US Millennials are most committed to online shopping

Millennials are more committed to online shopping than any other generation, a nationally representative survey of 2,000 US shoppers shows.

Millennials are more committed to online shopping than any other generation, a nationally representative survey of 2,000 US shoppers shows. 

A huge 40% of shoppers aged 26-40 say they plan to shop online more in the near future, while only 8% plan to shop online less – that’s a net increase of 32%. Meanwhile, Gen Z (those aged 18-25) are the demographic most likely to plan on reducing their online shopping activity (17%). Countered by the 28% who plan to shop more, that’s a much lower net increase of 11%.

Despite being the most digitally native demographic, only 58% of Gen Z agree with the sentiment ‘in general, I prefer online shopping,’ compared with 71% of Millennials.  

Millennials state a preference for shopping online in 7 out of 9 categories. The two categories they prefer to shop in physical stores for are food and drink and furniture and homewares. With Millennials likely to be juggling work and young kids, perhaps it’s the convenience of online shopping they find so attractive. 

Gen Z, on the other hand, show a preference for shopping online in just one category – clothing, shoes and accessories. But the popularity of this category is huge, with nearly 76% of this demographic saying they have shopped online for clothing, shoes and accessories in the last 6 months.

Gen X (aged 41-55) prefer to shop online in 4 categories; electronics and home appliances, baby and kids, sports and hobbies, and gifts and flowers. Boomers (aged 56-66) show almost the same preferences, except for electronics and home appliances, which they prefer to buy in physical stores. Overall, less than half of Boomers agree they prefer to shop online (45%), compared with 58.5% of Gen Z.

Subscribing is thriving among Millennials 

Just over 16% of American consumers have received products by subscription during the last six months. Millennials are the demographic most likely to have product subscriptions (24%), compared with 15% of Gen Z, 14% of Gen X and 9% of Boomers. 

The pandemic has proved a boom period for subscriptions; 56% of people with a product subscription say they purchased one during the pandemic. But as the pandemic eases, what will happen to those additional subscriptions? Nearly 27% have plans to cancel a product subscription soon.

With that said, the outlook for the subscription economy still looks bright, as 28% of Americans say they’re open to purchasing a new product subscription this year (rising to nearly half of people who already have one). Millennials show the most intent; nearly 40% are open to the idea of a new subscription. This compares with 29% of Gen Z, 28% of Gen X and 9% of Boomers. 

Only Boomers will shop less online

The vast majority of Americans will maintain (55%) or increase (27%) their online shopping activity post-pandemic. Only 11% plan to shop online less in future (although 7.5% aren’t sure).

While Gen Z has the largest percentage of people planning to cut down on shopping online, this demographic still chalks up a net increase of 11%. Likewise, Gen X sees a 16% net increase in online shopping activity. The only age group to show a net decrease are the Boomers; 12% plan to shop online less versus 6% who plan to shop more (that’s a net 6% reduction). 

It could be significant that people in this demographic are the most likely to agree it’s important to support local retailers (81.5%). With that said, Gen Z are the least likely to say shopping locally is important (67%) so it doesn’t seem to be a big contributing factor in their decision to return to shopping IRL.

Men are planning to boost their online shopping activity

But intent to shop online or offline isn’t just driven by age, it’s driven by gender too. The data shows that men are more likely to maintain or increase their online shopping activity than women. 

A third of men plan to shop online more (33%), while 9% plan to shop less. That’s a net increase of 24% in male online shopping activity. On the other hand, 21% or women plan to shop online more and 12% less, resulting in a much smaller net increase of 9%. 

Looking at the categories, men show stronger commitment to shopping online for things like sports and hobbies (65% versus 59%), gifts and flowers (59.5% versus 53%) and electronics and home appliances (64% versus 58%).

Men are also notably more open to taking out a new product subscription this year (33% versus 23%). When asked if they agree that they generally prefer online shopping, 62% of men say they do but this doesn’t differ too significantly from the 59% of women who also agree. 

Midwesterners keenest to get back to shopping in physical stores

Which region you live in also appears to influence whether you prefer shopping online or offline. People who live in the Midwest are the least likely to maintain their online shopping activities once everything is back to normal.

While 19% of Midwesterners plan to increase the amount they shop online, 8% plan to cut back, meaning there will be a 11% net increase in online shoppers – the smallest increase in all the regions. On the other hand, the Northeast will see a net 27% increase in online shoppers, making it the strongest region for online shopping.

Northeasterners prefer shopping online in 5 out of 9 categories, whereas midwesterners only prefer shopping online for sports and hobbies. Indeed, people in the Northeast are significantly more likely to agree that they generally prefer shopping online (67% versus 52%). Meanwhile, they also remain more open to taking out new product subscriptions this year (34% versus 24.5%).

This Northeast/Midwest divide could be down to the fact that the Northeast is much more densely populated than the Midwest, meaning ecommerce logistics are better. What’s more, far fewer people own cars in the Northeast so it’s likely easier for many people to order things online and have them delivered to their homes.

Bel Booker

Senior Content Writer 

Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 100m global consumers. She also likes cake.

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