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New Study: What it Takes to Win Millennial Shoppers

It might take a little song and dance to get a Millennial shopper’s attention as new research shows it takes more than just marketing and discounts to get this customer to convert.

A recent NPD Group report titled, “Winning the Fight for Millennial Shoppers,” found that 53 percent of Millennials are shopping in a typical week, with 81 percent of that retail spending taking place in brick-and-mortar stores (compared to just 19 percent online).

Big stores are bringing in 28 percent of Millennials compared to just 8 percent at other apparel stores and the average amount spent per shopping outing is $75 with most of that money going to apparel, followed by beauty then health products.

Millennials, or Generation Y, are loosely defined as individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 and according to NPD, there are 80 million of them. And those 80 million shoppers made more than 5 billion shopping visits–more than a third of all US shopping visits–in the past year. So, when they do decide to shop, they make an impact.

But Millennials don’t always buy when they shop–57 percent actually make a purchase when they visit a store (compared to 69 percent of Baby Boomers), the lowest conversion rate across all generations.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the NPD Group said, “Millennial shoppers have the lowest shopping conversion rate because they are the most selective as well as the most economically challenged,” according to NPD.

Disposable income is a foreign concept to most Millennials as they are overwhelmingly debt-ridden, have to compete fiercely for fewer and often underpaid employment opportunities and saving regularly is rare.

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The NPD study showed that value oriented retailers like dollar stores and secondhand shops are doing the best at bringing in budgeting Millennials and have been more successful at getting this customer to convert.

But there will never be one right way to target this market. “Millennial shoppers are the most elusive generation and the most challenging to keep engaged,” Cohen said. “In order to get more Millennial consumers in store, retailers need to understand how Millennials’ shopping habits differ from other generations. Previous generations were more easily impressed by marketing and advertising strategies. With this group you must have a strategy to grab their attention in- and out-of-store.”

According to, a site dedicated to decoding the young consumers and commenting on the latest marketing trends, “Becoming ‘big’ with Gen Y is more about restraint than overt action. By avoiding many of the trappings of a mainstream brand, they become mainstream. This may be the ultimate paradox of Millennial Marketing.”

Retailers like Under Armour have done well with this market because, instead of forcing product on the Millennial consumer, they sought endorsements from top athletes who would make shoppers want the product in a way that overt advertising doesn’t.

Holly Brickley, a strategic analyst at Outlaw told Millennial Marketing that, “Generation Y trendsetters are more drawn to brands that speak to them in a straightforward and stripped-down way, use plain packaging, and avoid excess,” a concept that has worked for Under Armour.

Millennials are often creative whether in profession or life and appreciate originality in a brand. Retailers that have done something first, or better, or in a way no one else has, will really resonate.

Because this shopper is so technologically connected, capturing their interest will take some social media engagement and the shopping experience between brick and click should be seamless, the study notes. Millenials are so conditioned to finding information quickly and easily as they would when shopping online, that the in-store experience must be equally effortless.