U.S. millennials make more purchases online than in stores and younger millennials are even more likely to shop online than older ones, according to a survey conducted in January by CouponFollow, an online coupon platform.
Millennials in 2019 make 60% of their purchases online, the survey of 1,002 millennials (consumers ages 22 to 37) found. That’s up from 47.0% in a survey CouponFollow conducted in 2017. Millennials now make 40.0% of all purchases in stores, down from 53.0% in 2017.
The 2019 survey also found massive growth in mobile shopping among U.S. millennials. Consumers in that age group now make 36.0% of their total purchases using mobile devices, up 20 percentage points from 16.0% in 2017. Purchases made on a desktop or laptop computer make up 24.0% of total purchases, down from 31.0% in 2017.
The survey shows “a shift to totally digital thinking among millennials,” says Marc Mezzacca, founder of CouponFollow.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of the millennial online shoppers surveyed by CouponFollow make half or more or their online purchases from Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000), and 97% use Amazon for at least part of their online shopping, the survey found. Asked about their main reasons for shopping on Amazon, the most popular reason cited (43.0%) was the availability of online reviews, followed by prices (41.0%).
Mezzacca says the popularity of online shopping is driven in part by the price sensitivity of millennial shoppers, who go online to compare prices and look for coupons. 65.0% of survey respondents say they search online for coupons before making an online transaction on a computer and 62.0% do so when shopping on a mobile device. That compares with 35.0% of millennials who search online for coupons before making an in-store purchase. Meanwhile, 9.0% of millennials now say they use software or online tools to automate their coupon searches, up from 5.0% in 2017. Just 5.0% say they do not search for coupons, down from 11.0% in 2017.
Older millennials—those ages 32 to 37—make 43.0% of their purchases in stores and 57.0% online, making that group the most likely to shop in stores, the survey found. Millennials that are 27 to 31 years old make 38% of purchases in stores and 62% online. For millennials ages 22 to 26, the percentages are 39.0% and 61.0%, respectively.
All of this online buying by younger adults is bad news for retailers that operate stores, but that doesn’t mean store-based retail is dead, Mezzacca says. But it shows that stores need to change. As an example to follow, he cited Best Buy Co. Inc. (No 8), which matches online prices and has boosted its omnichannel capabilities in recent years while making its stores into product showcases for gadgets made by brands, such as Amazon.com, Apple Inc. (No. 2) and Google.
The chance to see, feel and test products brings customers into Best Buy stores, and the price match leaves them with one less reason to buy those items online, Mezzacca says.
Men and women show a strong preference for making ecommerce purchases on mobile devices instead of computers, but the preference is more pronounced among female online shoppers. Women surveyed make 41.0% of their purchases on smartphones or tablets, compared with 31.0% of purchases made by men. Women also make a higher percentage of purchases in stores (42.0%) than men (38.0%).
The majority of millennials (55.0%) say they do not use voice-operated assistants (such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri or Google Assistant), but 45.0% say they use such devices for search and discovery activities, such as finding products or online reviews. Among those who use voice assistants for shopping-related activity, 24.0% say they use Google assistant, making that the top choice.
Understanding how and how often millennials shop online is essential for retailers. Not only is it expected to soon become the largest living adult population in the United States, but the millennial generation is also a huge customer base for e-retailers. Across the companies in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, the median retailer gets 30.4% of its sales from consumers between the ages of 18 and 34, according to an Internet Retailer analysis of data from marketing insights company Hitwise.