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Millennial Shopping Habits Demystified

Although Gen Y shoppers will research and purchase products online, they prefer to be inside a retail store . / Credit: Storefront shopping image via Shutterstock

Millennials, the 80 million to 90 million 18- to 29-year-old Americans also known as Gen Y, are more technology-focused than previous generations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But they don't let that technology keep them away from retail storefronts, a new report claims. In fact, 40 percent of Gen Y participants in a recent study claimed that they preferred to buy locally, even if goods or services were more expensive than mass-market alternatives.

Millennials are loyal shoppers, according to a millennial focus group sponsored by RedPrarie, a global supply chain and retail technology provider. The focus group was hosted by Fashion Institute of Design in Merchandising in Los Angeles and was conducted in front of an audience of apparel and specialty brand executives.

Although Gen Y shoppers will research and purchase products online, they prefer to be inside a retail store talking to a helpful, human sales associate, the report found.

 For nearly half of them (48 percent), word of mouth has the most influence on their product purchases, mostly through product ratings and recommendations from peers or friends on a brand's Facebook or Twitter page.

Compared with other generations, millennials are also more likely to explore brands on social networks — 53 percent of millennials explore brands, versus 37 percent for all other generations, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group.

When asked about their opinions of retailers ' presence on social media networks, the reaction of Gen Y is similar to the generation's shopping behaviors — they like to stay engaged with brands and retailers so long as they keep their distance.

"When it comes to trying to satisfy millennials, the bottom line for brands is adaptability," said David Bruno, director of corporate messaging at RedPrairie. "One minute they want to shop and compare online and via every social networking site available, and the next they want to purchase in store. Retailers essentially need to provide ‘endless aisle’ capabilities in every channel and location. When marketing to millennials, retailers and brands must strike a balance between personalizing the shopping experience via individualized product information and not overwhelming or overstepping perceived boundaries of privacy."

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