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Keys to understanding Millennials and connected shopping

Keys to understanding Millennials and connected shopping Rodney Mason

Thanks to Millennials' trendsetting habits, we all study the way they shop. And shop they do, but in ways unimagined just a few short years ago. In two recent national studies, we asked Millennials how they discover, filter, and shop -- and we discovered how profoundly their influence is disrupting shopping patterns.

Smartphones are killing it

For a Millennial, the handheld device is their primary connection to the internet (and maybe the outside world). When asked which devices they own and use daily, an overwhelming 89 percent cited the smartphone, with the laptop following at 75 percent, and then a major dip -- tablets and desktops showing at only 45 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

Social media is the No. 1 shopping news source

Fifty-five percent of Millennial consumers learn about products, special sales, and shopping news via social media. What's more, we learned that when it comes to learning about products, shopping news, and sales, venerable television is a distant sixth for them -- well behind social media and other online forums.

They will follow a brand on social media to learn about value and savings opportunities since price is their primary purchase influence, driving their preference for adding savings found in rebates over instant discounts. That trend is unlikely to change, since 95 percent of Millennials say they're more (or just as) sensitive to price as last year. And very few use third-party apps, preferring instead to rely on retailer apps for savings at the stores they like.

Amazon and Google are how they compare prices most

Millennials are very price-conscious. In fact, price is the primary determine factor in their purchase decision across categories. They are quick to compare products for a greater value on their smartphones and most favor Amazon and Google as the primary way they compare prices, versus only 8 percent taking the time to actually visit a retail website for price comparisons on their smartphones. That said, having the very best price on your site and merchandising it through Google and Amazon is critical to stay in the hunt for their business.

Rebates preferred over instant discounts

In key Millennial categories -- electronics, iTunes or Google Play gift cards, sporting goods, video games, clothing, wireless, and grocery -- the majority preferred receiving a rebate instead of an instant discount. Millennials still prefer prepaid cards as their reward, but digital rewards are gaining popularity -- 83 percent would accept a $25 digital reward on a $100 purchase if it were the only choice.

A few retail shopping apps are popular, but independents not so such

The most used shopping app by far was Amazon, used by 55 percent of Millennials -- evenly split between males and females. Grocery store apps with 18 percent use (21 percent female and 15 percent male), Apple Store at 18 percent with even split between females and males, and Groupon at 18 percent (14 percent female and 21 percent male) were tied at a distant second.

Out of the top 28 most-used apps, five independents appeared on the chart. As mentioned above, Groupon tied for second place, Etsy tied at sixth with 15 percent overall (23 percent female and 5 percent male), RetailMeNot tied at 10th with 7 percent overall (11 percent female and 3 percent male). Lastly, Coupons.com tied at 12th for 5 percent overall (6 percent female and 3 percent male) and LivingSocial tied at 18th place with 3 percent overall (4 percent female and 1 percent male).

They really like gift cards

Millennials find safety and flexibility in gift cards. The majority of Millennials still believe that gift cards are the safest way to make online purchases by limiting identity fraud. They also like the flexibility of exchanging gift cards received for other available brands -- a growing trend among retailers.

Loyalty and instant gratification

Millennials also like retail loyalty programs -- over 69 percent belong, preferring to receive and read program information via email, but what they really like is anything that's available right now. Buying online and picking up in-store is popular, giving them the immediacy they crave. In fact, 55 percent told us they've bought online and picked up in-store in the last six months. Expect that trend to increase with the impending holiday season.

What should marketers take away from these numbers and research? It is imperative to attract Millennial shoppers, so make sure you merchandise where Millennial customers shop -- social media, Amazon, and Google on their smartphones -- with the very best price, typically afforded by rebate promotions. They will use retailer shopping apps, but most savings apps are not popular with this audience. Make shopping easy for Millennials and as the trendsetters in the market, others will follow.

Rodney Mason is GVP, marketing at Blackhawk Engagement Solutions.

On Twitter? Follow Mason at @rodmoose and iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Rodney is GVP, Marketing at Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, a global thought leader and customized incentives solutions provider. He has developed engagement and loyalty for well-known companies in retail, consumer goods and electronics, financial...

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