John Ross | June 17, 2014

Perspective from consumer panel — part of Inmar "Insights into the Shopper Experience" series

Inmar's recent "Mining for Millennials" consumer panel was a very candid conversation with six individuals — all under the age of 35. While reinforcing some already established perspectives, the dialogue also brought to light some surprising attributes of these shoppers. These other aspects are significant to marketers, but are all too often overlooked. It's critical for retailers and brands to be aware of these behaviors and beliefs as they clearly demonstrate that there is much more to millennials than the prevailing characterizations. What follows are just a few observations from the program that point to the uniqueness of millennials as well as what they have in common with the general population.

  1. Millennials are working hard to get ahead. No slackers in this bunch. Hit hard by the recession, all of the panelists acknowledged being in a very difficult "transition" as they seek to establish themselves professionally and build a home for their families. As a result, they're working multiple jobs, sharing living space, watching closely what they spend, actively looking for deals and ways to save time and money. In everything they do, they are weighing all of their efforts against return. The investment of their hard-earned money and, almost more importantly, their time must yield real return. Must. If marketers want their engagement, they have to make it clearly worth it to this group.
  2. Millennials value their free time immensely. And, they don't have a lot of it. Between work, school and family, there's not much opportunity for "just hangin'," and free time carries a very high premium. One panelist valued his at $100/hour! As a result, millennials are looking for marketers to make things easy. Whenever they're shopping, online or in store, researching information about products and services or doing their banking, they're looking for maximum convenience. If finding what they're looking for requires more time than what they're willing to give, then they'll go somewhere else to find it. And, they may never come back.
  3. Millennials have not abandoned in-store shopping. Yes, they are very comfortable shopping online and do so frequently. (But, only with retailers who make it easy!) They are not overly concerned with retailer data security and they don't see returning a product purchased online as a big deal. Still, they actively shop in store. The two primary reasons are convenience and immediacy of reward. When millennials want something, they want it now. There's a little show rooming going on, and a lot of price comparison, but these younger shoppers are in the store because they like to see and feel product. If they like it and want it, they'll buy it. They don't want to wait. As for grocery shopping, that's definitely an in-store endeavor. Right now, with this group, not much interest in buying groceries online. Right now, anyway.
  4. Millennials are challenged to meet their healthcare needs. There are a lot of moving pieces to this one. Cost, of course, is a major consideration. Their budgets are tight and their coverage is limited. So, getting treatment is weighed carefully against paying other bills and having food on the table. Seeing a doctor — if they have one — is about treating a serious illness. Even then, they will use their own discretion in following prescribed therapies. They also don't want to wait. There's also a collective awareness of the need for preventative care and regular check-ups, but the collective motivation to get it done just isn't there — even more so with the male members of the group.

A quick look at these few observations shows some very real similarities between millennials and other shopper segments. (We also found some interesting similarities between select groups in our 2014 Shopper Behavior Study.) However, it would be a mistake to see millennials as the same as other shoppers. Their values, their focus on maintaining work/life balance, the intensity of their pre-shopping research and the fact that they are completely at home with digital tools make them a unique target for marketers.

To learn more about this shopper segment and view a video from the "Mining for Millennials" consumer panel, click here. I would be very interested in your perspective regarding the panelists' comments and hope you will share them in the comments section below.