By Brecken Branstrator
Consumer spending is expected to grow this year, and the millennial demographic is likely to lead the way in purchasing, according to a recent survey from Accenture.
New York—U.S. consumers are expected to spend more on holiday shopping this year, and millennials likely will be the biggest spenders of all, according to a recent Accenture survey.

The 12th annual Holiday Shopping Survey, comprised of the online input of 1,500 consumers, found that Americans are expected to spend an average of $658 on holiday shopping this year, up from $632 last year.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they plan to spend as much (53 percent) or more than (36 percent) they did last year. Only 11 percent plan to spend less.

Interestingly, the demographic expected to spend the most is the very group so many retailers have long been trying to attract: millennials.

Older millennials will spend an average of $779 in the 2018 holiday shopping season.

Meanwhile, 49 percent of younger millennials said they plan to spend more this holiday season than they did last year. This is nearly four times the amount of baby boomer survey-takers (13 percent) who said the same thing.

(Accenture defines younger millennials as those ages 21 to 27, and older millennials are those 28 to 37 years old.)

The survey also indicated that retailers’ inclusion and diversity practices will play a key role in millennial purchasing decisions this season.

There were a number of findings supporting the theory that if a retailer isn’t committed to inclusion and diversity, members of the demographic will find another place to shop. Here are some of the highlights.

1. Fifty-four percent of younger millennials surveyed believe retailers have a responsibility and duty to address wider social and political issues with regards to diversity.

2. Fifty-one percent of younger millennials are more likely to shop at a retailer that demonstrates awareness of such issues.

3. Millennials said they’re more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates inclusion and diversity when it comes to its promotions and offers (70 percent of younger millennials and 69 percent of older millennials), in-store experience (66 percent of younger and 72 percent of older millennials), product range (68 percent of younger and 70 percent of older millennials) and environmental awareness (61 percent of younger and 57 percent of older millennials).
“Social media continues to be a real disruptor in targeting today’s consumers ... Now, more than ever, it’s imperative for retailers to further rethink and redesign their digital shopping capabilities and methods so they can meet customers on their terms.” – Accenture Senior Managing Director of Retail Jill Standish
4. Almost one in three younger millennials see staffing diversity in the workplace as an important factor when deciding where to shop.

“National and multinational retailers serve diverse customer bases, so they need to position the brand accordingly—in messaging as well as in product selection,” said Jill Standish, senior managing director of retail at Accenture. “That will require not just more local decision making, but also assistance from analytics tools that enable retailers to build a granular picture of their customers.”

There were a number of other notable findings from the survey.

1. As consumer confidence continues to grow (it’s nearing an 18-year high, according to the Conference Board), shoppers are less price sensitive; consumers appear less concerned with the economy and their overall financial situation than they were last year.

Fewer shoppers are likely to cite “a concern about the economy” as a factor that would negatively affect holiday shopping this year. They’re also less likely to cite healthcare costs, mortgage payments, the prospect of higher taxes, and a recent job loss or the fear of losing their job as spending factors.

2. Service and/or “experience” gift-buying is on the rise as the trend away from product gifts continues to grow in favor of travel, dining out, concerts, theater or “service” gifts like lawn care, home cleaning and spa treatments.

The number of shoppers who said they plan to buy physical products as gifts this year dropped 11 percentage points to 73 percent, and the number who said they planned to buy experience or service gifts increased 5 percentage points to 49 percent.

3. Social media is growing as a shopping platform, and its use for holiday shopping is increasing rapidly.

The percentage of respondents planning to use social media for holiday shopping this year nearly doubled, Accenture indicated, from 8 percent last year to 15 percent this year. Additionally, the percentage who indicated they check Instagram before looking or buying elsewhere online also more than doubled, from 6 percent to 14 percent.

“Social media continues to be a real disruptor in targeting today’s consumers, who are spending a great deal of time in these channels and naturally want to be able to purchase directly, through the click of a button,” Standish said. “Now, more than ever, it’s imperative for retailers to further rethink and redesign their digital shopping capabilities and methods so they can meet customers on their terms.”

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