2018 Mobility in Retail Survey: Millennial and Baby Boomer Trends

Date posted: March 6, 2018


By Pavel Radda, senior director, Aruba

Based on a survey of more than 350 shoppers worldwide beginning Dec 18 and ending on January 2, 2018, we were able to generate new statistics regarding the impact of mobile device use and shopper preferences in brick and mortar retail establishments. Given mobile devices are second nature to younger shoppers, we also were able to see interesting trends between the Millennial and Baby Boomer generations. Additionally, we examined the responses between a similar survey completed two years ago and today’s survey to see if there has been a change in buyer habits.



Millennials 18 to 24
Baby Boomers 55 to 64


Q: Does being a loyalty member of a specific store make you more likely to shop there versus a nearby competitor?

With the rise of smartphones, loyalty programs have gained popularity. Having a limitless volume of loyalty program apps organized into a single mobile device also makes it easier for consumers to use them when visiting retail establishments. As a result of this instant accessibility and the benefits consumers receive, we discovered that more than half of consumers (53.5%) will shop at a store where they have loyalty points vs a nearby competitor where they are not tied into a loyalty program.

But what about the cost factor? While price is important, it isn’t the driving force for purchasing decisions. We discovered that only about a quarter of the respondents (26.89%) put price over loyalty, meaning that with the right features and benefits in a loyalty mobile app, retailers can attract clients without relying on price.

Millennials (18-24) vs Baby Boomers (55-64)

Millennials love their loyalty apps, with 66.3% indicating they are more likely to shop from stores where they are part of the loyalty program vs only 33.3% of Baby Boomers answering the same. For Baby Boomers, price was the biggest driver for a purchase decision with 40.7% indicating it’s more important than a loyalty program versus only 22.5% of Millennials indicating price as the driving factor.


Q: Which of the following incentives would be most likely to make you download a retail mobile app?

What benefits attract consumers to download and use loyalty apps? When asked what incentives would make consumers download a retail mobile app, the top three reasons are as follows:

#1 – To compare products and find out their availability

#2 – Get their products faster with express in-store pick up for online orders

#3 – Obtain special loyalty incentives or coupons

When compared to a similar survey conducted in 2016, you can see similarities, but also the evolution of buyer behavior and sophistication with mobility and newer purchasing models. The top three drivers for downloading a loyalty app two years ago were as follows:

#1 – Compare products and find out their availability

#2 – Obtain special loyalty incentives or coupons

#3 – Find store information such as directions, location and store hours

Millennials (18-24) vs Baby Boomers (55-64)

Millennials Baby Boomers
#1 Parking spot locator #1 Product availability and comparison
#2 Product availability and comparison #2 Find a sales associate
#3 Digital payment through retailer mobile app #3 Obtain special loyalty incentives or coupons

There is a clear distinction between the generations. Baby Boomers treat retail mobile apps as a tool to execute more traditional shopping habits: they still want to find a sales associate and interact with people face-to-face, are more price conscious, and value coupons and incentives more than Millennials. In contrast, Millennials are focused on convenience and speed; they want to find parking and make payments from their phones quickly and easily.


Q: In an average week, how many times do you use a retail mobile app?

Getting buyers to download a mobile app by drawing them in with a special incentive may result in a high volume of one time users, but it’s all about how often they use the app beyond that initial download. Raising the frequency of use is critical to growing retailers’ top line. The survey revealed that 65% of consumers used their retail app between 1-5 times per week, which is up 11.5% from just two years ago.

The greatest gains were in the consumers who used their retail app more than 10 times a week. These power users increased their usage approximately 65% since 2016, proving that retail apps are on the rise.

Millennials (18-24) vs Baby Boomers (55-64)

Millennials used retail apps more frequently than Baby Boomers with 61.8% indicating they used them 1-5 times a week vs 48.2% for Boomers. This spread became more evident when the frequency of use hit double digits. 13.5% of Millennials reported using retail mobile apps more than 10 times a week, while none of the Baby Boomers reported doing the same.


Q: What tasks have you completed with your mobile phone while in a store?

The top three tasks people completed with their mobile device while inside a store are as follows:

#1 – Accessed in-store Wi-Fi

#2 – Accessed loyalty and rewards apps

#3 – Researched products and compared brands


Q: How do you prefer to search and learn about products in a store?

While many mobile and buying habits have changed over the last couple years, some behaviors remain constant. The preference of purchasing using mobile vs in-store sales associate assistance is one of them. When consumers were asked if they preferred to have a sales associate locate and demo a product versus using a retail app to research and locate the product, more than half (56.3%) preferred the retail app. This is consistent with what we saw in 2016 where 57.1% acknowledged the same preference.

Millennials (18-24) vs Baby Boomers (55-64)

The younger generation grew up with portable electronics as part of their daily life. They are accustomed to interacting with electronic kiosks vs live attendants and most actually prefer non-human interaction. When asked how they prefer to search for products inside retail stores, more than half (53.9%) would rather use a mobile app vs a sales associate. In contrast, Baby Boomers favored human interaction with less than half (44.4%) opting to use an app to find products.


Q: Why would you would select in-store Wi-Fi over using your mobile data services?

With LTE being ubiquitous in many major metropolitan areas, why would shoppers want to connect to in-store Wi-Fi?

The top reason (33.9%) consumers responded with was a better experience and performance with Wi-Fi inside stores. Many retail establishments may have enough connectivity for a phone call but many shoppers don’t believe they get the same throughput and experience in-store as they would outside, in line-of-sight of a cell tower. The second most cited reason was using the Wi-Fi to reduce mobile data usage for those without unlimited data (27.7%) and the ability to access in-store services/benefits via Wi-Fi (16.8%). Only 21.6% reported that they don’t use in-store Wi-Fi at all.


Q: What factors drive you into physical stores vs purchasing online?

Consumers have varying reasons to go to stores, whether it be to consult with a sales associate, purchase a product immediately or test a product before purchasing it. When we look at four key product categories – apparel, electronics/appliances, home goods and groceries – the leading reason to go into the store is to test a product before purchasing it. While we would intuitively expect very personalized items like apparel requiring a store visit to ensure fit and style, the top category that drove people into stores were electronics/appliances (61.3%). It was also the product category that preferred interaction with in-store product experts (52.1%).


Q: What kinds of retail mobile apps do you use most frequently?

There are many retail apps available covering pharmacies, grocery stores, department stores, express food pick-up, big box retailers and more. When asked what kinds of retail apps people use most, it made sense that express food pick-up, like the Starbucks app, was the leader with nearly half (49.3%) of consumers indicating they used it most. After all, we eat three times a day and with our schedules only becoming busier, simplifying and expediting that task with mobile ordering is very enticing.

Grocery and convenience stores were the runner up with 30.25% of those surveyed indicating they used their mobile apps for these retailers frequently.

Millennials (18-24) vs Baby Boomers (55-64)

Younger generations are accustomed to eating out more and cooking at home less frequently. The variety of food available today and cost-efficient options make eating out appealing for Millennials on the go. When asked what kinds of retail mobile apps they use most frequently, Millennials’ top selection was mobile ordering for express food pick-up (55.1% vs 33.3% of Boomers). Conversely, Boomers’ top selection was grocery and convenience store apps (40.7% vs 18% Millennials) as they tend to eat at home more often.

Pavel Radda is the senior director of market intelligence and communications at networking leader Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. With more than 15 years of experience in the enterprise networking industry, Pavel has focused his efforts on analyzing the impact of mobility on the modern workforce and a variety of vertical industries.

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