Gen Y Shopping Online For Inspiration And Information

While it’s no news to anyone that younger shoppers are more likely to buy online than older consumers, new research from Horizon Media uncovers some interesting motivations this season: For the moment,  Gen Y has turned online wanderer, and is less mission-focused. “Millennials are roaming the aisles virtually, looking for inspirations for holiday purchases. They are using sites like Etsy and Open Sky to help them figure out what they want to buy people this year,” explains Sheri Roder, chief of the WHY Group, Horizon Media’s consumer insights group.

Beyond that, they are also looking for practical details about gifts, and Roder says that people under 35 are nearly one and half times more likely to choose an online source as their go-to spot for both inspiration and information than those who are older. She tells Marketing Daily what else Gen Y is thinking this season:



Q: Tell us more about this inspiration factor.

A: It used to be people got lists from people they were buying for, so they could order gifts for them that way, and of course, that is still happening. But our Finger on the Pulse survey, based on 700 adults 18 and over, found more of them surfing, kind of wandering around the mall, but virtually. The younger they are, the more they are roaming around the web.

Q: Yet we also saw lots of data on how much more likely Gen Y was to be out there on Black Friday, right?

A: They are more mission focused in physical stores. They’ve checked the price before they went in, and know what they want and how much it costs. They are likely to check things on their phones again, and more likely to find the same item at a better price at the other end of the mall.

Q: What brands are doing the best?

A: Amazon. It is so far ahead of everybody else. People go there to get inspired, and then also to buy. There’s very little you can’t get there, usually at some kind of deal.

Q: They try and make news. There is the whole drone delivery thing, and they are testing lockers. I just saw a press release that they’ve now got over 200,000 products in “frustration-free packaging.” How much do those innovations  matter?

A: It’s why they have such a huge and growing following. Things like one-click purchasing, Amazon Prime, the addition of Zappos matter, because for Americans, more is always better.  But it has always recognized that consumers can get lost in their offerings, so they have a way to curate for me as well.

Q: What other Gen Y trends emerged?

A: Many of the differences are more about lifestyle than generation. We are looking at this group right up to age 34, and while marketers tend to think of them as kids, they are grown-ups, with jobs and families. And if you have children, obviously, you shop for the holidays in a completely different way, spending more on your kids. So their basket is larger. But, across all ages, we saw that people aren’t planning to spend scads of money. 

Q: Some experts would argue that while Gen Y has always been characterized as a big spending generation, they are increasingly comfortable not buying as much, or sometimes anything at all.

A: Our other research on this group has definitely shown that many segments of Gen Y feel keeping up with the Jones doesn’t apply to them. And they’ve also been harder hit economically than other groups.

Q: Are they also less interested in the retail calendar—shopping just because some store tells them to?

A: Some. One subgroup, which we’ve named Youthful Pursuits, are very image driven. They do want to keep up, and are very reactive to sales. They tend to be the youngest, and have the least money. Another group, who we’ve named the confident connecteds, are more purposeful. They make their own way.

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