How This Generation Is Calling The Shots On The Future Of Retail

We're still massive mall rats, it turns out.

We're still massive mall rats, it turns out.

Starting a business? Here's what you need to know about the way young people are shopping.

Society can complain all it wants about this generation of selfie-taking, avocado-toast-eating, bleeding-heart hooligans all it wants, but here’s the truth: We’re the prize pony when it comes to the retail industry.

According to a recent study from Coupon Follow on the shopping habits of millennials, all 80 million people of us (defined as 21 to 35-year-olds for the purpose of this survey) are spending $600 million annually. We presently make up 28 percent of all daily per-person spending, and that percentage is projected to hit 35 percent by 2030. That’s some serious spending power. 

Some of the study's findings are obvious. Dudes prefer shopping online, we all *love* free shipping, and we’re a generation that’s invested in niche brands that amplify our social values.

But the study also puts forth some more surprising information, and if you’re presently or will someday be a small business owner looking to capitalize on this generation of conscientious spenders, take heed:

  • Contrary to the pervasive notion that we do everything on our phones, we actually still do a lot of shopping in brick-and-mortar stores: 53 percent of us make the majority of our purchases offline. Only 16 percent make the majority of purchases on their phone, and 31 percent on desktop.
  • Perhaps even more surprising, people aged 20-23 are more likely to shop offline. Which goes to show you that milling about aimlessly in a shopping mall with friends will continue to be a time-honored tradition (at least until malls go extinct). 
  • We’re thrifty AF. Seven out of 10 people search for coupons before busting out that plastic for an online purchase, and more than half search the web before making an in-person purchase. And we’re pretty serious about our research and price comparisons: 76 percent look online before making a purchase decision at all.
  • We’ll voluntarily pay attention to a brand so long as it feels like it aligns with our values: 57 percent of us follow brands on social media, and women are 14 percent more likely to do this. We do this largely in order to keep up on current fads (so if you’re a business owner, better make sure you know what’s what). 
  • Trying to one-up the competition? Two-thirds says they’d consider trying out a competitor of their favorite brands if the discount was at least 30 percent.

But a word of caution on that last point: As Fast Company points out, even though we are a generation that's not afraid to declare brand loyalty, we're also looking out for #1, and if you're a business owner, getting into a habit of constantly discounting your merch in order to undercut the competition can set up a dangerous expectation in the minds of your customers.

Just something to keep in mind as small business owners attempt to wrangle us cash cows. Carry on, savvy shoppers!

Words: Deena Drewis