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Understanding how Millennial shoppers decide what to buy: Digitally connected unseen journeys

Angela Hall (Department of Marketing, Operations and Digital Business, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Neil Towers (The Business School, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK)
Duncan R. Shaw (Nottingham University Business School, Jubilee Campus, Nottingham, UK)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The shopper journey can cross a number of channels leading up to the point of a possible purchase, which may be unseen by the retailer or brand for the targeted purchase. The purpose of this paper is to gain a greater understanding of the decision making and purchase intention activity for online Millennial shoppers in deciding what fashion garments to buy in the digital retail environment. The paper also investigates the use of technology and social media involvement in the shopper journey leading up to the point of purchase.


In line with other studies that investigated online shopper behaviour (Balabanis and Reynolds, 2001; Pavlou et al., 2007), the authors have undertaken an exploratory investigation using an online survey conducted with respondents sourced through using Survey Monkey Audience. The survey was conducted with over 580 respondents (49.7 per cent female and 50.3 per cent male) between 16 and 34 years old living in England.


The findings highlight a picture of shoppers going on very different shopper journeys with different lengths, influenced by different touch points and using different media and devices. Each customer has their own individual experience and expectation. They can move through extremely diverse, long and complicated journeys in the buying process before they purchase a product. Most striking is their willingness to reach out and be influenced by other people beyond the control of any retailer – using platforms that are not necessarily specifically related with any retailer. Shoppers can undertake numerous activities before they make their final purchase decision, seeking content from different retailers, asking for social validation of their decision from their social networks both online and offline which is often out of sight of the retailer or brand.

Practical implications

The findings show how retailers and brands can understand the shopper decision journey and their behaviours across all the devices and channels that are used. Moreover, for some or part of the digital journey the shopper can often be unseen by the retailer or brand.


Consumers actively seek out novelty, knowledge and inspiration but shoppers employ a variety of interactions over a much greater period of time to arrive at the moment of purchase. This research provides an insight into the range of complex views and positions held by each individual to get a much more complete picture of where shoppers are looking to buy and what are their interests.



Hall, A., Towers, N. and Shaw, D.R. (2017), "Understanding how Millennial shoppers decide what to buy: Digitally connected unseen journeys", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 45 No. 5, pp. 498-517.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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