How Millennials Shop Online

In our daily conversations with marketers at many of the world’s leading eCommerce companies, the overwhelming majority of our discussions end up focusing on and deconstructing the “it” generation of today: the Millennial.

Classified as folks born between 1980 – 2000, they are the first true digitally fluent generation, coming of age with the Internet, the iPod, Snapchat and Tinder. There are currently 80 million Millennials in the US, each year spending approximately $600 billion. Accenture predicts by 2020 the spending of this generation will grow to $1.4 trillion and will represent 30% of total retail sales (primarily online).

Millennials have developed a reputation for being digital savants, more comfortable stroking the touch screen of an iPhone than holding a number two pencil. With this digital fluency, they are seen as both a tremendous opportunity for marketers, but also deeply finicky and demanding. The general assessment of Millennials seem to be characterizations like “easily distracted”, “not brand loyal”, “ruthlessly resourceful”, and “incredibly demanding”. But does conventional wisdom hold true? Unarguably, Millennials have been more exposed to technology than Gen Xers (1965 – 1979) and Baby Boomers(1946 – 1964), but are they really such a different demographic to target?

Accenture’s vigorous analysis of Millennials and their shopping habits drew out many conclusions that challenge popular opinion. In spite of the reputation for viewing the world through a “uniquely digital lens”, Accenture’s results show uncanny similarities between each generation. Here’s a quick look at some of the findings:

  • 41%of all three groups said they practice “showrooming” – examining merchandise at a nearby retail store and then shopping for it online to find the lowest price – more often than they did a year ago. This is largely in part to the rampant smartphone use, enabling easy online browsing even while you’re in store
  • 36% from all three generations said they will go online to buy from a retailer’s website if they want a product when the company’s stores are closed
  • 89% state access to real-time product availability information would influence their shopping choices in terms of which stores they would frequent

65-app time


Through their robust international survey, the dedicated research team was able to debunk a few pervasive myths.

Myth #1: It’s all about online shopping for Millennials. While it is true that Millennials are very savvy online shoppers, that does not mean they no longer frequent brick-and-mortar retailers. In fact, many Millennials prefer the in-store experience. In today’s environment, it is oftentimes difficult to truly assess a product online. You don’t have the social proof. You can’t touch it, smell it, try it on.

Myth #2: Loyalty is lost. In a recent survey of retail industry leaders, nearly 40 percent said the number one concern they have about Millennials is their lack of loyalty. From the exhaustive research conducted by Accenture, they found this not to be true. Millennials, like all customers, can be extremely loyal provided they feel they are important and treated well. While the cost of the product, the quality of the product, and the appeal of the product are all of paramount importance, customer service and a pleasant shopping experience are huge factors in Millennials purchase decisions.



Where do Millennials spend their time? 

Despite the fact Millennials still deeply value the brick-and-mortar experience, they can undoubtedly be targeted online extremely effectively. 71% of Millennials engage in social media daily, and 37% express feelings of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) if they don’t. 88% of Millennials are on Facebook, and nearly 60% are on Twitter. And of course mobile is king. Over 85% of Millennials own a smartphone and are known to open their device 43 times per day for 14.5 hours per week (Nanigans).

Millennials, a generation which will overtake all other generations as the largest consumer on the planet by 2017, must be accounted for with great care. Brick-and-mortar is still a factor and is not going anywhere soon. But the importance lies in:

  • Effective marketing campaigns online
  • Ease of purchase across all devices
  • Bringing the benefits of the brick-and-mortar experience online

This is why leading eCommerce brands are leaning on social proof and user-generated content to complement their highly produced eCommerce experience, helping narrow the divide between an in-store shopping experience and buying products online.

While we still haven’t found a scalable and effective way to feel, smell and touch a product online, with customer photos and videos onsite, consumers can get that social proof, have a sense of the personality behind the product or brand, and imagine the look and feel of the product on themselves through a real customer’s Instagram photo or Vine video. Companies like StoryBox have developed a scalable and streamlined way to find real customer photos and videos from across the social landscape and display that user-generated content on product pages and across and eCommerce experience in a way that drives more trust, engagement, and sales.


Interested in learning more?

53-free demo 


To look at Accenture’s research firsthand, take a look here

Topics: UGC, Customer Storytelling, Blogs, Social Media, eCommerce, Visual Commerce