Millennials Are Heaviest Adopters of Online FMCG Purchases

online shopping with a tablet
Millennials are more likely to consider online retailers that offer subscription services.

NEW YORK — Despite the e-commerce vs. brick-and-mortar debate, consumers are gravitating toward a combination of the two: using technology to make in-store decisions.

According to the latest "Nielsen Category Shopping Fundamentals" study, as detailed in its recent Millennials on Millennials report, 60 percent of U.S. consumers' fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) decisions are still made at the shelf.

However, retailers need to understand the effect digital has on influencing consumers on the way to the shelf, Nielsen said.

"Not surprisingly, millennials are more active on social media than older generations, and this affects the way they look for information as they shop. For example, millennials are significantly more likely than the broader population to conduct online research for common items like food and cleaning products," the market research firm explained.

However, online is also growing as a shopping channel for FMCG. According to Nielsen, 61 percent of millennials said they buy FMCG products online — driving the growth. By comparison, 55 percent of Gen X, 44 percent of Baby Boomers and 39 percent of the Greatest Generation said they turn to online for those products.

According to Nielsen, the shopping patterns of millennials, and the products they buy, change as they become adults and become parents. For example, they buy more household items, baby care and meal kits than the average U.S. household.

In addition, the consumer group is more likely than other generations to consider online retailers that offer subscription services. Three out of the five top FMCG categories they buy online are subscription-based.

As for how millennials are getting online, "smartphones are increasingly becoming their go-to devices when it's time to shop," Nielsen pointed out.

According to the research, millennials make just under 50 percent of their online purchases from a desktop/laptop, less than all older generations, and they make 40 percent of their purchases via mobile phone, which is 10 percent higher than Gen Xers.

Smart devices have yet to catch on with consumers for shopping, Nielsen added.

"Despite being heavily influenced by on-shelf options, millennials are much more comfortable searching online and consulting social media when researching products to purchase," Nielsen said. "They're also the heaviest adopters of online FMCG purchases and subscription-based services, driving home the importance of keeping up with current trends to remain both relevant and competitive."