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Gen-Y Won't Buy Without User-Generated Input

Raised on a diet of interactive and social media, Millennials are a consumer powerhouse who, when considering purchases, tend to value user-generated content (UGC) more than other sources of information, including the opinions of friends and family, according to a survey from Bazaarvoice.

Moreover, many Millennials (AKA Generation Y) won't complete a wide range of purchases without consulting UGC first.

With a population of roughly 75 million, or 25% of the total US population, Gen Y (born 1977-1994) is estimated to be the largest consumer group in US history, according to McKinsey. Gen-Y's annual spending power, which already exceeds $200 billion, is expected to eclipse Boomers' by 2017.

Below, key findings from the study titled "Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People over Brands," by Bazaarvoice.

Influence of UGC

More than eight in ten Millennials say UGC from strangers has "a lot" (25%) or "some" (59%) influence on what they buy, compared with 70% of Boomers who say UGC has influence, either a lot ( 21%) or some (49%):

Moreover, Millennials tend to trust the opinions of people in online communities over other sources of information. 

Among key findings related to Millennials' use of UGC: 

  • 86% say UGC is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand, service, or product.
  • 65% say UGC is more honest and genuine than other information they find online.
  • When looking for information about a brand, product, or service, 51% say they trust UGC more than information on a company website (16%), articles about the company (14%), or advertising (6%).

Millennials Don't Buy Without Consumer Input 

Given how much Millennials trust UGC, it's not surprising that many don't make purchases without consulting UGC first. Among such purchases are big-ticket items such as major electronics (44%) and cars (40%), as well as hotel stays (39%) and insurance policies (30%):

Trust in Anonymous Consumers 

Millennials want to hear from friends and family, but when spending money is at issue, the opinions of strangers like them—particularly those with direct experience with the brand, product, or service—have more weight.

When considering purchases, 44% of Millennials are more likely to trust experienced consumers than people they know.

Moreover, 51% of Millennials state that UGC from strangers is more likely to influence their purchase decisions than recommendations from friends, family and colleagues, compared with 34% of Boomers who say the same:

Socially Connected Generation

The Millennial generation actively uses Facebook (80%), as well as YouTube (49%), Twitter (28%), and Google+ (25%).

Social networks are key platforms for sharing experiences, and reading the opinions of others: 

  • Millennials are more likely to share experiences with brands via social channels than email—both good experiences (42% vs. 24%) and bad ones (32% vs. 24%).
  • Millennials are three times more likely than Boomers to turn to social channels when looking for opinions on products or services to buy (22% vs. 7%).

Consumer Feedback Impacts Brand Image

Millennials value online forums for sharing opinions, and they respect the brands that support authentic feedback.

  • Most Millennials say companies that include customer feedback on their websites are "honest" (66%) and "credible" (53%). 
  • Millennials (87%) and Boomers (86%) agree companies shouldn't edit customer feedback by correcting spelling or grammatical errors. 
  • 64% of Millennials say companies should offer more ways to share their opinions online in the future, compared with 53% of Boomers who say the same.

About the data: The survey "Talking to Strangers" was conducted among 1,013 nationally representative Americans age 18+ by Kelton Research, Aug 25 to Sept 5, 2011.