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Millennials share their ideas about shopping at the ICX Summit. Photo by Matt Tilbury.

How well do you know the millennial shopper? Attendees at the Interactive Customer Experience Summit in Dallas took advantage of a chance to find out first hand during a panel featuring seven millennial shoppers. The session, which concluded the Summit, drew a standing-room only crowd.

Attendees quickly learned that it’s hard to generalize millennials’ shopping habits. The seven panelists, which consisted of six females and one male, each indicated they have their own ideas about how they want to shop.

One takeaway from the session was that millennials, despite relying on the internet for shopping, still like to visit stores.

Moderator and non-millennial Ed King, vice president of MaxMedia, a retail innovation agency, began by asking the panelists their favorite place to shop. Three of the seven said “specialty stores,” Kroger and Target, while the others named Amazon, Google, eBay and Talkville.

Online vs. physical stores

One thread running through the discussion was the need to balance online shopping with visiting physical stores.

The panelists said they are doing their shopping research online, but for certain items, they want to touch the merchandise before they buy. They are not as trusting of online offers as older consumers. King cited a report that said 82 percent of millennials think physical stores are important, compared to 69 percent of Gen Xers and 65 percent of baby boomers.

While most panelists said going to stores is an important part of their shopping, they said it is also important to do their research online before going to the stores. All agreed that when they arrive at the store, they are better informed about the merchandise than the store associates.

When it comes to apparel, one female panelist said she prefers to begin her shopping online since she can explore more products faster. This particular shopper also makes most of her apparel purchases online because she likes having the merchandise delivered to her door.

Another female shopper said she researches apparel online, but prefers to pick the product up at a store because she doesn’t want to wait to have it delivered.

The male panelist said he prefers to go to a store for high-end apparel after researching products online.

When it comes to groceries, most said they prefer to go to stores where they can touch before they buy.

Online research includes checking out what bloggers have to say about products.

Forget downloading apps

The panelists generally took a dim view of downloading apps.

One female shopper said she does find certain apps helpful for finding rebates.

As for using mobile devices when they’re inside the stores, the panelists said they don’t do this because they don’t want their actions to be monitored.

Asked if they would use their mobile devices in stores if the store offered a 20 percent discount on purchases, the panelists were split on whether they would do it.

“I just want to get in and get out,” said one female in explaining why she doesn’t take her phone when visiting a store.

While the panelists are all using mobile devices for researching products, none are paying that way. Some indicated mobile payments compromise their privacy. Others said mobile is not any more convenient than using a card reader.

The male panelist said he has not tried mobile payments after his first attempt to use it at a vending machine was unsuccessful.

Anyone in the audience who thought cash is dead was surprised to learn that most panelists said they like paying with cash.

Self-order kiosks – yes and no

Asked if they will use a self-ordering kiosks in a restaurant, some panelists said it depends on how long the order line is in the restaurant. One said she would not use the kiosks and would simply walk out, while another said she preferred waiting in line to using a kiosk.

Asked to name their favorite loyalty program, the panelists answered Old Navy, AMC, T-Mobile Tuesdays and Kroger. None used Target Cartwheel.

None said they use Amazon Prime.

As for robots designed to assist shoppers in stores, none of the panelists had yet to see such a robot. They unanimously objected to having robots assist them in stores since they don’t want to lose the human touch, although they believe such robots will be arriving in the future.

Asked if they see shopping as a group activity, most said they do not. The male panelist, however, lauded the France-based store, L’Occitane en Provence, for creating a social atmosphere.

“Home is boring at some point,” he said.

The panelists offered the following associations with specific brands:

Tiffany’s – expensive, aspirational, iconic, timeless

Amazon – easy, snarky, convenient, amazing

Sears – old people, dying, low end, clunky, washing machines, tires

Uber – convenient, innovative, scandals, easy, amazing

Starbucks – overpriced, too time consuming

Apple – innovative, not as relevant

Android – safe, on the decline, only product I use

The session made it clear that pleasing millennial shoppers requires a deep understanding of their preferences, which include both online resources and physical stores.

Looking for more great insight and expert discussion relating to customer experience? Attend the upcoming CONNECT 2017/The Mobile CX Summit taking place August 21-23 in Philadelphia. The event will explore the many opportunities that retailers, restaurants and other B2C enterprises have for leveraging mobile and digital channels to build their brands, increase sales and improve customer engagement, experience and loyalty.

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