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Four Things That Make Millennial Shoppers Different

Being comfortable on the internet is not the key

February 1, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce

The term “millennial” may be overused, and the group it describes may arguably be two distinct generations lumped under one umbrella. Regardless, the concept of the millennial generation is among one of the most important consumer trends of the past 10 years—right up there with social media and mobile.

US Internet Users Who Have Made a Digital Purchase, by Generation, June 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

“[Marketers] think millennials will be more important for the marketing industry than any other trend right now except for mobile,” said Yory Wurmser, eMarketer analyst and author of our latest report on US millennial shoppers. “That means more important than artificial intelligence, more important than big data and more important than virtual reality.”

(Wurmser's full report, US Millennial Shoppers 2017, is available to eMarketer PRO subscribers.)

In the US, the millennial generation now outnumbers the baby boomer generation. And its sheer size is key to gaining an understanding of this age group—it can’t be thought of as a single, monolithic entity, Wurmser said. “The youngest millennials are on the cusp of college, while the oldest have already started to plan for their children’s college years.”

Despite the fact that millennials grew up with the internet, actual online purchasing rates aren’t significantly different from other generations. In fact, a Berkeley Research Group (BRG) survey from June 2016 found that Gen X internet users had a slightly higher rate of digital buying than millennials: 93% vs. 90%. Even boomers lagged by only 6 percentage points.

Wurmser highlights four important factors and qualities that characterize millennial shoppers:

  • Millennials tend to prefer digital shopping, even while in stores
  • Although the average debt burden on millennials is often exaggerated, debt is widespread among this group
  • Millennials are comfortable with mobile shopping
  • Despite a strong presence on social platforms, millennials respond well to email marketing

eMarketer PRO subscribers can read more here. Not a PRO subscriber? You can hear Wurmser discuss the report on the latest episode of eMarketer’s Behind the Numbers podcast.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “US Millennial Shoppers 2017: How a Digitally Native Generation Is Changing Retail.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer PRO customers.


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