How Are Millennials Shopping This Holiday Season?

We like to think we are unique, but we’re not. Particularly when it comes to shopping. Many studies have shown how entire generations share attitudes and outlooks to life that shape their behavior. It pays to understand what these shared and somewhat involuntary tendencies are, so we can fight them or redirect them when they don’t suit our goals.

The fact that people in the same generation, such as the baby boomers, the generation X crowd or the millennials, act in similar ways is hardly surprising. If people live in roughly the same period, receive a similar education and are exposed to the same cultural influences, it figures they will also think and act alike.

Marketers have long known this, which is why they fine-tune the way they sell their products to better target their desired audience.

“Millennials, people born between the early 80s and early 2000s, are important to marketers because they account for over $1.3 trillion in annual spending; they are the largest age group in the United States; and are projected to account for a one-third of the adult population by 2020.”

Let’s take a look at what the data has to say about how millennials shop for the holidays.

Millennials Love to Shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

According to a 2014 survey by Credit Karma, 39% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 35% of 25 to 34-year-olds mostly shop for the holidays on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In contrast, only 23% of 45 to 54 year olds and 17% of 56 to 64 year olds shop on those dates.

The trend is even stronger if you look exclusively at millennial men: 49% of men between the ages of 18 and 34 do the majority of their holiday shopping on the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving.

Shopping for the Holidays in December is Old Fashioned

The trend reverses when you look at who prefers to shop for the holidays in December. The same survey showed that only 19% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 do their holiday shopping in December, while 49% of people over 65 mostly shop that month.

Millennials Start Spending Big on Holiday Gifts When They Hit 25

No surprises there. Only 18% of millennials under 25 who were surveyed by Credit Karma spent $500 on holiday gifts in 2013, while 41% of those between 25 and 34 spent at least that much.

A Lot of Them Feel They Are Overspending

One thing a lot of millennials share, regardless of how much they spend, is the feeling that they are spending too much on their holiday shopping. According to the same Credit Karma survey, 48% of people between the ages of 25 and 34 felt they were overspending as did 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds.

However, it’s not just millennials who are stressed about their holiday spending. A study by Think Finance that surveyed 1,000 Americans across all income levels, reported that 45% of all participants in the survey felt the holiday season brought more financial pressure than it was worth and would prefer to skip it altogether.

Millennials Are Much More Likely to Combine Online and Brick-and-Mortar Shopping

Shopping online, or at least using the internet to enhance your shopping experience, is a widespread trend that is not exclusive to millennials. A 2013 survey by ResearchNow showed that 60.5% of participants in the survey browsed online before shopping in an actual store, while 48.5% would first check out merchandise at brick-and-mortar stores and then buy online.

This trend is particularly strong among millennials. According to the ResearchNow survey, 77.1% of millennials will browse online before buying at stores and 58% will window shop at stores and then buy online.

Millennials Are Suckers for Personalized Discounts

While baby boomers show consistent loyalty to particular brands, millennials have no problems switching brands and even trading up and trading down within a brand’s product selection.

For instance, millennials are likely to shop for everyday basics at discount stores but are just as likely to visit high-end stores to buy treats. Similarly, they may go straight to the sales rack of a clothes shop but have no problem splurging for something they really like. This approach to shopping and brand loyalty forces companies to personalize the deals that they offer their millennial customers.

According to the ResearchNow study mentioned earlier, 97% of millennials surveyed said receiving personalized discounts and coupons before shopping would move them to return to a shop in the future. Another survey on millennials by Instant Logic shows that 4 out 5 millennials shop directly from their mobile devices, which is why so many stores have huge search engine optimization budgets and offer to match published ads to ensure their offers are competitive with other online offers.


It’s easy to get carried away and overemphasize the differences between millennials and society as a whole and to gloss over the huge variety of views and habits within the 18 to 34 year old age group. However, there is no denying the fact that we do share certain values and tendencies with people of our same generation. Knowing what those tendencies are and how they affect our spending, can help us avoid falling for marketing tricks and allow us to make smarter financial choices.


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