When Women Stop Shopping


It’s a scary thought: The day women stop shopping. The day men stop wanting to own shiny new things. But some trend forecasters say we may have already arrived in this apocalyptic, post-consumerist age. So what happened? One word: Millennials.

Compared to the earlier generations of Gen-Xers, and post-war Boomers, Gen Y seems very uninterested in owning stuff. We are seeing this in the lower than average ownership rates of automobiles among Millennials. Sure, some of this can be attributed to a slow economy, lower employment rates and an unprecedented number of this generation still living at home, with little interest in leaving the nest. Some tech observers blame this ownership shift on the Cloud.

“Everything is heading into the social cloud,” says David Weinberger, author of Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. “Books on shelves used to serve that function, but to a very small group that usually already knew you. It’s the difference between fetishizing objects or celebrating them online, where at least you can make friends.”

Is technology altering the shopping gene? Could be. A blogger at Fast Company sees it this way: “Humanity is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to ‘own’ something. This is why a similar ambivalence towards ownership is emerging in all sorts of areas, from car-buying to music listening to entertainment consumption.

So how do we marketers market our brands to a generation who no longer need to own stuff? Easy. By tapping into some of the primal reasons that people have always wanted to own things:

1. Make owning feel like empowerment

If people are not shopping for things to “own” in the traditional sense, then make them feel greater autonomy by purchasing your brand. Apple does this with every new product. Figure out what your product does to empower the individual. Make that your message.

2. Make owning feel like identity

Buying has always been more than economic blood sport. It’s been about self-expression. The guy who owns a Mustang is expressing something different than the man who owns a Volvo. An electric car says you are environmentally conscience. A Camaro says you’re a bad ass. How does your brand help a Millennial help define themselves. Give this some thought. Make this your message.

3. Make owning more about sharing

This is the most socially networked generation ever. So how do you leverage this basic fact about buying something: It’s not about having, it’s about sharing? Recent Social Media apps now let Facebook friends know when you watch a movie on Netflix or buy a fishing reel on Amazon. Make sharing your brand as important as buying your brand.

Making owning meaningful can lift all ships. After all, a weak economy gets stronger when advertisers get people buying again.

We are a Dallas Advertising Agency specializing in identifying Brand Insights.