Millennials are digital natives and utilize digital in all facets of their lives. As most of the generation grew up in an era that has never experienced life without internet accessible at their fingertips, they expect a heightened level of simplicity and instantaneousness in all areas of their activities.
Additionally, millennials are more likely to over-schedule themselves and consider being always on-the-go to be the new normal. They are constantly pushing the envelope to find ways to get things done faster, simpler, and more conveniently. This is especially true for those that are parents. According to our research at FutureCast, there are approximately 31 million millennials in the United States that are parents today and the emergence of children in the household has greatly impacted the way parents are spending and buying.
As a result, today’s modern consumers perpetuate the Frictionless Journey Standard. They demand the delivery of a seamless customer experience at every touch point with a brand, whether in-person or online, that has little to no barriers to purchase. The brands that strive to be as accessible as possible and remove friction from the consumer journey are the ones that will win, not just with millennials but also across generations.
This is important to be aware of as we enter the holiday season, a time when consumers of all ages will be active in the market. And this year is forecasted to be especially lucrative. Between November and January, The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates retail sales to rise to $656 billion and online sales to jump to $117 billion, up from 3.6% and 10% from 2015, respectively.
To get further insight into the modern consumer path-to-purchase and the opportunities that exist for retailers this season, I interviewed Hal Lawton, SVP of eBay North America, following the completion of the eBay Holiday Survey (conducted in partnership with Wakefield Research).
Jeff Fromm: What are the biggest trends you’re seeing in millennial shopping this holiday season?
Hal Lawton: Now more than ever, people have more choices and ways to shop but far less time. As a result, it has become difficult for consumers to find thoughtful gifts for those on their lists. In a national survey eBay conducted, we found that overwhelming amounts of people were unable to find the perfect gift for someone last year (82%), and that number was even higher among millennials (91%).
We’ve also seen the online shopping landscape continue to grow and evolve. Last year, more than half of the transactions on eBay came from mobile devices – and we expect mobile usage to continue trending upward throughout the holiday season. Last year, our biggest mobile day was Cyber Monday, but we saw the biggest increases in mobile shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday as more consumers were opting to shop from the comfort of their homes.
Fromm: How has the millennial gifting journey evolved over time?
Lawton: Millennials continue to source inspiration from social, but we’re also seeing a bigger emphasis on actual conversations this year and how important that is to the gifting journey. For instance, we found that 74% of millennials felt that the lack of personal conversation is the primary reason it’s so difficult to find the perfect gifts. While we’re all spending more and more time on our phones, millennials especially are looking to have more personalized conversations to drive inspiration and uncover increasingly unique ways to gift.
Fromm: How is eBay approaching these insights?
Lawton: Our approach this holiday season is to help people solve the challenge of finding the perfect gifts for those on their holiday lists. That, of course, means offering great deals and making it easy for shoppers to browse our selection of a billion items spanning the new and unique. We’re also introducing a social campaign called #GiftGoals, which uses thought provoking questions to encourage shoppers to rely on live conversations as a starting point for gifting inspiration. By bridging social media – where we know millennial shoppers are present – and socializing in the real world, we hope to spur meaningful conversations to help consumers discover incredible items that align to the diverse personalities they are buying gifts for.
For an even more personalized shopping experience, we are also experimenting with eBay ShopBot – a shopping assistant that is currently in beta on Facebook Messenger. Combining artificial intelligence with eBay’s breadth of inventory and unique selection, we’re creating a more personal and conversational shopping experience for virtually anyone that owns a mobile phone.
Fromm: This is the elephant in the room, but how is the eBay approach finding resonance when competing with digital giant Amazon?
Lawton: We win through what makes us unique. At eBay, we connect the inventory from our millions of sellers with the 165+ million buyers in our global marketplace. With a vast selection and spectrum of value, we think people can find those perfect gifts for anyone on their list. This year alone, we’ve also made several improvements that will help simplify the holiday shopping experience, including adding tools like price trending, product reviews and a whole new browse and search experience.
Fromm: It seems that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are losing steam with modern consumers. What effect will this have on retailers and what recommendations do you have for them moving forward?
Lawton: We know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday will once again be huge shopping days, and the debate over which one is bigger will continue. We’ve also seen a dramatic change in how people are shopping. It comes as no surprise, but mobile commerce keeps trending upward. Last year, we saw a 25% increase in mobile shopping on Black Friday in comparison to 2014. So, it’s more important than ever to be mobile-optimized this holiday season.