Millennials Are Interactive, Engaged and Highly Skeptical When Making Retail Decisions
There are 80 million millennials — those born between 1977 and 2000 — in the United States, accounting for 25 percent of the population. This media-integrated demographic represents a very important user group for the retail industry as this population relies heavily on social networks for making e-commerce decisions. This is a generation that's growing up in a time of significant technological advancements and societal shifts that impact their decision making. Understandably, this is a highly skeptical generation, intent on using social media to make a difference and to have their voices heard.
As we worked on developing gDecide, the social network for decision making, we conducted several online and telephone surveys and organized user forums to understand how millennials make social, shopping and work decisions. Since the most frequent day-to-day financial decisions are shopping related, retail was an area of particular interest in our research and information-gathering activities.
Our findings are based on the following:
- telephone survey of 1,000 millennials in late 2013;
- six group discussions with students and young adults to see how they use social software to ask questions and collaborate on decisions;
- an online survey of 100 18- to 34-year-olds in mid-2014 to understand what tools they use to collaborate on decisions with friends, family and colleagues; and
- articles and research available online on the millennial generation and their use of social media in regards to shopping decisions.
Our research reveals the following about the habits and character of millennials:
- Increasingly more conscious of privacy, though they value interactions before and after a purchase. They like to ask questions and discuss their purchasing decisions in private, but they're also eager to share the outcome of their decisions publicly as long as they can carefully control and selectively choose what gets shared on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other social networks in which they participate.
- Actively engaged consumers. Ongoing communication and engagement through social media with brands is a must.
- Very visual and thus influenced by photos and images of the products and service they're looking to purchase. For personal shopping, they prefer to sample and try before they buy. For example, wearing the actual dress and taking a picture with it is more important than a Photoshopped version in a catalog.
- More likely to discuss any purchase they're considering through social media (as well as chat/text) with their confidants before they make a decision.
- Make smaller purchase decisions quickly and only seek minimal instant feedback. The larger the purchase the more important it is for them to get feedback from people they know and trust before a decision is made.
- Depend on feedback from people they trust in addition to online reviews of the products they're considering to purchase. In absence of such feedback, the overall conclusions they reach based on online reviews and information available on social networks have more weight than any other information source (e.g., direct feedback from the sales people with whom they interact).
Successful selling to millennials isn't about just focusing on the transaction point; it's an ongoing conversation and interaction with highly social, connected and engaged consumers that aren't afraid of stating their opinion and are extremely aware of the power of social media on influencing a brand's reputation and success.
Rudolf Melik is the founder and CEO of gDecide, a provider of collaborative decision-making software to track, discuss and analyze decisions.