What’s Driving Millennial Shopping? The Answer Might Surprise You


Vice President, Strategic Sales Development , Business Development

Generation X may have been all about pushing the envelope, but millennials aren’t afraid to go back to their roots.

Opinions differ on when exactly the Millennial generation came into being. But generally speaking this is a group that grew up with the internet and  mobile devices and more often than not experienced first-hand the growth of social media, from LiveJournal to MySpace to Facebook to SnapChat.

When it comes to the shopping habits of millennials, digital and social channels are usually touted as the only game in town, but new research is showing that so-called traditional media can play an even more important role.

Recent Arbitron data shows that 93 percent of Americans over the age of 12 still listen to AM/FM radio at least once per week. Millennials have actually increased their radio usage while other groups slightly declined.

The millennial generation differs from other groups in some important ways. Media Behavior reports that by 2020, millennials over the age of 25 will account for 20% of the population, a 15% increase from 2010. As a demographic group, millennials are racially diverse, fiercely independent and optimistic about the future, Pew reports.

As Kate Elfering put it at Forbes:

Simply put, this is a massive generation with a population size of 76.6 million, surpassing even Baby Boomers. NOT understanding them, NOT finding ways to be relevant or engaging to them, NOT adapting to their new expectations— it’s the easiest way for a brand to fail. Brands need to stop waiting for Millennials to “grow up” and fall in line with what past generations have done.

Mediabehavior.com used USA Touchpoints, a consumer analytics platform, to track how consumers were buying food in the sausage and cold cuts category. Millennials, they noted, tend to shun Sunday circulars and are 12% more likely to use coupons downloaded on their mobile devices.

They found that “millennials listen to the radio on their way to work, at friends’ homes and on their way to the store, so radio is a good choice as an activation medium.”

In fact, some stats put out by Katz Media might shock some. “More than 66 million, or 92% of Millennials each week spend nearly 2-1/2 hours each day listening to radio,” they report.

Several recent studies tell us mor e than half of 18 – 34s say that radio “energizes” you or “improves your mood”. Or makes you happy. Millennials get down or lonely or want the comfort of a familiar voice , or just to be entertained , just like most people. Maybe more so. More of them said they’d be more disappointed if their favorite radio station went away than if Facebook went away (62% vs 45% if you are a numbers fanatic)

It’s not just the radio finding that may be surprising to some. Millennials, who are often accused of “showrooming” (shopping in store to buy later, and cheaper, online), actually prefer to shop in a brick and mortar store than online. Millennials may be one of the more difficult demographics to get, but marketers in this case need to adapt or perish. And with a demographic that always seems ready to surprise, it’ll certainly keep us busy.