This article originally appeared
in the 2013, No. 2, issue of
The journal of high-performance business
Industry Report | Retail
Who are the Millennial shoppers?
And what do they really want?
By Christopher Donnelly and Renato Scaff
The digital prowess and market savvy of Millennials make
them a difficult group for retailers to bracket—do they
break all the rules, or are they more like other consumers?
New research puts to rest a number of Millennial myths
and provides insights marketers can use to engage and serve
tomorrow’s trillion-dollar demographic.
Millennials—born between 1980 and
2000—are both the 20th century’s last
generation and its first truly digital
one. This old century/new technology
dichotomy gives pause to marketers
attempting to understand and connect
with this key demographic.
But are Millennials really a unique
new breed of plugged-in, networked
savants? Or do these prized consumers share critical similarities with
To find out, Accenture conducted
proprietary global market research
on the shopping behaviors of 6,000
consumers, of which 1,707 were
Millennials, across eight countries
(see sidebar, page 5). We also looked
at the capabilities of 60 retailers
worldwide to determine whether
they were providing the customer
experience this generation demands.
To give some idea of the stakes involved:
There are roughly 80 million Millennials
in the United States alone, and each
year they spend approximately $600
billion. While originally typecast as
financially dependent teens, today’s
Millennials include young adults in
their 20s and 30s. Many have careers,
are raising kids and live in their own
homes. While Millennials are already
a potent force, they will truly come into
their own by 2020, when we project
their spending in the United States
will grow to $1.4 trillion annually
and represent 30 percent of total
retail sales. Millennials will have
a major economic impact in other
markets our research covered as well.
Although Millennials have earned
a reputation for viewing the world
through a uniquely digital lens,
our results found some remarkable
similarities between them and their
predecessors: the Baby Boomers (born
from 1946 to 1964) and Generation X
(1965 to 1979).
More than half (55 percent) of the
survey respondents, in all three
demographics, said that they seek
out “the cheapest return option.”
Forty-one percent of all three groups
said they practice “showrooming”—
examining merchandise at a nearby
retail store and then shopping for
it online to find the lowest price—
more often than they did a year
ago. This shift is due, in part, to
the current high penetration levels
of smartphones, which can enable
customers to search for an item easily,
even while in a store.
Thirty-six percent of those surveyed
from all three generations said they
will go online to buy from a retailer’s
website if they want a product when
the company’s stores are closed.
On average, 89 percent said
having access to real-time product
availability information would
influence their shopping choices
in terms of which stores they
The many similarities we found across
generations led us to challenge three
enduring myths about Millennials.
Myth #1: It’s all about online shopping
Millennials are certainly very savvy
online customers, but that doesn’t
mean they’ve stopped frequenting
brick-and-mortar venues. In fact,
interviews conducted recently at
one of America’s largest shopping
malls confirmed our survey findings
that many members of the digital
generation actually prefer visiting
stores to shopping online. What’s
more, our research findings in the
United States were reflected in the
other countries where we surveyed
as well. Echoing countless generations
of canny shoppers, one Millennial told
us, “You want to touch it; you want to
smell it; you want to pick it up.”
Make no mistake: Online and mobile
channels are important to Millennials,
providing the information and
insights they need to find the best
products and services. Many hone
their shopping skills on the Internet,
checking product ratings and reviews
or feedback on retailers, for example,
to confirm that both product and
vendor provide the best value and
One challenge for retailers is the
Millennials’ seemingly omniscient
grasp of prices and promotions,
which this generation expects to
be the same in stores as they are
online. To cash in on in-store retailer
promotions, Millennials also want
mobile coupon scanning capabilities,
and having to print out coupons prior
to shopping could be a deal-breaker.
One summed it up this way: “When
I get to the store, if I haven’t printed
out my coupon and I can’t use it,
I walk out.”
When it comes to shopping, we found
that 68 percent of all Millennials
demand an integrated, seamless
experience regardless of the channel.
That means being able to transition
effortlessly from smartphone to
personal computer to physical store
in their quest for the best products
Myth #2: Loyalty is lost
In a recent survey of retail industry
leaders, nearly 40 percent said
the No. 1 concern they have about
Millennials is their lack of loyalty.
But we found that Millennials can
be exceptionally loyal customers—
provided they feel they’ve been
They demand a customer-centric
shopping experience—one tailored
to their wants and needs as valued
customers. As one shopper put it,
“You want to feel welcome when you
go to the stores.” In describing the
ideal shopping experience, a Millennial
noted, “There is [something] about the
product and its cost, but there’s also
a big part about being treated like a
Many seek personalized, targeted promotions and discounts as the price for
their loyalty. “Loyalty programs are
big,” confirmed one interviewee.
We found that 95 percent or more
of Millennials say they want their
brands to court them actively, and
coupons sent via email or mailed to
their homes currently (or will in the
future) have the most influence on
them. Other channels, such as text
messages, have an influence on just
over half of all respondents in terms
of their shopping behaviors.
Myth #3: Millennials treat retailers and
brands the same as people on social networks
Although Millennials are masters
of social media, they view Facebook
and other sites differently than many
marketers may assume, which can
lead to misunderstandings.
While clicking an icon on a social
network page might indicate that they
consider a retailer or brand cool or hip,
(Continued on page 5)
Millennials still like brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, 82 percent of them prefer
bricks and mortar.
prefer shopping in
consumer electronics stores
prefer shopping in
in department stores
prefer shopping in discount/
mass merchant stores
Millennials can be exceptionally loyal customers: 69% say that when it comes to their
favorite retail store, a “closed” sign does not change their minds.
will return to the store
the next morning
will buy the item from
the retailer online
will buy the item via
the retailer’s mobile app
It takes more than Millennials liking a brand or a retailer on social media to make
them loyal customers.
will make a purchase due to a social media recommendation
Source: Accenture analysis
About the research
To bring the needs of Millennial consumers and their potential
impact on retailing into sharper focus, Accenture undertook
a three-pronged research initiative that included a major, multicountry online consumer survey, a global retailer benchmarking
study and face-to-face interviews with 50 individual consumers.
Developing integrated merchandising skills, which requires
retailers to provide an integrated product assortment and
unified pricing across channels.
Putting in place flexible fulfillment and returns procedures
that offer customers multiple convenient options.
Consumer survey. We conducted an online survey of 6,000
consumers, of which 1,707 were Millennials, across the United
States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Sweden, Japan,
China and Brazil.
Retailer survey. The second element of the research was
a benchmarking survey involving 60 global retailers
that focused on six capabilities and asked 80 questions.
The six capabilities are:
Providing a consistent customer experience regardless
Offering connected shopping that allows customers
to move seamlessly across channels to fulfill a single
Enabling personalized interactions through which retailers
effectively engage customers to offer the dynamic,
accessible and continuous shopping journeys, whether
in-store, online or via a mobile device, consumers desire.
Providing better, faster and more memorable customer
Accenture matched the consumer and retailer benchmarking
surveys on a one-to-one basis to evaluate what is important to
customers compared to what retailers are actually delivering.
Face-to-face interviews. To bring the survey findings to life,
we interviewed about 50 randomly selected consumers at the
Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois.
(Continued from page 4)
that doesn’t necessarily mean they are
loyal customers. “I really don’t follow
my retailers on Facebook or Twitter,”
said one. Instead, they view social media
relationships with brands and retailers
as transactional. “Social media? I use it
to get deals,” offered another.
a routine part of their conversations
concerning product information,
updates and special offers. “It’s not
like you’re communicating a deal to
[your friends],” one person explained.
“It’s more like, ‘Hey, I got this new
thing, this new toy.’ ”
Marketers, who are relentless scorekeepers, can easily mistake a pressed
“like” button for far more than it
really is—which, from the Millennials’
perspective, is basically a way to
find the best offers. “I do ‘like’ certain
retailers on social media,” one Millennial
noted, “especially if it gives me
access to coupons or deals or more
information. [Otherwise], I would have
to be pretty emotionally moved to just
‘like’ [a retailer] for no reason.”
The goal should be to create positive
buzz, to be talked about by Millennials.
Simply having a presence on social
media isn’t enough—the aspiration should
be to become the topic of conversation
for all the right reasons. Contrary to the
famous public relations maxim that all
publicity is good publicity, many firms
have found, to their regret, that the
negative online buzz they are generating
can zap both brand strength and sales.
Instead, companies need to engender
the type of positive online buzz that
can lift brands and sales alike.
To reach Millennials on social media,
a brand or product must become
Our research also highlighted the
quicksilver nature of social media.
For further reading
“Shoppers without borders,” Outlook
2012, No. 3: http://www.accenture.com/
“Serving the nonstop customer,” Outlook
2012, No. 3: http://www.accenture.com/
“Harnessing the power of social media,”
Outlook 2011, No. 1: http://www.accenture.
For more related content,
please visit www.accenture.com.
Although Facebook remains by far
the largest social network in the
world, Millennials—perhaps as a
bellwether for the actions of other
generations—have begun to move
on. “[Facebook has] kind of died
down,” shrugged one. Others listed
their Facebook alternatives: Twitter,
LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest and more.
For retailers, this proliferation means
that where the conversation takes
place is constantly evolving. Next
year, it could be an entirely new
site; in five years, the social media
channel itself could morph into a
completely different form.
Driven by the Millennials and future
digital generations as yet unnamed,
we believe retailing will change more
in the next five years than it has in
the last 50. That’s because consumer
uptake of new communication
technologies has continued to compress
over the past 125 years.
Look at radio: It took more than
30 years to achieve a consumer
adoption rate of 50 percent. Mobile
phones took only 15 years to reach
the same level, and social media,
a mere 3.5 years. The message for
retailers is simple: While you had
literally decades to perfect your
radio-era go-to-market strategy, with
social media you will be lucky to get
a year, and in the future, a year might
be a best-case scenario.
Unfortunately, our research shows that
retailers are currently under-delivering
when it comes to the demands of
Millennials. When Accenture evaluated
more than 60 global retailers to
understand how seamlessly they
deliver the customer experience,
we found that most of them had big
holes in their approaches.
We have identified six dimensions
as contributing to a seamless
retail experience. Today, most
retailers are making headway on
only two: providing a consistent
cross-channel experience and offering
personalized interactions. The other
four—connected shopping, integrated
merchandising, flexible fulfillment
options, and the capabilities and
enriched services that help make
the overall shopping experience
better, faster and more memorable—
remain works in progress.
We define seamlessness as the ability
to deliver a consistently personalized,
on-brand experience for each individual
customer, at every touchpoint—anytime
and anywhere. A seamless customerfacing retail experience will typically
include the following four components
(see chart, page 4).
To reflect customer demand,
retailers need to customize their
offerings across channels in the ways
Millennials want, which typically
boils down to providing better, faster,
more memorable service.
Retailers also need to integrate
their operational elements so that
they can have a single “conversation”
with customers, not one that
changes from smartphone to PC
to physical store.
IT platforms should be integrated
to unify their sources of data and
boost cross-channel transparency.
Finally, retailers will need to team
up with technology, data, analytics
and process partners to provide the
service performance Millennials want,
since they will not be able to deliver it
all themselves. As a result, successful
players are collaborating to strengthen
their customer value propositions.
For instance, a third-party logistics
provider can supply same-day delivery
services for online purchases,
enabling retailers to offer a service
customers want without having to
invest in an expanded delivery fleet
or new routing capabilities.
To improve their capabilities as
a seamless organization, we suggest
that retailers consider the following
First, integrate the company’s
merchandising and marketing
departments with a unified position,
making the customer experience just
as important as product and price
considerations within the company.
Second, retailers should consider
ways to consolidate single channel
teams in order to serve customers
on an end-to-end basis across
Third, retailers can organize their
store employees on two specialized
tracks, one tasked to serve customers
and the other focused on fulfillment,
since the two disciplines differ
dramatically from each other.
Fourth, companies should explore
Outlook is published by Accenture.
The views and opinions in this article
should not be viewed as professional
advice with respect to your business.
The use herein of trademarks that may
be owned by others is not an assertion
of ownership of such trademarks by
Accenture nor intended to imply an
association between Accenture and the
lawful owners of such trademarks.
For more information about Accenture,
please visit www.accenture.com
Copyright © 2013 Accenture
All rights reserved.
Accenture, its logo and
High Performance Delivered
are trademarks of Accenture.
ways to evolve their supply chains
to gain the capability of managing
their inventory holistically. That
means “forward” to the stores,
“backward” for returns and “sideways,” which involves sourcing from
Finally, many retailers should think
about how to expand the metrics
they use to keep track of the company’s
customer handling performance, as
well as the incentives that drive it.
Normally, retailers look at samestore performance, but that dynamic
changes when companies use stores
to fulfill orders initiated online.
Questions arise, including which
channel should receive credit for the
sale? Who covers the cost of fulfillment? And how do you encourage
stores to support these shifts when each
is responsible for its own profitability?
Our research shows that Millennials
are not only transforming their own
shopping behaviors but those of their
parents, who are increasingly mimicking the demands of their children for
seamlessness as they climb the digital
learning curve. One consequence of this
evolution is that the retail environment
will probably change faster than many
companies expect in the coming years,
and many retailers will find themselves
falling further and further behind.
That’s because delivering products
and services in a truly seamless
fashion will require companies to
make profound changes across their
entire organizations—changes that
many seem either unprepared or
unwilling to make.
To close this emerging consumer
generation gap, retail leaders need
to take action now to provide the
seamless end-to-end experience
About the authors
Christopher Donnelly is the industry
managing director of Accenture Retail.
He is based in Chicago.
Renato Scaff is an Atlanta-based
managing director in Accenture Retail.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Rapid Rise of Millennials
Traditional Behavior and Consumption are Gone
How Brands Miss the Mark
Making the Millennial Connection
Brands Getting it Right
Ways to win with Millennials
Seizing the Opportunities
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content from this eBook
THE RAPID RISE OF MILLENNIALS
POWER IN NUMBERS
Average household income
THEY ARE CURRENTLY THE LARGEST GENERATION — SURPASSING EVEN BABY BOOMERS
Source:(2013) Millennials: General Market, CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights Fast Facts(2013) US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, October 2013 release, via DaraFerrett
TRADITIONAL BEHAVIOR AND CONSUMPTION PATTERNS ARE GONE
Millennials are focused on amassing life experiences rather
than tangible objects, forgoing large financial commitments
in order to pay down debt and increase their savings. This
shift in spending priorities will define their generation for
decades to come.
Average use of
A NEW OUTLOOK
Traditional milestones of adulthood are crumbling because of changing values and curbed
economic opportunities. The result is a generation living very differently than their parents were
at similar ages. Brands tha ...
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