One Screen Does Not Fit All: Even Millennials Shop On The Desktop

It comes as no surprise that generational differences in digital and analog channel use can be huge. But as Millward Brown points out in its new report on cross-generational device use, there are other parameters to consider when trying to reach the right audience at the right time and place.

As expected, Millennials are more mobililized than others, but not as much as one might suppose. When it comes to shopping tasks, for instance, 31% said they had used a desktop/laptop to shop online in the last week, vs. 23% on mobile and 15% on tablets.

For certain tasks, the desktop is preferred even by  younger segments. To be sure, this group is using their smartphones as much as they do TV (77% used both “yesterday”, according to the survey). But when it comes to shopping, especially for financial services, consumer electronics and consumer packaged goods, the desktop is a clear preference, while categories like travel, auto and telecom are just barely preferred on mobile for exploration.



Some of these stats have to do with how the duration of a task is tied to screen size -- a factor that tends to cut across generations. The survey found that 81% of all mobile users preferred to complete tasks that took under five minutes on their smartphones. That preferences plummets to 43% at the five-minute mark, and descends quickly from there for longer tasks. 

In designing mobile experiences for Millennnials, it is important to know that they have distinct criteria for choosing which screen to use. For instance, while 28% say screen size is a factor, about the same as other generations, their sensitivity to speed and performance is lower (22%) than others. They have the highest level of preference (16%) for using the device closest to them, and they are less worried than Gen-Xers about display and image quality.

When it comes to content usage, the highly entertainment-driven Millennial generation is clearly the core YouTube audience, with 98% of men and 67% of women visiting the site weekly, compared to only 51%/55% watching cable TV. Netflix (43%/60%) sees its highest usage by far in this segment, with a special skew towards women.

And while Millennials are notoriously TV-averse, they have nothing against the display itself. The TV screen is still their favorite platform to watch Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

The lesson here is that the migration to mobile may indeed be most evident among Millennials, but is contingent on a number of factors, from content type to time involved to the end experience. We are all making decisions on the fly about which channel we want to use.

The full report from Millward Brown covers these distinctions among Gen-Xers and Boomers.      

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