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Are Millennials’ Shopping Behaviors Today, Everyone’s Shopping Behaviors Tomorrow?

Trends in shopping preferences

Much has been made of the impact that the so-called ‘Millennial generation’ (aka Generation Y) will have – or is already having – on the way financial services are developed and delivered. And plenty of (digital) column space has been dedicated to discussing how the first digital native generation is transforming commerce – and payments – with different expectations, preferences, and shopping behaviors than their older cohorts.


The largest generation in history is becoming the primary demographic within the global workforce, so it’s interesting to look at how millennials’ behaviors and preferences will influence – and eventually transform – the behaviors and preferences of the broader population.


Millennials as early adopters

Tech-savvy millennials are 2.5 time more likely to be early adopters than older generations, but bear in mind that they are early adopters, not the only adopters. Soon enough, they will be followed by the early and late majority, making up the mass of consumers in all generational groupings. Maybe it’s time to stop talking about millennials’ expectations in commerce, payments, and banking, and simply acknowledge that by 2020, these will be the baseline expectations of the vast majority of the population.

Look no further than Facebook for evidence of this effect in action. The social networking site may have grown out of a college dorm room, but it took only a few years for Facebook to become a standard communication tool for baby boomers. Figures from 2014 showed that the fastest growing demographic on Facebook was in fact the 55+ group (80.4% 2011-2014).

So if the preferences and behaviors of Millennials today can be extrapolated upon, and older generations will follow them, what does this mean for payments?


Changing tastes

For starters, millennials – typically defined as those with birth years 1980-1999 – are typically more debt-conscious than previous generations, with nearly 70% preferring debit over credit cards. 62% are comfortable connecting payment information to retailer apps to speed up payment, 45% are comfortable with the idea of connecting payment information to wearable devices, and 44% would prefer to use phones instead of cash to pay for small items.

The implications of these figures are pretty clear as they relate to the need for genuine omni-channel solutions, however it’s also notable that three-quarters of all shoppers – and 81% of millennials – will abandon their shopping cart if a mobile site is buggy, slow, or prone to crashes. The standards that consumers now expect when shopping online are rising, and are highest amongst those who now hold the most spending power. On top of this, millennials have come of age in a Web 2.0 world, where customized and highly personal online experiences have become the norm. This extends to payments, with the desire to be able to complete a transaction with their preferred payment method, which varies hugely by region or country.

Merchants need look no further than the demands and expectations of millennials today, to know how they will need to cater to all consumers within the next 3-5 years. By 2020, the ‘millennial’ buzzword will have run its course, and all players in eCommerce and fintech will simply be focused on enabling consumers of every age to shop and pay when they want, how they want and where they want.