These days, every retailer--from big-box stores to mom-and-pop shops--are trying to capture attention and share of wallet from the "millennial" demographic, and with good reason. Millennials--defined as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s--are now the nation's largest living generation. They represent a quarter of the overall population, now even larger than the baby boomer segment. And given their shopping behaviors, this segment spends more money online in a given year than any other age group. As the first generation of "digital natives," millennials exhibit extreme comfort with online buying, but also exhibit some unique behaviors when shopping online. PayPal recently had a survey conducted on their behalf to further examine how and why millennials are buying and paying in different ways. Not surprisingly, our research confirms that choice matters to millennials. Specifically around payments, millennials are more likely to complete a purchase if you offer a variety of easy-to-use digital payment options (e.g., digital wallets, vaulted debit card info, digital gift cards, even Bitcoin). But in addition to these more predictable conclusions, there were some unique insights. For example, one payment type in particular is grabbing the interest of this group: unique credit for online purchases. In addition to lessons related to their unique views on credit, below are a few other insights that small businesses should heed about millennials in getting them to shop more with your business:

Millennials actively seek out innovative companies and products. Millennials are doubly likely than older consumers to prefer products and services from companies they identify as innovators. Specifically in online payments, they seek out solutions that are easier than entering 16-digit credit card numbers. More than 23 million members of the segment consider credit cards "old school." As such, millennials indicate a preference for digital wallets and mobile payments tools, rather than credit cards.

Traditional credit card usage is on the decline, but credit still appeals in different forms. Getting a credit card has been a rite of passage to adulthood over the last half-century, but millennials are now rejecting this tradition. 63 percent of millennial-aged consumers do not have a credit card. But rather than ditching credit altogether, this influential group is turning to alternative credit offerings to help increase their purchasing power while keeping their finances in check. In fact, millennials are now the fastest growing segment of PayPal Credit shoppers, rising to 33 percent of our total in 2015 (up from 28 percent in 2013). In short, millennials want credit that is as "digitally native" as they are.

Millennials are budget conscious, but still impulsive. The last 10 years have provided a backdrop of austerity and financial uncertainty as millennials have entered the consumer class. Millennials--and their cash--are often pulled in opposite directions, between aspirations and wanting to play it safe. This balance is seen in tradeoffs that millennials make across spend categories, seeking to save on large expenses like rent so they can afford occasional splurges like an international trip with friends. This budgeting behavior also implicates the need for occasional credit. Millennials have shown they often want access to credit only once they've decided to make a discretionary purchase. This is why products like PayPal Credit have become so popular, as credit can be applied for and receive an approval decision within seconds while still on a merchant's website. Our survey showed that millennials are most likely to use online credit to pay for clothing and accessories (45 percent), electronics (33 percent) and travel (27 percent).

Take these lessons as guidelines to help increase your sales for many years to come, as millennials are only just getting started in impacting all our businesses.

Published on: Feb 17, 2016
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