A new survey suggests that retailers use caution when pushing their customer base too deep into social media. It seems that even younger shoppers—that powerful purchasing group known as millennials—prefer traditional communication, including digital modes, such as email, according to emarketer.com.

Email is a “tried and true” method with which to communicate and, because of this, email is often deemed as “not sexy” in a digital world in which “sexy” sells, notes emarketer.com. But, unsexy is sometimes the best choice, regardless of age and digital savvy.

In December 2014, Principal Financial Group polled United States Internet users, aged 25 to 35, asking the about their preferred method with which to communicate with an array of institutions. Almost half of those surveyed indicated that they preferred to communicate with retailers by email. In person communication came in next at 28 percent. Only 6 percent sought to speak to retailers via social media and online chats. Text messages came in with a lower percentage, noted emarketer.com.

Millennials may feel better communicating with retailers via electronic methods when compared with other types of institutions, according to the research and email was universally preferred, regardless of the institution. Respondents did indicate, however, that they were likelier to speak with financial services institutions by telephone, although telephone was not popular in retail. eMarketer points out that moving to digital does not mean that consumers are moving to the next biggest and brightest thing and that email remains “a retailer’s best friend.” In fact, email was the number two preferred choice for actual product research in the retail sector at 18 percent. Web searches were number one at 45 percent, while in-person research at retail stores was a “strong third” at 14 percent. Social media continued to lag in this area.

According to Principal Financial Group, the specific preferences were:

Retail Stores:

  • Email: 47 percent
  • In person: 28 percent
  • Postal mail: 8 percent
  • Social media: 6 percent
  • Telephone: 5 percent
  • Online chat: 5 percent
  • Text messaging: 2 percent

Financial Institutions

  • Email: 43 percent
  • In person: 22 percent
  • Postal mail: 15 percent
  • Social media: 2 percent
  • Telephone: 11 percent
  • Online chat: 5 percent
  • Text messaging: 3 percent


  • Email: 43 percent
  • In person: 28 percent
  • Postal mail: 9 percent
  • Social media: 9 percent
  • Telephone: 6 percent
  • Online chat: 2 percent
  • Text messaging: 3 percent

Insurance Companies

  • Email: 42 percent
  • In person: 14 percent
  • Postal mail: 13 percent
  • Social media: 4 percent
  • Telephone: 19 percent
  • Online chat: 5 percent
  • Text messaging: 4 percent


Where Do Millennials Want to Talk to Retailers? Email: Email is millennials’ channel of choice for communicating with retailers. eMarketer;  March 20, 2015.