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Here’s Why Three Out of Four Millennials Aren’t Spending In Store

It’s hard enough to get millennial shoppers into stores in the first place, but now a new survey reveals that inventory management issues may be convincing them to shop online even once they show up.

Zebra Technologies Corporation surveyed 4,811 shoppers, 1,100 retail associates and 435 retail executives from around the world between August and September of this year for its Global Shopper Study in collaboration with Qualtrics. The 12th annual edition of the survey studied the effect of retail and technology trends on shoppers and their purchases.

In 2019, Zebra Technologies and Qualtrics found that 75 percent of millennials and 53 percent of Gen Z shoppers surveyed said they had shopped in-store only to leave without purchasing anything, opting instead to shop online. According to the survey, this was mainly due to the prevalence and inconvenience of out-of-stock items.

In fact, 43 percent of the retail associates surveyed said customer complaints regarding out-of-stocks were their biggest frustration at work and that 39 percent of shoppers left the store without purchasing anything as a result. Despite this friction, North Americans still plan on spending 58 percent of their holiday budgets in-store this year.

“Our study shows that while better services will help retain current shoppers and attract new ones, retailers need to make sure they have the basics right when it comes to product availability, ease of finding products, returns and exchanges,” Anees Haidri, director of global retail market strategy at Zebra Technologies, said.

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“To win with shoppers today,”Haidri added, “retailers must deliver the seamless, multi-channel experience that customers expect and leverage technology to provide more personalized services for managing inventory and building smarter operations.”

Returns and exchanges remain a pain point for shoppers and it appears retail executives and consumers perceive the state of the situation differently. Of the shoppers surveyed, 59 percent said they were satisfied with how retailers handle returns while 80 percent of the executives surveyed said the process is currently satisfactory.

Fostering unique in-store experiences can be a massive draw for millennials and Gen Z and can play a large role in which stores are the most “shoppable.” This is another area in which retail executives overestimate consumer satisfaction with their retail experience, as 77 percent of retail executives surveyed said they believed customers were overall satisfied with their in-store experience. Just over half the shoppers surveyed (57 percent) agreed.

However, the survey also revealed that the adoption of new technology has positively affected the average consumer experience in a significant way. The majority of shoppers (58 percent) said that self-checkout services improve the customer experience—led by millennials, 70 percent of whom said they prefer self-checkout.

It’s possible, however, that the continued prevalence of self-checkout may lead to fewer retail jobs, and 54 percent of the store employees surveyed said that staffed self-checkout lanes were increasingly unnecessary as the technology becomes more sophisticated. Retail executives see this as an advantage. Of those surveyed, 87 percent said self-checkout frees up employees to serve customers more effectively and 81 percent reported a return on investment after adopting self-checkout technology.

Providing retail associates with mobile technology has also become a popular method of improving in-store experiences. Of the executives in the survey, 85 percent said they believed mobile solutions were effective and 73 percent of the associates in the survey agreed.

Despite futuristic visions to the contrary, robotics have yet to make much of an impact on shoppers. Just 7 percent of the shoppers surveyed by Zebra Technologies and Qualtrics admitted to interacting with a retail robot in the past six months. It does appear that they are open to the experience, however, as 72 percent said they would be comfortable with a robot helper in-store.

Despite their comfort with self-checkout technology, 32 percent of store employees of the retail associates surveyed expressed concerns about being replaced by robotic systems.