The Truth About How Millennials Shop, In 5 Stats

Aug 27 2018

They’ve upended the retail world. Now here’s the truth about how Millennials are shopping now…

The retail apocalypse is a reality, social media is influencing more purchases than traditional advertisements, and smartphones are the new shopping cart. Welcome to the evolution of shopping. Young consumers’ challenging consumption behavior has forced brands to get creative about in-person shopping, opening whole new avenues of brick-and-mortar shopping, while the online and offline shopping experiences continue to merge. They’re the reason that “The Warby Parker of X” has become a common descriptor of new startups who are catering to their desire for seamless, easy shopping experiences. (You can have a Warby Parker experience with everything from wedding dresses to paint these days.) In our recent Shoppability trend, we explored how For Millennials (and Gen Z), the whole world is their showroom, and wherever they go—from Instagram to hotels—the items they see are an “add to cart” click away. Meanwhile, retailers are pulling out all the stops to make their stores into experiences, including cafes, courses, access to experts, and Instagrammable art to lure in young shoppers. So what’s the truth about how this generation is shopping today? We’re breaking some of it down, with five important stats…

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1. The majority of 18-36-year-olds agree “No matter what stores do to make visiting more interesting, I am still going to shop online for many things.”  

Yes, experiencification is important. (We wrote a whole trend on it after all.) But here’s the reality: the convenience of online shopping is going to take a significant amount of their shopping dollars no matter what. Over seven in ten 18-36-year-olds agree, “No matter what stores do to make visiting more interesting, I am still going to shop online for many things.” Does this mean that retailers should give up on brick-and-mortar? No, but their expectations for it will certainly have to shift. Already, many young brands are looking at in-person retail as more of a marketing move than a revenue maker. Meanwhile, making the online shopping experience as alluring as possible is just as—if not more— important as creating Instagrammable spaces to visit IRL.

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2. Nearly half would rather shop online than in a physical store.

Just to underline the importance of that last piece of advice, there’s this sobering reality. At this point online shopping has become the preference for almost half, as 49% of Millennials 18-36-years-old would rather shop online rather than in a physical store. This is especially true of Millennial males, with over half of 18-24-year-olds and 25-36-year-olds choosing online shopping over in-person shopping. And we should note: while some retailers have been told that Gen Z could be their brick-and-mortar saviors, we see the preference for in-person shopping drop as soon as young consumers are able to establish some digital financial freedom.

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3. Over half have used their phones to compare prices with another store while shopping.

When they are shopping in person, they’re carrying your competitors in their pocket. Almost three in five Millennials tell us that they have used their phones to compare prices with another store while they’re shopping. Slightly less popular, but still a game-changer: 51% have researched a product in a store and then ordered it online. Young consumers are integrating their phone seamlessly into their shopping experiences, instantly searching for items they see IRL. Our shoppability trend found that only 7% had never used their phones while shopping in a physical store.

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4. Over three in five prefer to shop alone.

Millennials are solo shoppers: 65% of 18-36-year-olds tell us they prefer to shop alone, with the majority of both males and females agreeing with this statement. Their view of shopping as an individual pursuit increases as they age up, as does the likelihood that they agree with the statement: “When I shop, I want to get in and get out as quickly as possible.” Knowing that shopping is not a social activity for them should shape the way that retailers design their services. Convenience and quick turnaround experiences should be built into stores.

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5. Four out of five have used a discount code or coupon in the last 12 months.

We’ve told you before, this is a discount-loving generation, and 82% have used a discount code in the last year. The generation is adept at thrifting, bargain-hunting, coupon clipping (in the digital form, of course), and getting more bang for their buck in general. According to Forbes, almost 80% of Millennials are influenced by price. So even though Millennials are known for expecting other values from their products like authenticity, transparency, ethical production, and a convenient shopping experience, nothing beats a good discount.

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