Millennial Shoppers Oscillate Between Online, Off

It's hard to generalize about a demographic bounded by high school seniors and 34-year-old Park Slope parents, but Millennials have one thing in common at least, and it isn't just the media behavior. It is as much a shared socializing behavior. 

Sharalyn Hartwell, executive director of research and strategy firm Frank N. Magid Associates, made that point in a presentation she made during the "People StyleWatch Share. Like. Buy" conference on marketing and Millennials on Tuesday. "Millennials are also social and peer-centric. The focus is on the team experience. Participation in programs like [American Youth Soccer] has paved the way for a cohort perspective and the rise of peer influence." 

This, she said, has been a big factor in the shape of the purchase process, with Gen X being more oriented to a funnel process, while Millennials tend not to winnow choices at all leading up to purchase. Using a restaurant analogy, she said Baby Boomers take a “chef's special” approach because they tend put their trust in the expert; Gen X takes an á la carte approach because they think they can do as well as the experts, are very particular and prefer to pick and choose, and have a "you aren't going to pull one over on me" mindset; and Millennials take a buffet approach. "They take in information from anywhere," she said. 

People StyleWatch, a celebrity, fashion, beauty and style magazine spun off from People, unveiled its third biannual study on Millennials. The study, done with New York-based Red Lantern, involved a survey and face-to-face meetings with some 1,200 consumers. Half of respondents were “Millennial Moms,” and the other half single, “Emerging Professionals.”

The study, “Babes vs. Babies,” found that the latter want style versatility but have a limited budget to achieve that. The Millennial mom is probably overworked, and her goal is balance. The young professional wants sales and discounts. For most, getting a deal feels like winning. For moms, the deals assuage guilt for having made the purchase, per the study. She shares codes and coupons with friends. 

The study found that while 65% of purchases by Millennials are made in stores, about half of respondents aren't too happy with and feel pressured by the brick and mortar experience. The reverse is opposite for online with 57% of respondents saying they like having all the time they need to make a choice. People StyleWatch also found that 50% of Millennials now “showroom,” checking out merchandise in stores then going online to compare prices and make a purchase. 

And there's a third behavior the study identified: "Webounding," which StyleWatch reports 48% of Millennials do. Stephanie Sladkus, publisher of People StyleWatch, tells Marketing Daily that that "webounding" behavior involves sandwiching in-store shopping between virtual shopping episodes. "They like to physically feel and try on an item, and see how it looks on them, but they will do research before to choose a style match." Then, she says, after shopping in-store they will go online to compare with competitors or find the right color or other options. The study said half of Millennials like making Pinterest boards as a personal style catalogue. 

Rachel DePinter, manager of customer insights at Philadelphia-based retailer Urban Outfitters, pointed to digital preferences as a marker for media. "Millennials don't use Facebook; they are into Instagram. And Twitter is where she gets her news. Tumblr brings together fashion, art and music. We're on our phones all day but maybe we are using our phones to make things."

"Young couple with tablet" photo from Shutterstock.

Tags: gen y, media, research
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2 comments about "Millennial Shoppers Oscillate Between Online, Off ".
  1. Bruce Cashbaugh from RedPost , June 18, 2014 at 8:19 a.m.
    Nice restaurant analogy to make the data more meaningful.
  2. Hart Weichselbaum from the planning practice , June 18, 2014 at 10:12 a.m.
    Love these generalizations. :(