Millennial Report: Shopping Online

Raised in the age of burgeoning tech, millennials have been reared to appreciate innovation. In adolescence our curiosity was piqued by asking Jeeves our burning questions for research immediacy that books simply could not provide, as our empathy was nurtured by the introduction of Roomba, the only family pet that bothers to clean. We developed patience as we waited for mom to get off the landline so we could use the family computer to chat on AOL Instant Messenger. So it’s no surprise millennials are drawn to tech, as we have effectively been raised by technology.

Shopping online is intuitive to millennials, as it’s a technological extension of the habits to which we’ve grown accustomed. We don’t need stores for most things: millennials such as myself do not need the practice of shopping to be social — we have Instagram for that. We don’t need an in-person stylist to notify us of the latest trends — we have Pinterest for that. Millennials don’t need to touch a fabric to feel for texture or try on an outfit to test for fit provided there is a video of the materials or a model to deceive us into thinking we, too, will appear just as strikingly good looking if we purchase that shirt.

I can’t speak for all of Gen. Y, but I can speak for myself and what I believe the majority of us appreciate and sometimes require in online shopping. We’re currently 25-39 years old, which means that our buying habits are shifting. For example, we grew up on fast fashion, but many of us have aged out of that. Sure, we’ll buy cheap clothes from big-box stores, but that’s because we’re already there buying necessary items like diapers and gummy bears. For many of us, fashion is now becoming more of an investment, whereas inexpensive goods can be sourced at low cost and fast turnaround by Big Retail. I know far fewer millennials who will travel to a brick and mortar store to test out a lemon squeezer than those who will spend five minutes searching for and purchasing one online. (Unless, of course, they need to make lemonade immediately. Therein lies the brilliance of omnichannel strategies allowing us to buy online and pickup before we even realize we’re thirsty.)

So asking, “How do millennials spend their money?” will yield few satisfying results because our online spending habits vary. Sometimes we’ll invest the mere scraps of our paychecks we manage to save and other times we’ll be stingy, but all of those spending habits are dependent on external factors. We millennials are a fickle group in flux: we change jobs more frequently than other generations, and we move (and move back home) far more than our parents did. Perhaps a more pertinent question for retailers to ask is, “How can we move to meet millennials where they are”? Millennials need our retailers to move with us, whether that be physical or metaphorical.

Transition isn’t the extent of what we value, of course. Retailers know that millennials care about the environment, so any steps toward reducing waste (like in shipping materials, for example) are valuable to these consumers. And it’s no secret that Gen. Y is notably loyal to brands they like, so rewards-based practices add enormous value too.

So I’d advise you to ask some questions about how you’re catering to this group of millennials. I can’t tell you how to change or adapt to this group of inconstant, environmentally-conscious, brand-loyal tech freaks; I simply offer my perspective.

–  The Soph in Sophelle