To Understand Millennials, You Need More Than Surveys

Ad Age published an article with the provocative title, “Stat of the Day: 68% of Millennials Ask Friends Before Deciding on a Restaurant“. The article was widely tweeted – 179 times from the Ad Age site alone.  But the overall tone was kind of snarky, like Millennials can’t make up their minds.

“Millennials, the 80 million people now aged 16 to 34, have buying and brand preferences that in many cases diverge sharply from their parents. But, millennials need help from friends and family in making just about any decision, including which restaurant to eat at. They’ll use technology (social and mobile) to gather opinions. Sixty-eight percent won’t make a major decision without running it by their network first. How do you begin to understand the shopping habits of a generation that has never had to make up its own mind about anything? You start with lots of surveys.”

Millennial, Kelly Ericson, left a long comment, saying surveys don’t “really explain why our “buying and brand preferences…diverge sharply” from our parents.” Then she helpfully and insightfully provided her own explanation:


“It’s true, when I want to go to a restaurant I run it by Yelp, not necessarily my fellow friends as the ar”ticle states– but obviously wouldn’t rule out their opinion if I got it. I Yelp because it’s convenient, gives me exactly what I want to know, immediately. I go through the reviews that aid me in my decision and choose. Then Yelp tells me how to get there, click the address, and it shoots me out of the app right into Maps on my iPhone.


As for shopping, sure I would shop at Target and Walmart, because it’s well priced and I can get some other shopping done while I’m at it. We Millennials are busy (and broke). So hello, the trend here is fast and affordable. We wouldn’t shop there if we didn’t feel like we had to. Yes, we have an iPhone, a Macbook, and maybe a nice Marc Jacobs bag, but don’t let it fool you, that’s why we have to save where we can.


Though we “apparently don’t like to go to the store alone” let’s just be clear, we are not looking for companionship, we’re looking for guidance. And yes, I still call my mom. Run my decisions by her before making them– but not before I’ve also gone through the rest of the familial gamut. You see, we’re seeking answers from the more experienced, because we can’t afford to make mistakes, after all we’re trying to buy a house some day.

We’re not some great big mystery, we’re just an obvious sign of the times. If you really want to “begin to understand” us Millennials, why don’t you try having a conversation with us?

Kelly is exactly right. Millennials are not a big mystery. And understanding the why’s and motivations behind their behavior requires more than surveys.

As a market researcher we do a lot of surveys, but we also take time to follow up qualitatively. We also maintain a Millennial “Super Consumer” panel to give our clients an opportunity to get deeper than radio buttons and answer these kinds of ‘why’ questions.

Surveys provide the facts, but listening provides the answers.