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Having compelling retail experiences are crucial for both online and in-store brands to succeed. In this insight report, we ask millennials and gen-z what they want in their retail experiences. We delve into their shopping habits and behaviours, both online and offline.

In-store retail

Starting with traditional brick and mortar retail, we see that 38% of millennials and gen-z shop in-store weekly, while only 9% do so daily. When shopping in-store, the majority of young people (61%) use a debit/credit card. Notably, the number of respondents using cash (24%) is approximately the same as the amount who use apple/android pay (25%).

Respondents stated that the most important factor when shopping in-store was the range of offerings and choice. However, the other factors that mattered to them were promotional offers and deals, as well as the ability to navigate the store easily and conveniently. For suggested changes and improvements, there were a number of relevant suggestions. Respondents wanted more sizes, including all shapes and sizes, as well as better trained staff. Another suggestion spoke about the competition between shopping online and in-store, recommending that there are free returns and returns available in-store. This would be particularly convenient for items that are out of stock and allow in-store shopping to compete with online shopping. 

Another suggestion was to section clothing to sizes, and more order in product placement and arrangements. This relates nicely to the ability to navigate the store easily and conveniently. The final thing that respondents wanted to change were queues; young people don’t want to queue for a long time and would rather avoid a queue if possible. In particular, respondents wanted more self-service tills. 

Bar chart of the frequency respondents shop online where 38.77% said every month, 26.98% said every week, 9.16% said never

Online retail

Respondents generally shop online less frequently than shop in-store. 39% of respondents say they shop online once a month. 9% say they never shop online. Almost half of all respondents (49%) shop online through a desktop, however, 42% use their mobile devices. Which means only 9% of young people use tablets for online shopping. By a large margin, the most popular products and goods bought online are clothes. Here are the top 8 types of goods bought online in the last month by our respondents:

  1. Clothing
  2. Books, Music, Video Games & Toys
  3. Health & Beauty
  4. Consumer Electronics
  5. Sports Equipment
  6. Household Appliances
  7. Grocery
  8. Pharmaceuticals

Similarly to in-store shopping, the most important factor for young people when shopping online is the range of offerings/choice. This is followed by free returns and ease of navigation on the website/app. As for changes that young people would want in online shopping, the largest suggestion was fast & free delivery, as well as free, convenient returns. Young people also want to be able to view potential outfits on different sized models – rather than just good-looking, skinny models. They also want better mobile navigation and personalisation. However, in general, many respondents felt as if online shopping was innovating well and “nailing” their needs.

When asked what percentage of their retail shopping is online, on average, respondents answered 50% to 60%. However, more respondents preferred in-store shopping (59%) to online shopping (41%).

Pie chart of preferences between shopping online or in-store where 59.47% of respondents prefer in-store shopping


In last week’s brand preference insight report, young people consistently spoke about sustainability as an important part of the factor when it comes to their brand preference. This week’s report delves deeper into this area. We asked respondents if they were willing to pay more for sustainable retail products and a whopping 80% said yes. On average, these respondents were willing to pay 10-20% more for a sustainable product. 

Another aspect of sustainability, especially in clothing and electronic goods, is second-hand purchases. The majority of respondents (55%) indicated that they had purchased second-hand goods, either through an online or in-store retailer. Given the willingness among young people to purchase sustainable products, we expect the number of young people buying second hand to grow even further.

Advertising and Influence

By and large, social media is the predominant channel where young people consume advertising and the most effective channel too. Almost half of the respondents (49%) consume the most advertising on social media, and then 55% of respondents said it was the most effective advertising. Notably, YouTube is the channel with the second-highest amount of advertising consumed there (23%), however, there is a 6% drop between the amount of advertising consumed and how effective that advertising is (17%). Search ads also have a similar drop.

Row chart of two series, the channel where advertising is most consumed and the channel with the most effective advertising

We also asked respondents to state which behaviour best describes their online behaviour. Almost half (49%) of respondents said that they have been influenced to buy a product after reading positive reviews. However, only 12% of respondents actually made a purchase directly from social media. 1 in 5 respondents didn’t think any of the behaviours best described their online behaviour, demonstrating that people are still developing their online behaviours.

Fashion appears to be the most effective at using social media to influence consumers, particularly young people. Nearly half of the respondents claimed that social media influences their fashion purchases the most. Only 22% of respondents said that their tech decisions were influenced by social media, a significant drop from fashion’s influence.

Brand experience

We asked respondents to name some of their favourite social media accounts that you believe deliver an amazing brand experience. There was a wide range of answers. Some of the most popular accounts mentioned were sportswear brands, such as Nike and Adidas. There were also other clothing brands such as Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and Urban Outfitters. There were also a significant number of tech-related accounts, particularly tech reviewers such as MKBHD and popular brands like Apple and Samsung. Overall, people really enjoy interactive accounts that provide informative content, such as critical reviews and easy recipes.

I think marques brown Lee. Amazing tech guru on YouTube. Very informative and even [sic] if a brand send him a free product he is still brutally honest.

Survey Respondent

We also asked respondents what their favourite retail stores that deliver amazing customer experience were. Again, there was a wide diversity of answers. Interestingly, low-end stores like Penneys were mentioned almost as much as high-end stores like Brown Thomas and Lush. All the major grocery stores such as Tescos, Supervalu and Lidl were mentioned. Predominately, the stores mentioned were clothing stores.

Finally, 32% of respondents listed Amazon as respondent’s favourite online retailers or online shopping apps that they think deliver an amazing customer experience. Another honourable popular online retailer was ASOS, which 18% of respondents listed. Remarkably, Zara, a predominantly brick and mortar brand, had a very strong online presence and was mentioned significantly compared to other brick and mortar stores.


Young people have a diverse range of retail habits and behaviours. We see that in-store shopping is still popular among young people but that online shopping is gaining share. In-store retailers need to ensure they have a wild range of offerings and products. This is particularly true for clothing retailers and the range of sizes they offer. Furthermore, in-store retailers should develop their online presence and capacity. As demonstrated by Zara, an online shopping platform can complement and support brick and mortar stores. For retail in general, advertising on social media platforms are very effective, though YouTube is not as favourable among young people as platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

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