• Report says Millennials find holiday promotional 'games' deceitful and manipulative

It's an opportunity for progressive retailers to connect in a more relevant manner to a new generation of shopper. Consumer attitudes about holiday retail are segmenting by age: Millennials feel manipulated; older segments feel like it's how the game is played. That′s according to new research by digital market research firm MindSwarms.

Holiday retail tactics are not sitting well with Millennials who perceive that retailers actively try to deceive and encourage overspending. In addition to bait-and-switch promotions and guilt-inducing advertising messaging, some Millennials even accuse retailers of using the holiday season to rid their stock of lower quality, older model items.

"Previous research has explored how Millennials value transparency in the companies they buy from. This study captures the degree to which Millennials mistrust companies they feel are manipulative," said Ryan Brill, senior project manager at MindSwarms. "Whether these feelings will change as Millennials age remains to be seen. For the moment retailers should be conscious of how they come across during the holiday season."

Shoppers over age 30 acknowledge these holiday retail practices, but pride themselves in self-control and the ability to use retailer games to their own benefit.

When it comes to the increasingly early start of the holiday shopping season, both groups express frustration: Gen Xers and Boomers see it as an infringement on family time and a symptom of the over-commercialization of the holidays, and Millennials experience it as yet another tactic to guilt them into starting earlier, shopping earlier, and buying more.


  • Millennials, often described as on a longer timetable to adulthood, are more likely to describe holiday retail tactics as manipulative and some express fear that these "deceitful" practices will lure them into losing control/purchasing more than they should.
  • Those in the Millennial segment can provide specific examples of the approaches they deem most manipulative, including bait-and-switch inventory management and dishonest pricing.
  • While some in the older segment also see retail practices as manipulative, they feel more confident in their abilities to control their spending and ensure benefit from holiday deals.
  • Retailers must be cognizant of the potential brand distrust generated from holiday tactics and the negative impact it might have on long-term brand relationships.
  • It could be that Millennials' attitudes towards shopping have been shaped by more transparent digital pricing experiences, and therefore, they resent traditionally minded retail tactics of brick-and-mortar.
  • There exists an opportunity for progressive retailers to connect in a more relevant manner to a new generation of shopper who seems more suspicious of tried-and-true holiday retail tactics.

Read more about consumer behavior.

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