Did Millennials' Smartphone Use Hurt Holiday Sales? - eMarketer
« Return to Mobile Website

Newsletters Sign-Up

Plans & Pricing

Does My Company Subscribe?

Did Millennials' Smartphone Use Hurt Holiday Sales?

Mobile devices drove in-store deal seeking

Many US retailers are reporting better-than-expected sales results for the 2016 holiday season. But questions remain about how much of those sales were fueled by discounting, which can cut into retailers’ profitability. Among millennials, who are increasingly using smartphones to compare prices in-store, it looks like quite a bit.

Average Holiday Season Spending According to US Internet Users, by Generation, Dec 2016

December 2016 data from the International Council of Shopping Centers shows that millennials spent less during the 2016 holiday season than did older US internet users, shelling out an average of $867 for items like gifts, movies and entertainment. This fact by itself is not all that surprising, given that millennials are earlier in their professional careers and often not yet earning as much money as more-established groups in older age brackets.

Smartphone Activities Conducted While Shopping According to US Millennial Mother Internet Users, Sep 2016 (% of respondents)

Nevertheless, millennials’ use of mobile devices for in-store shopping suggests the age group may be spending less because technology makes it easier for them to find bargains. The same International Council of Shopping Centers survey found that more than half (52%) of millennial internet users it polled had used their mobile device to compare prices in-store, and another 37% had used their device in-store to find digital discounts or coupons.

Other studies of millennial shopping habits have noted the age group’s propensity to seek out deals via smartphones. A September 2016 survey by Roth Capital Partners found that nearly 80% of US millennial mother internet users polled had turned to their mobile device to search for better prices elsewhere while out shopping.

As retailers look for ways to counteract the increasingly bargain-focused shopping habits of millennial consumers, one potential solution may be to appeal to more male shoppers. As noted in a recent eMarketer article, many male shoppers wait until the last minute to purchase holiday gifts and tend to be less price sensitive than their female counterparts.

—Jeremy Kressmann

New in eMarketer PRO This Week

  • Forecast: US Wearables Users, 2016-2020, with Breakouts by Age, Gender and Generation
  • Report: US Digital Ad Spending Benchmarks by Industry, H2 Update
  • Statpack: Canada – Consumer Time and Advertiser Dollars
  • Report: UK Digital Trends for 2017

Not a PRO subscriber? Find out how to become one.


  • Go beyond the articles:

    eMarketer Products

    You've never experienced research like this.

  • Hear from our clients:

    Customer Stories

    Nearly all Fortune 500 companies rely on us.

  • Want to learn more?

    Contact Us

    Inquire about corporate subscriptions today.