How millennials are using mobile for retail shopping

By Hillary Danz

| Retail

Have you used your smartphone to make a purchase this year? What about to research a product, read reviews or compare prices while you’re in a store?

Chances are, if you’re under the age of 35, you use mobile for retail shopping — and retailers are starting to take notice. According to Pew Research Center, millennials (typically defined as adults ages 18 to 34) have now surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation in the US. Mobile technologies and social media are second nature to these digital natives.

As we enter one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year, brands are paying attention to how millennials are using mobile for retail shopping. Providing this up-and-coming generation with a seamless brand experience is essential for retailers that want to engage with the customer of the future.


The move toward mobile shopping

Mobile commerce (sometimes called m-commerce) has been on a steady rise and is expected to make up 45 percent of the total US e-commerce market by 2020, according to Business Insider. More shoppers today are using mobile devices than in the past, both for direct purchasing and for assisting with a purchase.

Though e-commerce purchases through a desktop computer are still more prevalent, younger generations are leading the trend toward using mobile for retail shopping. Millennials are faster than older generations to adopt new technologies, and they are more inclined to turn to their smartphones first when they have product questions or want to comparison shop.

Millennials are also becoming a more significant group of spenders in the retail economy. According to research from Accenture, millennials’ spending in the US will represent 30 percent of total retail sales by 2020. Retailers would be wise to pay attention to this target market’s shopping habits.

Here are three ways millennials are using their mobile devices for retail shopping today:

1. To make a mobile purchase

The most obvious way millennials use mobile devices for shopping is to make direct online purchases through a retail website, app or even social media platform on their smartphones. eMarketer reported that in a September 2014 survey of US smartphone users ages 19 to 33, 40 percent said they use their smartphones to make a purchase.

2. To research products found in stores

Though mobile commerce is on the rise, it doesn’t mean people aren’t frequenting brick-and-mortar stores. Many digital natives use smartphones to facilitate their shopping experiences in retail stores.

A study from Alliance Data showed that 84 percent of millennials use smartphones to assist with in-store shopping. The following are some ways millennial shoppers use their smartphones in retail stores:

  • Photographing products and sharing the pictures with family and friends
  • Comparing product prices against other retailers
  • Researching product information
  • Reading online product reviews

3. To find coupons for use in a retail location

The use of mobile coupons is on the rise for millennials, too, according to eMarketer. At the end of last year, millennials were already using more paperless discounts than print coupons. They search for coupons on retailer websites, coupon websites and even social networks. In addition, apps such as RetailMeNot make it easy to search for coupons and deals, as well as custom apps from retail brands. Mobile phone users can also sign up for text message (SMS) coupon alerts from their favorite retailers. In all these ways, millennials are using their phones to help them get discounts on their retail purchases.

Give your customers an integrated shopping experience

It’s clear that mobile phones have become an active part of the shopping process for millennials. Retailers need to understand this demographic’s needs as they move into the future. Is your business prepared to serve millennials’ desire for an integrated, mobile-ready retail experience?

Written By

Hillary Danz

Social Content Strategist and Writer, IBM

Hillary Danz is a social content writer in IBM Digital Services Group. In addition to crafting compelling stories to enhance each client's brand voice and reputation, Hillary coaches new bloggers and leads an editorial team. When she's not writing or editing, Hillary enjoys outdoor…

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