Retail Rebels: Millennials and the Future of Small Business Shopping

Dec 20, 2013

According to a report released this year by Ypulse, a youth marketing and research agency, a new generation of “retail rebels” who would rather support small businesses doing innovative things than mega-retailers and brands.

This is great news for small business owners -- especially those who:

a) Are selling a physical product

b) Know how to spread the word about their product online

-63% of Millennials would rather buy a product from a smaller company that has fewer choices, but is innovating within the industry, than buy something from a brand that has more products to choose from, yet has a monopoly on the market. Source

-50% of Millennials say that when it comes to the brands/products they buy, helping a small business beat out a big business is important to them. (Source)

-Millennials want to discover small businesses online first rather than browsing brick-and-mortars: Millennials prefer to cross-channel shop most with 77% shopping online and crossing to in-store, and 58% perusing in-store options, but then buying items online (Source)

-40% of Millennials claim a preference for buying local, even if the goods or services are more expensive than mass market alternatives. Why? They like feeling connected to the products they buy, and no purchase connects better than one from the merchant just up the street. (Source)

But how do Millennials find small businesses online? Through online marketplaces where local small business owners can post their products.

Take The Grommet. It’s not an online marketplace, it’s an “Product Launch Platform” dedicated to showcasing “undiscovered products” along with the story of the product’s creation and a feature on the inventor/artist/product designer. This is exactly the kind of immersive, entrepreneurial, people-not-brand experience that Millennials crave.

It probably also helps that they choose products Millennials love...i.e., products that involve cats.

Essentially, sites like The Grommet take online marketplaces like Ebay and Etsy to the next level, by putting a premium on the story of a product and personal interaction with the product’s creator.

Grand St. is a similar site that focuses on consumer tech. They feature independently-designed products along with the product designer’s story and the Grand St. team’s personal feelings about the product in more than 3 paragraphs. It’s this kind of attention to detail, relatable “I practically know these people” feeling that makes Millennials hit the Buy button.

Look at this Question Block Lamp (which also hits Millennials' love of nostalgia):

This can only mean good things for small business owners who make products they believe in and understand how to use these online and mobile platforms. We’ll talk more about how to market to Millennials in future blog posts.

Small business owners, has the desire for local, personal purchasing experiences changed your business?