavy spending on advertisements in many of the most downloaded podcasts out there, so it’s likely that the digital native in your life has come across it already.
MeUndies / Foot Cardigan
For decades, socks and underwear have been mocked as the butt of gift-giving jokes. Weren’t on your best behavior this year? Santa may give you coal for that, but Mom and Dad are sure to deliver retribution in the form of functional but unexciting undergarments.
Young upstart companies like MeUndies and Foot Cardigan are starting to change that narrative. One way they’ve been able to accomplish this is by adopting the subscription business model. We’ve seen a rapid rise of these companies in recent years (a few of them included in this post), in which consumers pay a recurring fee to receive goods or services. The trend has been particularly well-suited to the Silicon Valley landscape, as many of these businesses use new technology – often apps and other mobile functionalities – to smoothly facilitate regularly occurring transactions.
The subscription model is well-positioned to breathe new life into stale product categories like these. Because the consumer is receiving the items on a regular basis, they take on more of an exciting feel. Who doesn’t love getting a package in the mail? Couple that with extremely high-quality materials and creative color schemes, and either one these subscriptions could make great last minute gifts for the holidays.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a digital native in your life who doesn’t already have a Netflix account (or at least access to one of a generous spouse, friend, or former acquaintance twice removed two lifetimes ago).
And while Netflix is undeniably great, it has its limitations. The titles it acquires are an eclectic bunch, but there are weak spots in certain genres and niches. For example, Netflix does extremely well with millennial nostalgia, creating buzz amongst 20 and 30-somethings by rebooting defunct shows with cult followings – Gilmore Girls, Full House, Arrested Development, Wet Hot American Summer, etc.
But it doesn’t offer much in the way of arthouse and independent films. For anyone harboring a serious interest in film history and currents of filmmaking outside of the mainstream, the Netflix roster can dry up fairly quickly.
If someone you’re buying for is like this, FilmStruck is a great option. It offers the entire Criterion collection (a distribution company that focuses on licensing “important” achievements in filmmaking) as well as Turner Classic Movies’ large bank of licensed works. FilmStruck offers three plans at $6.99/mo (doesn’t include Criterion), $10.99/mo (including Criterion), and $99.00 (includes Criterion and saves you a few bucks per month by committing to the full year).
As you might expect, millennials’ cooking habits differ significantly from other generations. For one, millennials tend to derive value from whether an activity provides a unique experience, not so much the actual end product. Accordingly, there’s a wider diversity of ingredients and techniques that millennials are interested in trying and mastering.
However, in order to get all that experiential value out of cooking, they need help. And they get a great deal of it from their smartphones. Google found that 59% of 25 to 34 year-olds cook with either a smartphone or tablet handy. Another thing about millennials? They’re busy. Cultivating vibrant social lives, working jobs with nontraditional (read: long) hours, and often taking on a second job are all common themes among the demographic.
Blue Apron can be a great last minute gift if you know someone with that type of lifestyle. Members receive packages of fresh ingredients and detailed recipes on a weekly basis. The meals range from comfort food (Chicken & Gravy) to more ambitious delicacies (Za’atar-Spiced Chicken Souvlaki), and offer enough variety to account for any dietary needs.
Millennials, unlike their generational predecessors, don’t spend a lot of money or time cultivating high-end stereo systems. This is likely due to the rise of streaming services and digital music platforms in general. Our sources for music have merged with our sources for countless other things, so there’s less incentive to build expensive, music-specific set-ups.
Sonos aims to facilitate a renaissance of young people appreciating high-end audio by meeting them on their own terms. To do this, they’ve created a line of speakers that sync with a smartphone app and enable listening from a variety of the largest digital platforms: Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc. Also, the speakers come in different sizes and models, each with unique sounds that are suited for different rooms and decibel levels throughout the house.
One thing to note about millennial music consumption: there has been a surprising resurgence in appreciation for vinyl records. Call it faux nostalgia, call it hipsterdom, call it what you will, but it is a legitimate phenomenon. Always eager to adapt to the desires of its most coveted demographic, Sonos adjusted the way it engineers its speakers so they can be linked up with turntables (though not wirelessly).
Whether used in this way – as a link from old to new – or just as a way to combine all your digital collections into one, easy-to-use HQ listening experience, Sonos makes a great gift for any millennial who owns a smartphone (so all of them). And if the digital native in your life doesn’t like music? That person is a sociopath, stop buying gifts for them.
Recently, we looked at how the rise of voice search will affect the world of search engine optimization. Voice search as a trend will be facilitated in large part by the slate of new digital assistants that top tech companies are promoting this holiday season, including the Amazon Echo and Google Home. They occupy an interesting place in the culture, as similar devices and technologies have been prophesied in films and literature for decades.
Well, I’m not sure we’re going to be looking at a HAL 9000 situation anytime soon, but Google and Amazon’s offerings are pretty advanced (hopefully in a far less dystopian way, of course). The difference between the two devices lies primarily in what data each company already brings to the table.
Amazon brings an immense trove of data on what users buy, watch, and (to a lesser extent) listen to. Because of this, Echo offers tools like seamless voice shopping, song selection, and multi-device video content control. Also, it can be hooked up to any smart devices you have in your home, like smart thermostats, light fixtures, etc.
Google, on the other hand, has more data about what information users are searching for. This makes the Home especially useful as a conduit between its user and a specific desired action. For example, Google Home’s advertisements have highlighted its ability to give on-command cooking directions, news updates, and sync with other Google apps, like Calendar, Maps, and Wallet.
Of course, there is some overlap between the two. Amazon can help with scheduling and Google can help with shopping. But the two companies’ respective wheelhouses, so to speak, offer insight into where the technologies might progress in the future.
Generalizing what kind of gift someone would enjoy based on their age/generation is admittedly a little trite. No one is defined by the year they were born. Audible is great, but the perfect gift for the millennial you’re buying for may just be regular ol’ book. But if you think they appreciate the smooth efficiency and forward-thinking technology of new platforms, services, and gadgets, this list may give you some good places to start. Let us know what we missed!