How Millennials Make Purchase Decisions?

Millennials are poised to reshape commerce and how products and services are marketed and sold. They are growing to be the most important demographics for brands and retailers. By 2017, Millennials will have more spending power than any other generation ($200 billion annually) and by 2020, they will account for 30% of retail sales in the US alone. No wonder, the internet is inundated with articles about this age group!

Yet, getting under their skin and understanding what makes them tick (or more likely, swipe) can be challenging. Their attitudes are most certainly not universal.

However there are generally accepted traits that can help you understand how millennials think, how they shop, what they want, and what informs their purchase decisions. Taking these into consideration is crucial to successfully market to them. Here we take a look at precisely what impacts millennials decisions and what beneficial changes you could make. They might be easily accessible, but they are a discerning bunch with great expectations.

45% of millennials spend more than an hour a day looking at retail-oriented websites.


Because of their age range, millennials likely either grew up with a computer at the ready, or with a smartphone or tablet firmly in hand. They check their mobile devices 45 times a day on average and many can’t even imagine a world without the internet. Digital has formed their habits and preferences regarding communication, personal interaction and purchasing significantly – more than it has influenced older generations.

When shopping online, millennials seek an “experiential” environment that offers more than a transaction.

Shopping is just another form of entertainment like playing games, watching streaming TV, listening to music or reading. In fact, 52% of millennials are more likely to make impulse purchases than any other generation. Needless to say that if the experience you deliver is not fun, memorable, or meaningful, you’ll find purchases from this demographic to be declining.

In order to engage millennials and create sticky experiences, retailers and brands should not be all too hesitant towards embracing retail innovations – being open to change is a prerequisite, even if it affects the way you brand, merchandise and fulfill your products and services.

The ridesharing company Uber has been the fastest growing company in the past few years. Its model is exceptionally successful among and defended by millennials. Why is that? Retailers, brands and service providers could improve by taking these cues from Uber’s experience:

  1. Highly intuitive user interface
  2. Relentless focus on simplification and integration of processes
  3. Differentiation on convenience and ease of use (Calling a cab within 3 taps)
  4. Cut out the middle man while still being personal (No need to interact with a call center, Personal soundtrack during trip)
  5. Transparency (Driver ratings, total cost estimation prior to ride and clear breakdown of the fare)
  6. Hassle-free checkout (Cashless transaction – No fussing with cash to pay for every ride and instant electronic receipts)
  7. Exquisite customer service (Perks like water bottles, free Wi-Fi)
  8. Premium service options (Luxury vehicles and the highest rated driver partners)

How Uber works – © Business Insider

Over 50% of millennials use their mobile devices to research products.


We all know mobile shopping is a big trend. But if you’re in the business of selling to millennials it’s absolutely make or break. Mobile usage among this cohort is near ubiquitous: 88% of them own a smart phone and almost half say they ‘couldn’t live without it’. So much so, nearly 4 in 10 of them interact with their smartphone more than they do with their partners, parents, friends and children. 9 in 10 of them even sleep next to their smartphone! Not surprisingly then, mobile e-commerce revenue is expected to reach £31 billion by 2017.

60% of millennials say that it is convenient to have a smartphone or tablet to research or purchase a product or service on the go.

If you want to stay relevant with this generation and help them decide, you must

  • Have a mobile-first strategy and intuitive, crash-resistant mobile interfaces
  • Make it easy to research, find, save and share information that helps shoppers make informed purchase decisions whenever and wherever they are
  • Optimize your checkout experience for mobile

Millennials are 216% more likely to be influenced by in-store touch screen displays.


While millennials enjoy the convenience of online and mobile shopping, 82% do value the instant gratification offered by bricks-and-mortar stores. Over 50% will still whip out their smartphones to research products and read reviews when in store. Shopping is an omnichannel affair for millennials. One that allows discovering and exploring products on their smartphones, checking them out in store, completing the purchase hours (or even days) later on another handheld device, before picking up their new product in-store.

It’s vital you integrate digital technologies to offer your customers a useful, streamlined and consistent experience online as well as in-store. And if you don’t, you’ll soon fall behind. There is an uncomfortable truth associated with this:

Millennials have grown used to technology reducing the necessity of human gatekeepers. Self-reliance rules.

They demand self-service solutions and digital or crowd-sourced customer service options. 81% of Millennials are less about “friendly” service than “fast” service. Don’t force it on them. If sales associates are not perceived as helpful or as to be adding value to the experience, they can just get in the way.

Equipping sales associates with tablets for quicker access to information and integrating self-service solutions such as in-store touch screen kiosks should be something to consider:

  • Educate customers via in-store solutions so they can arrive at an informed purchase decisions on their own
  • Encourage customers to ‘check in’ to your store online and reward them with an instant discount etc.
  • Facilitate persistent carts, quick access to product details, reviews and real-time stock information on touchscreens and handheld device
  • Support endless aisle shopping from the full product range available online and offline
  • Offer flexible fulfillment options with click and collect or ship from store

75% of millennials have at least one social media account and a fair share of them use it to inform their purchasing decisions.


When it comes to Millennials, they rely on a much wider network for purchasing advice compared to other generations. For example, their purchasing decisions are influenced by five people, as opposed to three for boomers. Social media is one of their primary source to find out and hear about products.

1 in 4 millennials share online shopping content on their social networks – which is a rate of nearly four times the average user. It’s useful too; their content generates 18 more click backs per link, 30% above average.

Companies need a clear social media strategy that appeals to their audience. Traditional marketing methods such as TV or print ads fall behind digital advertising methods. Millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites.

  • Make sure there is someone on board who is hot on social media trends. This is an ever-changing market and you may need to invest time into other platforms and drop others
  • Make it as easy as possible for millennials to share with their friends when they choose your products or services
  • Encourage product reviews on your site and external sites (e.g. blogs, forums etc.) will also provide otherwise ignored insight

Millennials like brands that make them smile – it’s 33% more important than it is to baby boomers.


59% of Millennials buy brands that reflect their style and personality and 40% of Millennials are willing to pay extra for a brand that reflects the image they wish to convey about themselves (compared to 25% of non-Millennials).

Once they do connect with a brand, they identify more personally and emotionally with it than other age groups.

For example, over half of young millennials (18 – 24-year-olds) think that brands say something about who they are, their values and where they fit in. It’s also why they like brands to make them smile – it shows the retailer ‘gets’ them. The upshot? Brands need to express traits – through actions, endorsements etc. – that their audience wish to project about themselves.

  • Instead of constant promotion, brands should be authentic and foster conversations and engagement
  • Identify values your business has which will resonate with millennials and focus on those
  • Look for ways to support your community, in a way which reflects your values
  • Make sure millennials become acquainted with your values via a solid content marketing plan
  • Embrace figures that resonate with millennials, such as a relevant and influential blogger to help spread the message

Getting to the bottom of what makes a millennial more likely to purchase is certainly not easy. Like all generations, they are not a homogeneous group and indeed largely value and celebrate their individuality. But by paying attention to how millennials make decisions and what influences them, you can begin to understand your most influential target group.

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