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ULI-Millennials-Preferred-Way-to-Buy-Items-May2013For all the research and attention paid to showrooming, webrooming (doing research online and then buying in-store) is actually a far more popular activity among Millennials (aged 18-35) across several product categories, according to [pdf] survey results from the Urban Land Institute. For electronics items (computers, tablets, cellphones, TV/audio equipment, etc.), 50% of respondents prefer to research online but buy in-store, compared to 11% who prefer to do their research in stores but then buy online. Similar gaps exist when looking at Millennials’ shopping preferences for shoes (25% vs. 10%), sports equipment and accessories (21% vs. 13%), and cosmetics and personal care items (20% vs. 8%). Interestingly, a plurality of respondents in each of those latter 3 categories say their preferred method of buying them is to do both their research and shopping only in stores.

Despite common perceptions that online prices are lower than offline, Millennials aren’t so sure that’s the case. Asked how store pricing compares with online pricing for the same item, 6% said that store prices are always lower, while 7% said the same about online prices. About 1 in 10 believe that store prices can be lower, but only if there’s a sale or coupon, while 1 in 5 feel that online shopping can cost less, but only if free shipping is provided. A strongly plurality of 54% feel that it’s a mixed bag, and that which pricing is better can’t be known without research.

Much of that research happens online, according to the study. Indeed, a surprising 45% of respondents said they spend at least 1 hour per day checking out retail-oriented sites, with that figure rising to 48% of male respondents. A significant 20% of male respondents spend 2 or more hours a day with retail sites.

As the study indicates, that online research often turns into offline purchases: elsewhere, the study shows that Millennials still very much enjoy shopping in-store.

About the Data: In January 2013, ULI and Lachman Associates conducted a nationally representative online survey of 1,251 Gen-Yers to gauge their retail, dining, and entertainment preferences.

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