Are Millennials and Gen Z more about convenience or price when they shop?

Apr 21, 2017
George Anderson

Condé Nast and Goldman Sachs have issued their annual Love List Brand Affinity Index, which seeks to discover the brands and retailers that connect — or not — with Millennials and Gen Z consumers.

The study found, not surprisingly, that members of these groups are increasingly going online and making use of mobile technology in their interactions with retailers. More than a third of apparel shopping is done online, with a higher percentage of males (42 percent) than females (35 percent) making purchases. Speed and convenience are two traits that are becoming more important in purchasing decisions for both genders.

“The retail industry is in the middle of a seismic transformation, and if you want to be a next-gen company, you need to adopt a digital and mobile-first strategy,” said Pamela Drucker Mann, chief marketing officer of Condé Nast.

“Amazon is the perfect example,” Ms. Drucker Mann added. “As Millennial and Gen Z consumers become a dominant spending force, their phones are their connection to the world, and it’s only getting easier for them to spend their money by using it.”

Amazon was named as the favorite clothing retailer by males in the study. Women in the study ranked Amazon as the top shopping app.

The national study, which surveyed 2,345 consumers, found that shoppers are becoming “more calculated” in their purchasing behavior.

Shopping apps such as Amazon’s are making it easier for consumers to conduct price comparisons. Target’s Cartwheel app was second only to Amazon among retailer shopping apps (sixth overall) on the list of apps that “Conde Nast girls” are using now that they weren’t using several months back. Other new apps making this year’s list included Poshmark, Ibotta, Mercari, Wish, and Ebates.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are shopping apps helping to create consumers who are more calculated in their purchasing decisions? How will this affect retailers as these consumers grow older?

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"Digital tools overall are certainly swaying shopping decisions and retailers who ignore emerging digital tools will be gone in a few years."

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22 Comments on "Are Millennials and Gen Z more about convenience or price when they shop?"

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Jon Polin

We are entering a post-app world. Who wants to load yet another app on their phone when digital tools today should be such that an app is not needed? Texting plus native mobile tools should be sufficient. This being said, digital tools overall are certainly swaying shopping decisions and retailers who ignore emerging digital tools will be gone in a few years.

Max Goldberg

With Millennials and Gen Z it’s all about mobile. They are tethered to their phones and always have a world of data at their fingertips. If a retailer does not have what they want, at a price they are willing to pay, a competitor is seconds away. Retailers need to offer mobile experiences that make shopping easy (search, information, social and check out) and offer free shipping and free returns. Anything less will be a disconnect.

Ralph Jacobson

If you look at every age demographic, the interesting thing is that even Baby Boomers appreciate and show evidence of leveraging more convenient shopping journeys when they are available. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to the youngest people. Yes all shoppers want and are using simpler methods of shopping, either with aggregator/marketplace sites, apps or ubiquitous promotions that make getting the (implied) best deal easier to accomplish. I believe that all people have maxed out on individual retailer apps on their smartphones.

Nikki Baird
Nikki Baird
VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
1 year 11 months ago
I think shopping apps CAN help consumers. Certainly as more of the shopping process moves to digital there are more opportunities for consumers to take control of the shopping journey and shut out retailers or influencers they don’t want to see. Personally I am not in the “apps are dead” camp. I think consumers avoid a lot of apps not because the concept is flawed but because retailer apps suck. Including a lot of the ones on Conde Nast’s list — they just happen to suck less than most of the others. It comes back to a very simple premise: are you helping consumers solve their problems? Or are you just trying to sell them more stuff? And if you don’t see why these two questions are different, then that’s a good hint as to the source of the problem. If you help consumers solve their problems, you’re working against everything retail was built on, like trying to create more engagement and getting consumers to spend more time with you, so that ultimately they spend… Read more »
Lee Peterson

Boy, there’s a lot of “duh” in that study, eh? Snark aside, it is interesting talking to people under 30 about price in that life stage comes into play in a big way. Millennial and Generation Z categorizations don’t apply as much as where they are at in life: high school, college, new workforce member, married, married with kids, all those “stages” are SO much different. You see price mattering more as they ascend that ladder. It is great that you can comp in a second, but it might not matter.

Interesting to note on all this: AI is not such a big deal in moving people under 30 to purchase. Kids don’t talk to apps, they use them. It seems from initial conversations that AI is way more interesting to older consumers. So the latest/most high-tech seems to have done a generational reverse. At least for now.

Dick Seesel

The headline (price vs. convenience) is a false choice, since adept retailers ought to be able to deliver both. That’s the expectation of consumers today, whether they are Millennials or Generation Z or their parents. M-commerce has empowered shoppers over the past decade, because of the vast amount of knowledge at their fingertips and the growth of retailers who know how to leverage it.

Charles Dimov

Apps do help shoppers become more savvy and more sensitive to pricing. However, the bigger factor is still the convenience factor. Millennials, Generation Z and Boomers for that matter often use mobile in-store to assess if the retailer’s price is reasonable for an item. If it is within a reasonable ballpark, that sense of immediacy and convenience will override the small price difference.

Remember, it is all about creating that seamless brand experience for them. Make sure your systems play to omnichannel retailing — including mobile device orders. Make it easy. Get them in-store. Get them used to coming to your brand. Those habits will persist as they mature.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Convenience and experiences trump price every time, because “time” is increasingly part of the value proposition. Price matters, yes, but in the context of the overall transaction. Providing product information is rewarded, along with the ease of discovery and fulfilling the purchase.

David Biernbaum

Young consumers do concern themselves with price, however they are not comparing prices between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar but more so, they are comparing prices e-commerce vs. e-commerce, or even Amazon third party vs. Amazon third party Prime vs. Amazon Prime.

Young consumers are not using e-commerce so much as a convenience, but more so because they are living in a different cultural mindset, where they prefer not subjecting themselves to a physically social environment to do their shopping. They are inclined to shop online where they can read reviews, compare and make decisions without subjecting themselves to sales people or verbal, eyeball-to-eyeball human contact.

Adrian Weidmann

As a whole, in-store apps simply don’t work because they are not sustainable. That being said, my daughter — a Millennial, is an avid Cartwheel power-user. Statistics continually show that shoppers may download many apps only to use them once or twice and then discard them. Proximity marketing and merchandising technologies that rely on Wi-Fi hotspots, such as those found in Starbucks, are far more convenient and hence sustainable. Living in a nanosecond world, speed and immediate gratification are more often valued over other benefits. The interesting observation that I’ve made is that Millennial and Generation Z shoppers will do extensive searches in order to find convenience, immediacy and value (particularly free shipping!).

Bill Hanifin

The transformation that is highlighted in the article will increasingly establish the mobile channel as the favorite means of shopping for Generation Y and Generation Z, whether the purchase is made online or the channel is used to research prior to a brick-and-mortar purchase. As use of the mobile channel becomes more prevalent with all consumers, other factors such as price will rise in importance.

At the moment, retailers can use their mobile apps and mobile websites to deliver “packaged loyalty” to customers. The way Amazon packages it’s growing set of benefits for Prime members, convenience and value is the overall message delivered to its members.

As this approach to retailing is more widely adopted, the packaged set of benefits may be treated as “must-haves” and consumers will turn attention to other factors to make purchase decisions.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

In my three national surveys of Millennials, not surprisingly, I found that they were increasing their use of technology when shopping. My shopping research was focused on grocery shopping. Almost one quarter of all Millennials used online/internet/mobile to shop for groceries in the past 30 days. Conversely, despite FMI statistics that suggest 90 percent of all Americans shop for groceries in a regular full-service supermarket during the same time period, slightly more than half of all Millennials shopped in a regular full service supermarket during the previous 30 days.

In preparing/doing their food shopping this group made extensive use of the following:

  • Email circulars;
  • Online coupons;
  • Visits to store websites;
  • Mobile technology for learning;
  • Mobile technology to compare prices.

This generation does not have the same attitudes/behaviors and will not spend on the same categories as their parents did. Food marketers who assume that the Millennials will start to behave like current older Americans, just because they age, do so at their peril. 

Shep Hyken

Convenience is a trend that cannot be ignored. The ease of doing business with you will become a competitive advantage — in many cases, even more than price. Apps are convenient ways for consumers to connect with retailers. The goal is to replicate what the consumer feels is a typical shopping experience. The app must be intuitive and easy-to-use. And the best apps will allow for some personalized offerings from the retailer. Making it easy to buy from a company makes it an easy choice for the customer.

Kenneth Leung

I am not sure most consumers switch apps to shop by brand. I think mobile shopping in general (app or not) created a generation of shoppers that are comfortable with technology and have higher expectations of information and service. Some will lean towards deals and lower price; some will lean towards convenience and service — all driven on mobile.

Sky Rota
1 year 11 months ago

Generation Zers do not want another app on their phone, especially a shopping app. We are fine using the mobile version. No reason for every single retailer to make an app, but they must have a mobile version of their site that is easy, and fast to navigate and check out. And yes, Generation Z is very price conscious, we are savers and know how to find the best prices. FYI, I never purchased clothing at Amazon before, only Finish Line, Macy’s, Foot Locker and Nike, but I’m done with Nike because they never ever send us a promo code and and their prices are getting out of hand. CSG (Champs/Foot Locker) is my new go to. Good looking clothes and 1/4 the price of Nike and Under Armour. Worth looking into their stock….

Ken Morris

Having a constant, virtually unlimited amount of information at their fingertips has changed consumers’ shopping behavior and elevated expectations for customer service. Consumers now use mobile devices to research products, compare prices, and complete purchases online to pay for in-store purchases, and to do functions previously done only by associates. While price is almost always a consideration, convenience and personalization are just as important, and sometimes more important, in the purchase decision for Millennials and Gen Z consumers.

Millennials and Gen-Z expect everything right now and want everything to be efficient and easy. Bombarding them with messages or offers that are not relevant will turn them off very quickly. Personalization is an imperative for mobile apps, because by the nature of an app, retailers should already know something about the customer and can use this information to personalize the experience. Context is also key to “best” customer service regardless of age as real-time retail and unified commerce take hold understanding the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, weather) will differentiate the savvy retailer from the laggard.

Julie Bernard
That mobile consumers — Millennials and Gen Z shoppers included — are buying online isn’t really news at this point in time. What is news, for physical-retail, however, is that Millennials and Gen Z are enthused when their mobile experience and their in-store experience can connect. For many Millennials and Gen Z, shopping isn’t mobile first, it’s mobile only. From the brick-and-mortar perspective, that means — as young consumers tell us – that opportunities to connect with others on mobile about what’s happening in the aisles and showrooms is crucial. They want to share, they want to see that their choices garner online notice (and affirmation), and, in all of this, they’re re-creating the in-store experience as an offline–online space. These young shoppers also want a seamless experience of online-to-offline interactions with brands. Recent reporting shows that they expect digital conversations with brands — customer support, especially — but that doesn’t have to end on the smartphone; it can start on-device and then build to an in-store pickup where a knowledgeable representative gets to further inspire and delight them. The point… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom

Certainly they provide shoppers with more information. One possibility, of course, is that people will fixate on price, since it’s readily available and easily measured, and ignore the other types of data available, but ultimately it is up to the shopper how an app is used, and it’s the retailer’s responsibility to see that its app presents its offering(s) in the most compelling way possible. If they are not the price leader, then they have to stress things like selection, servicing (if applicable), return policies, and for people who are shopping offline, hours … all the traditional points of differentiation that retailers have always used.

Guy Mucklow
Guy Mucklow
President and Co-Founder, PCA Predict
1 year 11 months ago
Millennials and Gen Z are accustomed to the constant stream of technological advances specific to today’s digital world. As such, these groups expect the speed and convenience that technology brings to key areas of their everyday lives. Today’s shopping trends are evidence of just this. Online shopping sales are quickly overtaking in-store shopping sales, while younger generations are migrating to mobile devices for all their shopping needs at surging rates. With all this in mind, it’s safe to say that Millennial and Gen Z shoppers have grown impatient to any delays or roadblocks present in their online shopping experiences. As these consumers grow older, and as online shopping habits expand across even more industries, retailers will need to adapt accordingly. Mobile sites will need to be as streamlined and user-friendly as possible—a clean, easy to navigate design that is tailored to small screens is a must. Additionally, the checkout process needs to be as simple as possible. Technology such as address verification can help by cutting down the amount of manual typing needed and flagging… Read more »
Elizabeth Meaney
1 year 11 months ago

It’s surprising to me how badly many American ecommerce sites still function on phones, especially when you read about the percentages of sales via mcommerce in countries like China. I am personally reluctant to shop via app, although I do download apps temporarily (for example, from CVS) when they offer a coupon code via app-only and I already have a certain product picked out. Any thoughts on when mobile functionality will step up?

Michael Spencer
Due to how well Amazon Prime is performing with the new consumer, the way E-commerce scales in the 2020s is higher than anticipated. It’s not e-commerce per se, it’s the rise of retail ubiquity. Augmented reality and even 3D-printing are bright future lights of retail ubiquity. The new consumer is primed by these tech events that will alter the future of “retail.” Buying via Alexa won’t be uncommon when you will be able to talk to your voice speaker of your home; and showroom on VR glasses; this is coming. For the new consumer, “experience” is not limited to in-store. Showrooming is seeing a huge rise; but BOPIS isn’t really scaling that well. I’m not sure Gen Z will have the discretionary income not to shop via Amazon, Alibaba, etc. Amazon’s in-house brands will can can disrupt even fast fashion retail; combined with the rise of a new advertising Titan is not just convenience or price, it’s the value of the entire “experience network.” Expecting Target or Macy’s to compete with that is just silly.… Read more »
Pavlo Khliust

The message, which Jon stated below, is clear: to survive the change, businesses have to adapt to a new, customer-centric world. The key lies in building long-term relationships between brand and its customers. But where to start? It is hard to get Gen Z to stay loyal to a brand and even harder to get him or her to download yet another mobile app.

Solution: Make your shopping app web-based (with great architecture and user experience in mind, of course!). Utilize a single view of your customer to know his or her needs, behavior patterns and adjust your strategy accordingly. Be able to identify your client across all channels and re-route him or her to you. Build a unified ecosystem, leverage all the touch-points and information you have about your Shopper.

Nowadays, shopping is all about experiences and value. Deliver the best possible service quality, create unique in-store interactions and a seamless omnichannel experience to stay in business for many years to come.

"Digital tools overall are certainly swaying shopping decisions and retailers who ignore emerging digital tools will be gone in a few years."

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