Buying alcohol is an entirely different experience for millennials than it was for baby boomers when they were in their twenties and thirties.

Woman purchasing bottle of alcohol.

Baby boomers are likely to remember a time before the drinking age was raised to 21, a time when stores were less likely to ask for identification to make a sale, and a time before the dangers of impaired driving had been imprinted upon the national consciousness.

It makes sense that alcohol buying habits of millennials are different from those of their older counterparts, and brands that understand those differences can use that intelligence to make smarter marketing decisions. Here are five insights into how millennials shop for alcohol. 

1. They’re Less Likely to Buy Alcohol on Impulse

A Nielsen survey from 2017 found that millennials were not as impulsive about buying alcohol as older adults were. Eighteen percent of baby boomers who had purchased alcohol in the 30 days preceding the survey said they had bought alcohol on impulse, compared to only 11% of millennials. While the majority of both generations said they planned alcohol purchases before shopping, 16% of millennials said that they didn’t start “planning” until they were actually in the store. This information can be valuable to alcohol brands when planning their in-store marketing.

2. They’re Less Likely to Have a Specific Brand in Mind

Perhaps the biggest difference between millennial and boomer alcohol buying habits is that while over half of baby boomers had a specific brand in mind when shopping, only one-quarter of millennials shopped with a particular brand in mind. This finding indicates that there is plenty of opportunity for brands and retailers to influence in-store alcohol purchases by younger adults. 

3. Their Influences Are Different than Baby Boomers’ Influences

When it comes to purchases of champagne and wine, millennials rely upon word-of-mouth recommendations, previous purchase experience, and research to help them choose which products to buy. On the other hand, 71% of baby boomers rely upon previous purchase experiences to influence their champagne and wine purchases. In other words, brand affinity, at least with wine and champagne, appear to be more fixed with baby boomers than with millennials.

Group of friends sitting on the floor drinking alcoholic beverages.

4. They’re Likelier to Drink at Home

A Mintel study found that Americans, in general, prefer to drink at home, which isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that the study found that 28% of younger millennials drink at home because they find it “too much effort” to go out. Only 15% of baby boomers said that going out was too much effort. Reasons for millennials preferring to drink at home included cost savings, home being more relaxing, and fewer worries about dangers like crime and impaired driving. And of course, drinking at home means shopping for alcohol beforehand.

5. They Crave Diversity

Yet another study on millennials and alcohol consumption, this one by the Collage Group, found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, millennials crave diversity in alcohol choices. This could be due to lack of experience finding out precisely what they like, or it could be affected by other factors, such as the influx of craft beers in recent years. The study also found that millennials are influenced by “strong visuals” when it comes to brand choices, particularly for wines.

Alcohol brands intent on selling to the huge millennial generation are smart to understand what influences their purchase habits compared to what has traditionally influenced alcohol purchasing habits in the past. Millennials are less likely to buy on impulse, yet more likely to start planning to purchase alcohol once inside a store. They’re less brand-loyal and more likely to listen to word-of-mouth recommendations rather than their own previous purchase experience when buying alcohol. 

Furthermore, younger adults like to drink at home, and they crave diversity. Alcohol brands that understand millennial purchasing habits can better tailor their marketing campaigns to appeal to the millennial generation. Hangar12 is at the forefront of CPG marketing strategy and more. Subscribe to our blog to stay up-to-date with our latest insights.

Topics consumer marketing insights