Millennials Follow the Leader – Talking to Strangers

We can’t all be Followers, can we? A recent publication identifies which sources Millennials go to for advice when making purchasing decisions.

As highlighted in an infographic produced by and Kelton Research (shown at the bottom of this article), 84% of American Millennials report that user-generated content has at least some influence on what they buy.

Many Millennials won’t purchase major electronics, cars, insurance, or make travel accommodations without seeing an online recommendation.

Bazaarvoice shows that comparably, Millennials are more likely to make their purchasing decisions based on recommendations online (51%) than on recommendations from friends or family (49%).

In a Forbes article bazaarvoice’s CMO, Erin Nelson, advises that Millennials don’t always turn to friends for advice when making purchase decisions, so social networks may not be the best places to drive sales. She instead suggests, “marketers can best reach Millennials by ensuring consumers have an easy way to create and share authentic content about their brand and products.”

Nelson highlights the store Best Buy provides QR codes so customers can access product reviews while browsing in store, so that young shoppers can make purchase decisions on the spot.

In our 2011 study of Canadian Millennials we found that there were about 12% who said that they would rarely seek advice from friends on brands and products. With the exception of this unique group of trendsetters it seems that outsourcing information is a notably Millennial trait.

Why do we trust someone we don’t know? Our experience has shown us that this can be more efficient.  We rely on collaborative production with strangers to produce value through efforts like Wikipedia. Usually when Millennials are working in teams we are good at identifying our strengths and weaknesses and delegating tasks to those best fit for the job. This new data shows that we are equally comfortable seeking out those who are more experienced with a product and asking them for advice.

While we have grown to trust other information and have developed skills to help us sort through bad information those who are willing to take anonymous suggestions are susceptible to inauthentic product reviews. Most businesses “self review” for promotional purposes and the danger lies here, not all comments are consumer based.

Ultimately we rely on our own instincts and ability to decipher good information from bad information. With the shift towards seeking out online suggestions it is up to us to decide what information should we trust.

Millennial infographic


Jaime is an Analyst at Abacus Data and a thought leader for its Canadian Millennials research practice.

Contact Jaime Morrison:

T: 613-232-2806



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