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Here’s What Young Consumers Plan to Keep Buying Online for the Next Year

We asked young consumers where they plan to shop for clothing, groceries, makeup and more for the next 12 months…

The future of shopping is being created right now. YPulse’s latest trend report Retail’s New Reality explores what that future looks like for Gen Z and Millennial consumers, finding that their desire for shopping is strong, and they’re missing the in-store experience. But their caution over COVID is having long-lasting impacts on their behavior, and the majority are shopping online more than they did in the past. The New York Times reports that the online shopping habits being shaped now could “stick,” potentially changing the future of shopping even as quarantines start to lift. Mini warehouses could “pop up everywhere” to keep up with deliveries, shortages might continue, or the prices for fast delivery and shipping could rise, and returns could become far more strict because of sanitation issues.

But do young consumers think these ecommerce habits are here to stay? We asked 13-39-year-olds to tell us where they would prefer to buy product across multiple categories for the next year. Here’s what we learned:

Their shopping behavior for the next year will likely be determined by what’s considered a necessity versus a pleasure purchase. The majority would prefer to buy groceries, alcohol, medical supplies, household goods, food prepared by a restaurant, and personal care items in-store for the next 12 months. This aligns with the stores that they report they’re currently shopping in-person: 58% say that they’re already visiting grocery stores, and 46% are already visiting mass merchandise stores—both places where the items they are purchasing are likely considered necessities. But it’s a different story for the products that they would usually buy for pleasure. Over half of young consumers tell us that they will prefer to buy their clothing online for the next 12 months, and almost three in five will prefer to buy makeup and beauty products online as well. The reality is that it will be some time before they feel safe interacting with and trying products in-person: 69% of young consumers aren’t comfortable trying on clothes in-store now and won’t be comfortable months after stay at home orders are lifted and 83% of young females aren’t comfortable trying on makeup in-store now and won’t be comfortable months after stay at home orders are lifted.

So, how much of this behavior is driven by COVID fears, and how much is a permanent shift? We also asked them to think about where they will prefer to shop when Coronavirus is no longer a threat:

The changes here are significant. The majority tell us that they will once again prefer to shop for most items, including clothing and beauty products, in-store once the threat of COVID has passed. That’s good news for retailers, who can expect that at least for now, the in-person shopping experience is still something that these generations desire.

That said, a year of shopping for clothing and beauty products online has the serious potential to reshape the way they purchase these items for good. With digital solutions like augmented reality try-ons for everything from lipstick to sneakers, many Gen Z and Millennial shoppers could quickly become accustomed to staying out of stores even for the things they used to prefer to buy in-person.