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How Younger and Older Millennial Shoppers Differ

Millennials don’t spend freely due to tight finances

January 18, 2016 | Demographics

Digital shopping is standard procedure across the millennial age bracket. But there are some differences in how the younger and older consumers go about things, online and offline, as explored in a new eMarketer report “US Millennials at Key Life Stages: How Younger and Older Segments Differ and Converge.”

The obvious disparity between older and younger millennial shoppers is that the older ones spend more. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data covering 2014, households headed by 25- to 34-year-olds spent an average of $49,547. Households headed by someone under 25 averaged $32,179. (For total households, the figure was $53,495.) The younger consumers spent less than the older ones in categories as varied as furniture ($304 vs. $426), healthcare ($1,103 vs. $2,659), pets ($158 vs. $441) and entertainment ($1,319 vs. $2,418).

Tight finances hold millennials back from spending freely. In the to Ipsos and to Navient poll, 51% said they worry about paying all their monthly bills. Many also carry debt—not just college loans, but other debt, too. So they are alert to tradeoffs between buying what they want and being overextended.

The value equation for millennials is not confined to dollars and cents. In a March 2015 poll by to Cone Communications, 92% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 91% of those 25 to 34 (vs. 85% of total respondents) said they are likely to switch to a brand associated with a good cause. This reflects a belief “that people can solve things in working with brands and not against them,” said Raphael Bemporad, founding partner and chief strategy officer at branding agency BBMG.

eMarketer sees scant difference in the proportion of younger vs. older millennials who are digital buyers. As of 2015, 73.2% of the 18-to-24 cohort and 71.6% of those 25 to 34 were estimated to have made at least one purchase by digital means during the calendar year.

Other studies also show younger and older millennials with a similar propensity to be digital shoppers. In October 2015 polling by the to National Retail Federation (NRF), 54.8% of respondents ages 18 to 24 planned to include online purchases in their holiday shopping, as did 56.7% of those 25 to 34. A July 2015 survey by A.T. Kearney identified about one-third of younger and older millennials as digital grocery buyers.

eMarketer corporate subscription clients can view the full report here.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “US Millennials at Key Life Stages: How Younger and Older Segments Differ and Converge.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer corporate subscribers.

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