Why You Don’t Shop Like Your Parents

When it comes to shopping trends and buying decisions, what a difference a few years – and smart phones – have made. The last big disruption for retailers may well have been shoppers’ easier access to credit cards.

Convenience. Speed. Brand loyalty. Payment apps. Online portals. Today’s young parents make markedly different shopping choices than previous generations, based on their lifestyle expectations and preferences, says a recent survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).*

Yes, millennial parents recognize they shop differently than their moms and dads. But it’s not just that they use payment apps, buy online and swipe a card instead of paying with checks or cash.

Busy young parents have also cut shopping time and hassles smartly. Many practice these six cost-saving hacks:

  1. Order weekly groceries online and the local grocer delivers sacks right to the kitchen countertop.
  2. Buy bulky necessities (think disposable diapers, kitty litter and laundry detergent) routinely via subscription services or online sites.
  3. Compare prices for kids’ gear (or any item) for one store while standing in another.
  4. Miraculously find availability for a popular item when a retailer is “out of stock.”
  5. Quickly search – and generally find – coupons or discounts to apply to a purchase.
  6. Cut the price confusion (think cars, mattresses, appliances, big-ticket purchases) by deftly scouring models and pricing online before visiting a retailer.

According to the NRF survey, most millennial parents employ smart phone technology at some point of their shopping process:

  • 78% of millennial parents research products via mobile devices, compared to 58% of parents from previous generations.
  • 75% check prices or availability, compared with 58%.
  • 71% pay at checkout or place an order, compared to 51%.
  • 71% will leave a review, process a return or chat with customer service after a purchase, compared with 43%.

As young parents are usually busy and in a hurry, many are willing to pay for conveniences.

  • 86% of millennial parents have used same-day shipping, compared with 67% of parents from other generations.
  • Just 53% expect free shipping on small orders under $50, compared with 66%.
  • 40% use subscription services (often with automatic refills or discounted prices), compared with 18%.

Once a brand finds favor, millennial parents are much more likely to be loyal than other parents, noted Katherine Cullen, NRF director of retail and consumer insights.

“To keep parents of any generation happy, brands and retailers must deliver on both price and quality,” Cullen said. “But millennials are very concerned about good customer services and are twice as likely to back out of a purchase for lack of it. For millennials, service ranks ahead of convenience, selection and loyalty programs.”

The survey indicated:

  • 49% of millennial parents remain loyal to a brand despite cheaper options, compared with 30% of other parents.
  • 52% remain loyal despite more convenient options, compared with 35%.
  • 64% will shop a brand they are loyal to before looking at a competitor, compared with 54%.

The NRF data also showed millennial consumer confidence has risen by more than 20 percentage points since 2008. Roughly one third of respondents said they feel their financial situation has improved over the last year.

Born between 1981 and 1994, millennials are parents to 50% of today’s children. More than 1 million millennial women become new mothers each year, and millennials make a significant contribution to the $1 trillion U.S. parents spend annually on their children.

But you don’t have to be a millennial, or even a parent, to change your shopping habits and save money.  What are your shopping hacks? Do tell.

* The NRF surveyed 3,002 U.S. adult consumers 18 or older between January 30 and February 18, 2018. About 69% of millennial respondents earned more than the national median income (which is $59,000/year), compared with 53% of respondents of other generations.

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