Myth-Busting Misnomers About Millennial Shoppers

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Customer Strategy
Customer Experience
While many retailers target customers based upon demographic segments, brands must look beyond millennial stereotypes in order to accurately engage these vital consumers.

Though retail marketers constantly claim to offer personalization techniques that engage individual consumers, when it comes to targeting specific demographics, many brands rely on stereotypes to steer their strategies forward. Instead of analyzing their customers' brand interactions, these companies depend upon market generalizations that depict some, but not all, behaviors within the retail industry. Such brands fail to recognize that, despite assumptions, not all consumers conform to the given mold.

As Merchant Warehouse and Retail Pro International highlight in their recent joint study, millennials are particularly misunderstood, as most retailers simply accept the myths as reality, thereby implementing strategies that fail to attract and engage this emerging demographic. The survey, which polled more than 1,000 millennial consumers and nearly 100 retailers, focuses on identifying the knowledge gap that exists between millennial shoppers and the average retailer. By exploring--and busting--many of these myths, the study offers insights that may open retailers' eyes to the potential opportunities they have yet to embrace.
The following statistics explore the typical millennial's shopper preferences and behaviors, as well as the average retailer's perception of this vital group of consumers:

  • Though retailers typically believe that the average millennial looks to their mobile devices for assistance, 60 percent of information-seeking shoppers conduct their pre-purchase research through retailer websites.
  • Nearly 50 percent of millennial shoppers are willing to visit the retailer's brick-and-mortar location if offered an in-store coupon that saves them at least 20 percent.
  • While 53 percent of millennials polled stated that their shopping experiences are seamless across channels, many admit that retailer sites often lack in extensive functionality.
  • Though 68 percent of millennial consumers reported using credit or debit cards as their primary payment methods, 25 percent claim to vary between paper and plastic.
  • When looking at 2013 holiday season shopping behaviors, more than 90 percent of those polled agreed that there are some products they prefer to buy in-store versus online, including footwear (76 percent), apparel (73 percent), and home goods (62 percent).
  • While 84 percent of millennials prefer to purchase electronics online, the majority prefers to buy furniture (81 percent) and jewelry (62 percent) in-store.
  • Nearly 80 percent of respondents stated that they often do their holiday shopping alone, with online research playing an important role in the decision-making process.

Key takeaway: For companies across industries, not just retailers, success begins by understanding their target market. Yet, while industry reports and data analytics can offer some basic insight into how consumers behave and interact with a given brand, nothing beats the granular information that comes from asking customers directly. This study, in particular, highlights that marketers are currently missing out on vast opportunities to cultivate relationships with millennial shoppers because their strategies remain confined to the preconceived notions outlined by market research. Countless surveys confirm these various myths, while others contradict what some may consider accepted truths, thereby emphasizing that no single behavior can capture the essence of any demographic. Thus, marketers must come to know and understand their clientele and cater to their habits and desires in order to engage consumers and develop long-term, loyal relationships.

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