How Millennials are Changing Holiday Shopping

Attention Brands : You Better Watch Out and Better Not Cry

What’s on your holiday shopping list?  This year, stores are paying very close attention to what their millennial customers want.  They realize that attracting millennials is the key to their economic future, and they know that they must adopt a new approach towards doing business with this critically important customer, if they want to be successful.

The millennial customer is incredibly savvy, smart and well informed.  They also tend to be value oriented and deal conscious.  Within the next ten years, economists predict that millennials will overtake Baby Boomers as the largest consumer group in number, and become the “biggest spenders of the future”. [i] There is no doubt that this powerful demographic will have a significant impact on this year’s holiday sales results, and on retail trends for years to come.  “Millennials increasingly are going to determine what’s in the marketplace, how it’s going to be sold, and what negotiations are going to be had.  They hold the power of the present, because they have the power of the future,” says Mike Bernacchi, a University of Detroit Mercy marketing professor and retail expert.[ii]

This season, stores that are hoping to appeal to their millennial customers need to focus on giving them a positive “omni-channel experience”.  They can do this by incorporating several aspects into their holiday sales and marketing strategy.  First, stores should actively incorporating social media into their marketing plan.  Millennials spend a significant amount of their time online.  Facebook still seems to be the main platform that millennials use to help them make most of their buying decisions.[iii]  Since, 82% of millennials say that they rely on input from friends when making a purchase,[iv] this reinforces the power of social media on this generation. Secondly, since 80% of millennials plan to shop directly from their mobile devices, and survey research shows that 70% will not wait longer than five seconds for a page to load, retailers should make it a priority to improve their mobile apps to capitalize on this trend.[v] Third, retailers can do things go make the “in-store” visit a memorable experience, such as selling items that give back to charitable causes.  Research shows that more than 63% of millennials donate to charity and like supporting positive change.[vi] Finally, stores should consider incorporating great deals and holiday sales promotions into their marketing mix.  Millennials love a good bargain – 40% say they are motivated by coupons and sales.[vii]  With a little online research, savings can be just a click away for shoppers and sales can really add up for stores!

As industry leaders in Millennial Marketing, BNCM wanted to get the real “Beat on the Street”, so we reached out to two of our students from Grambling State University to talk with them about their holiday shopping strategy this year.  We interviewed Sean Moore – a first year graduate student who is studying for a Master’s Degree in Sports Administration, and Keyara Bowser – a undergraduate Senior, who is majoring in Early Childhood Education.  

What’s on your Holiday shopping list this season?  What is at the top of your list for yourself and for others – tech, apparel, outings, travel, etc.?

Sean: For my holiday shopping, I usually focus on clothes and shoes for me and my family.  I have seen some great holiday sales on these items this year, and I am hoping to take advantage of them.

Keyara: Most of the items on my gift list are clothing or fashion related.

When did you start your holiday shopping? Thanksgiving Day?  Black Friday?  Early December?

Sean: My goal is always to start early, but that is hard when I’m at school and I have exams.  Grambling is not located very close to the shops that I like, so I usually wait to do my shopping the week before Christmas, when I am home in Atlanta.

Keyara: I am an early shopper.  I always start my holiday shopping for my family on Black Friday.  

What’s your favorite way to shop – online, in-store, using your mobile device…….and why?

Sean: I will pay attention to commercials, email marketing and social media, but my favorite way to shop is in-store.  When it relates to clothing and shoes, it is important to me to see and feel the quality, in person, and to try it on, in person, for size.

Keyara: Even though I will spend lots of time online before I buy, I always prefer to shop in-store.  There is no better way to see the quality of an item, before I purchase it, and see if the fit is right.  As a busy student, I don’t have patience for doing returns through the mail.

Where do you get information about where and what to buy? Sean: I always pay attention to social media and what my friends say about products or deals.  In terms of emails from retailers – if the subject line is interesting or mentions a sale, I will open it and check it out.  I like to look at online blogs for customer feedback and opinions, especially about sneakers.

Keyara: I like to look online first, regardless of whether I will be buying something online or in-store. I like to read what other people have to say about products or services.   I am not easily swayed, but it’s hard to ignore feedback when there is a general consensus about an item, either positive or negative.  I usually will do a Google search for price comparisons on items before I buy, so I can see whether I can get a great deal.  As a student, any way that I can save some money, really helps my budget!

What kinds of features offered by retailers are most important to engage you and your fellow Millennials?

Sean: I think having amazing digital images are key to attracting the college audience.  We are very visually motivated, and we like to see a product first, to capture our interest.  Also, content is important because it must catch and hold a person’s attention.  If the content is not engaging, I will move on to the next item quickly.   Most important is what kind of price savings retailers offer.  I am more likely to buy a product if I know I am getting a great deal – whether it is online or in-store.

Keyara: My friends and I use social media every day.  We love to get promotions, discounts and deals from retailers.  We all like to look at great photos, whether they are professionally done or more organic – posted by customers.  Therefore, I would advise retailers to pump up their digital and social media presence.  In terms of selection – college students like things that are trendy and popular.  Once friends recommend something, we are likely to check it out and buy it.  I think they call that “group think”.  But I will add that whatever the item is, it must be something of quality.  If it’s not well made, it will lose its appeal to us very quickly.

 SeanMoore_GramblingState_Blog7_12.17.14ABOUT Sean

I am a second semester graduate student at Grambling State University.   I am studying for my Masters Degree in Sports Administration.   I received my Bachelors degree in Marketing from Grambling State University in May 2014.  During my undergraduate years at Grambling State University, I participated in many clubs and organizations on campus.  I also played three years of Division 1 baseball. I have been working for Barnes and Noble for a year and a half and I have learned many things while working for this great company.  My dream job would be to work for a professional sports organization as a director of operations, in personnel or in marketing.  Sports are a passion of mine and I hope to work in this field after finishing my studies.

 Headshot_KeyaraBowser_CloseUpABOUT Keyara

I am a Senior at Grambling State University, matriculating in the field of Early Childhood Education.  I am 22 years old and I am originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana.  On campus, I am a member of Sigma Alpha Pi and FSUB.  I have been workomg in our lovely Barnes & Noble College Campus Bookstore for over 7 months, and I really enjoy being a part of the team



[i] Kovanis, Georgea. “Move over Boomers, Millennials Are in Charge of Shopping Experience.” Move over Boomers, Millennials Are in Charge of Shopping Experience. Detroit Free Press, 23 Nov. 2014. Web.
[ii]  Ibid
[iii] Ibid
[iv] Ibid
[v] B, Julie. “Millennials and Holiday Shopping – QSample Blog.” QSample Blog. QSample, 25 Nov. 2014. Web.
[vi] Perez, Kendra. “How Millennials Are Reshaping Retail in Time for the Holidays – Chelsea Krost.”  ChelseaKrost.com, 04 Nov. 2014. Web.
[vii] Ibid