4 Key Things You Didn’t Know About Millennial Shopping Habits

Like it or not, millennial consumers are driving the industry forward. That was the key message during a panel discussion at the FN CEO Summit today in Miami, titled “Stepping Off the Curb: Changing Your Brand’s Focus to Reflect Changing Consumer Taste.” The discussion was moderated by Mastercard’s senior VP and group head of market insights, Sarah Quinlan.

Below, see four key things to know about the millennial shopper:

1. Yes, they have money to spend.
Though millennials are often thought to be low-income earners, Quinlan assures that today’s younger consumer, indeed, has money to spend — it’s just about targeting them in the right way. “They do have jobs and don’t need to live in your basement,” Quinlan said. For instance: In 2017, retail wages rose 1.3 percent year-over-year in Q1. Of that, millennials 25 to 34 saw the strongest wage growth.

Sarah Quinlan
Sarah Quinlan speaks at the FN CEO Summit.
CREDIT: Patrick MacLeod.

2. They buy experiences, not product.
Quinlan said millennials aren’t looking merely to purchase products — they need a story behind them. “The consumer is spending. The challenge is, they like [buying] experiences,” she said. “It’s more, ‘I don’t want goods — I want to play.'”

3. They don’t necessarily shop online.
While millennials are both online-and social media-savvy, Quinlan said this doesn’t necessarily mean these consumers are bound to prefer e-tailer services. “85 percent of people use mobile devices for shopping, but not buying,” said Quinlan. “Online shopping is [more so] used for curation.” Of note: April’s total retail sales saw 91.4 percent come from in-store purchases, while 8.6 percent came from online.

4. Personalized service is key.
It’s no secret department stores are struggling. Quinlan said department store sales declined by 10.1 percent in April. “There’s going to have to be a rethink,” she said. For tapping millennials, Quinlan sees opportunity for small businesses, who often offer tailored services. “In-store experiences matter,” she said. (The total U.S. retail sales for small businesses grew 5.4 percent year-over-year in April).

Sarah Quinlan, fn ceo summit, mastercard
Sarah Quinlan speaks at the FN CEO Summit panel “Stepping Off the Curb: Changing Your Brand’s Focus to Reflect Changing Consumer Taste.”
CREDIT: Patrick MacLeod.

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