Millennials are a generation often misunderstood and even criticized, but collectively they are a force that is quickly overtaking the retail market. They are the generation to observe and, in the case of older shopper generations, even mimick.
As companies have increasingly focused on millennials, millennials like me are in turn mystified by their interest in us. Who knew that our retail experiences, habits and preferences had such an impact on a worldwide industry? I (referenced below as AD) set out on a mission to provide clarity to those in retail who are attempting to understand our buying patterns by interviewing five other millennials about everything retail related.
A little background about my interviewees …
BN is 20 years old from Westchester, NY; IN is 19 years old from Warren, NJ; FR is 21 years old from Greenville, SC; HK is 19 years old from Palos Verdes, CA; and DL is 27 years old from New York, NY.
I decided it would be best to ask all five millennials the same set of 14 questions and see what conclusions I could reach based on their answers. Below are some of the most salient discoveries.
Millennial Myth #1: We are “showrooming” culprits
This myth was quite easy to dispel when I explained what showrooming was to them in the question I asked. AD: “How often to do you go to a store, find an item, and then check for cheaper prices online?”
BN:“Not really ever.”
IN: “I always say I will do that but almost never do, except for bathing suits and shoes. Usually, I just go for it if I love it enough.”
FR:“Never usually because I’m too lazy, haha. I only do that for shoes I think, or handbags.”
DL: “Only if it’s a luxury item. I’d say only 30% of the time.”
Millennial Myth #2: We love loyalty programs
This myth might vary depending on the individuals you speak to, but one thing came across very clear, NO MORE ANNOYING EMAILS. To come to this conclusion I asked, A:“Do you ever sign up for loyalty programs? Why or why not?”
BN:“Only if I’m a regular customer, I will sign up for the loyalty program because there are a lot of perks and little gifts you can get from it.”
IN: “I rarely do because I hate the excessive emails and I don’t want to spend extra time in line. Continually, I don’t shop often enough to take advantage of the deals so I usually don’t see the point in signing up for loyalty programs. Even this is silly, I also feel uncomfortable giving my information out.”
FR:“Nah that’s too much effort and not worth it. I don’t like getting all the annoying emails or paying money for programs.”
HK:“My mom has Nordstrom and Bloomingdales accounts, so I just use hers. We shop at these places enough where it’s worth spending a lot of money because we get perks and some money back.”
DL:“Only if I know if I’m going to return and I know their annoying emails are worth it. I only sign up if I know there’s a point or reward system like Bloomingdales, for example.”
Millennial Myth #3 “I don’t want to be pictured in the same outfit more than once.”
This myth was intriguing because it is can sometimes be a subconscious thought but never vocalized. So I asked directly, A: “How much do you abide by this sentence on a daily basis?”
BN: “Not very much at all; it is way too much work to think about that before class in the morning.”
IN: “I feel embarrassed by wearing the same exact outfit all the time definitely, but I typically re-wear favorite pieces that I feel are flattering. I would say that I tend to avoid re-wearing the same exact outfit in a short time period, but I will re-wear a certain piece (like knee-high socks or a favorite skirt) over and over again.”
FR: “I’m afraid I’d be embarrassed to admit it. I have a few outfits that I love and always repeat, but if I’m going somewhere that I know I’ll be taking pictures at I’ll try to wear something new.”
HK: “Lol never because I’m not a celebrity, so I don’t have the income to be able to not be pictured in the same outfit ever?? But certain things like proms and weddings, I definitely wear different things.”
DL: “That’s absurd. I don’t live by that at all.”
However, the numbers do tell us the truth even when we don’t want to admit it to ourselves, especially when it comes to millennials and technology. The Huffington Post’s Amit Bhaiya said, “Millennials spend nearly 18 hours a day consuming media, imagine all the marketing outreach you can accomplish during this timeframe?”
Truth #1: Social Media is the Way to Our Hearts
Almost inevitably, millennials are always on social media and staring at disbelief as another Kardashian wannabe posts another selfie, but what about the pesky ads? The ones that sneak into our feeds and redirect our attention to something we didn’t even know we wanted or needed. So out of my own general curiosity I asked, A: “How do you find out about most discounts, deals, and various other promos?”
BN: “I see a lot of stores advertising their large sales on social media, mainly Instagram. But there are the usual culprits, like magazines and catalogues that are mailed home.”
IN: “I like pages for my favorite stores on Facebook or will occasionally get emails for online stores I like (such as Modcloth). Otherwise, I’m pretty much in the dark about upcoming deals, unless my friends give me a heads up.”
FR: “Online I think, usually on Twitter or on ads.”
HK: “I will notice ads showing up from places I shopped online, which I think is really creepy.”
DL: “Sometimes emails, but I go to discount websites to find what I am looking for when I need it.”
And since everyone in the world who isn’t already online, is on their way to doing so soon, this brought me to the ultimate question that always bring up mixed feelings…
Uncertainty: Preference for shopping online vs. in-store
AD: “Do you shop more online or in-store?”
BN: “Shopping online is always a gamble, so I only do it for the sales if I can’t make it into the store.”
IN: “I prefer to shop online if it is unique items that would be really expensive elsewhere or I couldn’t find in store. Otherwise, I prefer to shop in store because I can see what I’m buying. I am always a little distrustful whenever I shop online because I’ve had bad experiences in the past (like most people I know).”
FR: “I think it depends. I get tired from real shopping after a while but I like trying things on. Online shopping is super fun and a really good way to procrastinate to be honest. But I usually don’t end up buying anything. I guess it just depends on what mood I’m in!”
HK: “Online, if I need something fast or don’t have time to go out to the store. In store if I need to try on something before buying it.”
DL: “I prefer online shopping if I know my size and I have bought their products before.”
Despite only addressing a few topics in the five interviews that were conducted, my hope is that retailers will understand the reasoning behind many retail-related decisions.
Ultimately, the future of retail lies in the hands of millennials and the best way to optimize outcomes is to understand their habits. Although we, the millennials, may be bewildered by the microscope that we have been put under, retail analytics makes certain that our shopping experience is enhanced based on both our collective and individual preferences and desires.
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