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'Millennials' more likely to trust strangers on product advice than friends and family

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A study claiming to be the first ever survey of the ‘millennial’ generation's shopping habits finds that the group, now aged from their mid-teens to mid-30s, is more inclined to put its trust in strangers than the friends and family they already know when it comes to getting product recommendations.

The Talking to Strangers report from Bazaarvoice, produced in partnership with The Center for Generational Kinetics and Kelton Research, finds that the group, which will have more spending power than any other generation by 2017, is as likely to trust the experience of strangers they consider ‘people like them’ as trusted friends and family.

The study found that some 44% of Millennials trust experienced consumers ahead of their friends and family, compared to 31% of Boomers. Just over half (51%) say the opinions of strangers are more likely to influence their buying decisions than recommendations from friends, family and colleagues, compared to 34% of Boomers.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of Millennials feel such user-generated content (UGC) is more honest and genuine than other information they find online, while 86% feel it gives a good indication of a brand’s quality, service or products, and 84% say UGC from strangers has at least some influence on what they buy.

More than half (51%) trust such content more than other information on a company website (16%), news articles about the company (14%), or advertising (6%). And 44% of Millennials won’t buy major electronics without UGC, 40% won’t buy a car, and 39% won’t book a hotel.

Social media underpins the group’s online activity, with 80% using Facebook actively, 49% YouTube, 28% Twitter and 25% Google+. Some 42% are more likely to use these channels to share their positive experiences of a brand, and 32% to share negative experiences than to email friends or, indeed, call the company in question.

Thus when it comes to getting feedback, Millennials are more likely to turn to social channels for expert and experienced feedback. While 69% of Boomers, in their late 40s and above, are more likely to trust loved ones rather than other consumers, only 56% of Millennials would do so.

Indeed Millennials (22%) are more than three times as likely as Boomers (7%) to turn to social channels when looking for opinions on products or services to buy. But 45% of Millennials would look for UGC on the site where they are buying than would go to Facebook (45%) or Twitter (22%) followers.

Eighty-four percent of Millennials are comforted that they have access to the opinions and experiences of strangers.

“Millennials have grown up in a world where word of mouth is shared and found just as easily on a blog or in a product review as it is around the water cooler or at a dinner party,” said Brett Hurt, founder and chief executive of Bazaarvoice. “The result is that this generation expects to have access to opinions from people like them no matter where they are or how they shop. Brands that don’t understand and embrace this shift are making a huge mistake as this generation becomes a dominant economic force.”
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