Millennials’ Consumer Behavior

legs-407196_640My early 20s consumer behavior was mall-based at large national retailers, such as Gap, American Eagle, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and others. Our generation didn’t have large quantities of belongings, mostly just basics like bookcases, stereo systems, hand-me-down furniture, desks and the like. Moving to school or changing apartments was accomplished in an afternoon with group of friends and their trucks, fortified with beer and pizza. Simple times.

Now, we have easy access to a ridiculous array of items 24/7/365. We’re all aware how Amazon has evolved from a bookselling to basically a cyber über-mall, but have you heard of or used the delivery services PostMates or InstaCart? What about transportation options like Zipcar or Lyft?

On a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I went shopping for a few hours with my college-aged daughter. This experience confirmed an observation I’ve had over the past few months: we now have a very powerful generation of consumers who are ramping up their aggregate purchasing power. Their shopping choices are influenced by online research and access to current styles and trends in addition to real-time friends’ opinions via social media (no trip to a dressing room is complete without feedback from a friend via Snapchat).

Beyond these influences, I picked up on a theme that I am calling, “What Really Matters to me?” The answer can fit one of three categories:

  • Edited. What are the essential items that I use and enjoy? This may include a water bottle, coffee travel mug, essential electronic device and headphones or perhaps a special find from travel (scarf/shawl, sweater or photo).
  • Curated. Given all of the options, what high quality items do I feel passionate about to the point I am willing to pay more for them than for other products in the same category? What do these express about who I am? Think Longchamp bags, Tiffany jewelry, Ray-Ban sunglasses, Beats headphones and other premium items.
  • Signature. What items speak to who I am and the image I want to portray? It could be flannel shirts, hats or self-designed t-shirts. Multiple bracelets. A disposition towards specific footwear (Toms, Chuck Taylors or boots). Perhaps these items make a statement about your politics or sense of humor or favorite sport, band or hobby.

Everyone owns products from Target, Old Navy, and other mass retailers. What I’m getting at here is there is room (and growth) in the marketplace for stores and their products that are typically high design and high functionality—and these tend to fall in the Edited, Curated or Signature bucket.

Feeling like you need to add some Edited, Curated or Signature items to your collection? Check out these tempting sources:

  • Madewell—casual and cool clothes (a J. Crew brand)
  • Timbuk2—messenger bags from a San Fran start-up founded by a bike messenger
  • Canoe—beauty meets function in everyday items
  • Snow Peak—outdoor lifestyle goods
  • Bridge & Burn— functional, west-coast clothing, home goods and accessories
  • Urbanears—affordable, high performance headphones

The ultimate example is Sid Mashburn—I think he was born with style. Going well beyond clothes and shopping, it’s an experience.

Learn more about Millennial consumers:



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