Millennials and the Evolution of Buying

Posted On July 31, 2012

As we’ve noted, Millennials have deferred or avoided major purchases such as cars and homes and turned away from the traditional retail, recording, video, and television businesses. They hunt for discounts, deals, freebies, and near-free (99¢) pricing. Now several commentators have suggested that technology has altered the generation’s approach to buying in an evolutionary way.

For example, Millennials may avoid purchasing because they don’t have money, still live at home, and are concerned about the environment. Or, as a ZDNet columnist suggests, it could be that smartphones provide much of what cars used to: socialization, movies, shopping, even dating. Why would you need a car when you can do all of that from your own (or your parents’) couch?

A Fast Company article theorizes that Millennials have made an evolutionary change in buying habits. Because of the ease with which they acquire and trade digital “property” like music, video, articles, and photos, they now have different idea of what it means to “own” something and so have buying priorities:

  • Purchases must have multipurpose, customizable uses. They are vehicle for other acquisitions, but not a prize in and of themselves. They must help people do and get things, organize their lives, etc.
  • Purchases must be built for “sharing”. They are things you can tell or show others. They must be social. Vendors don’t sell, they create “communities”.
  • Purchases build identity. They must have meaning that says something about the buyer.

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