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The Generational Breakdown of Purchasing Patterns

Generational Marketing: How to Target Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers

From subtle nuances to obvious differences, each generation has its own buying habits that set them apart from one another. From targeted marketing to choosing your offerings and services, it’s important to recognize and cater to the needs of the generation(s) of your customer base. In this article, we take a look at how consumers' generational trends influence how they purchase, their purchase motivations, and attitude about commerce.

Contents

Gen Z | 2 – 17 years old

While their pockets are small, their influence is mighty. A generation whose economic output hardly exists has captivated the attention of marketers and brands because of what makes them so unique – they have never known a world without the Internet. And Gen Z’s parents are paying for their desires; 93% of parents say their children influence family spending and household purchases.

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What goes into their purchasing decisions?

Authenticity! Brand distrust is fervent among Gen Z. In order to foster loyalty, brands need to be totally transparent and honest to their customers, 77% of Gen Z prefer ads that show real people in real situations and 65% dislike ads that make life look perfect. And Gen Z is willing to shell out more for brands that contribute to social or economic causes.

Social media has the largest impact on influencing purchase decisions for Gen Z for. With 80% of purchases by this generation influenced by social media, the channels making the biggest impact are: Instagram (44%), Snapchat (21%) and YouTube (32%). The youngest cohort also responds well to social media influencers and user-generated content.

Although they are young, they have a clear grasp on their finances. Millennials’ struggle with student loans and unaffordable housing has served as a warning sign to Gen Z. 57% of Gen Z would rather save money than spend it immediately, and many are starting savings accounts and building credit at a younger and younger age.

How are they purchasing?

Mobile, mobile, mobile. Armed with the Internet at their fingertips, Gen Z is accustomed to doing pre-shopping research on their phones. A significant jump from their predecessors, millennials,  Gen Z spends twice as much time on their phones than millennials.

Frictionless and seamless online ordering is critical for the short attention spans of the youngest generation, a few seconds delay can be a purchase deal breaker. Nearly half of Gen Z says the most important thing while shopping is to find things quickly. If an app or website is too slow over 60% say they will not use it. Take a page from Domino’s Zero Click Ordering.

 

Millennials | 18 – 35 years old

Did you know millennials are now the largest group in the workforce? Spending $600 Billion a year, millennials’ desires and needs are reinventing the commerce landscape.

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What goes into their purchasing decisions?

Millennials are harnessing the power of the Internet to make better, more informed decisions; 33% of millennials rely on blogs before making a purchase and eight out of 10 millennials never buy anything without reading a review first. And brands put a ton of money into getting their attention, whereas traditional marketing has taken a backseat (less than 1% of Millennials are influenced by traditional ads), and word of mouth marketing, user-generated content, and social selling are much more persuasive.

Like Gen Z, authenticity is incredibly important to this generation and millennials are inherently suspicious of being sold or lied to by brands. Millennials want brands to get real and rally behind a cause, and they are willing to pay for it – in fact, they are 50% more likely to purchase from a company that supports a cause.

Social media has transfixed this generation, and can be a significant tool for brands. A study found that 62% of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer.

Millennials are very price-conscious and base their purchasing decisions on getting the utmost value out of their purchase. Price is the most significant force powering brand loyalty, and two-thirds of millennials say they will switch brands if they are offered a discount of 30% or more.

 How are they purchasing?

Millennials are multi device savvy, meaning they regularly switch between using different types of tech devices a day. This is true for commerce. Whether it be researching online, shopping in-store, or purchasing on their mobile device or desktop computer – technology enables millennials to purchase how they want and when they want. Unsurprisingly, millennials are more likely to buy on their smartphones than the rest of the population (43% versus 28%).

 

Generation Xers | 36 – 51 years old

Marketers have a leniency to clump Gen X with Baby Boomers, failing to differentiate the two in marketing campaigns. But the spending power of Gen X can’t go ignored; Gen Xers make up 25% of the population yet produce 31% of the total US income. These are the decision makers.

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What goes into their purchasing decisions?

But just because they are digitally-savvy, doesn’t mean that this generation should be marketed the same as millennials. Gen X prefers honest and clear product and marketing messages that outline an obvious path-to-purchase. Gen X is more likely to conduct online research at home and then shop in person, while their younger counterparts conduct research on their phones, in the store. The best way to reach Gen X? Email. And while most are on social media, they are much more influenced by email marketing campaigns.

Tapbuy finds that they are more likely to buy products that are unique and high-quality, as opposed to Generation Y and Z who buy based on community and value. When looking at brand loyalty, customer service is the most important driver of loyalty. Gen X doesn’t care as much about engaging with brands online, but they are incentivized by discounts.

How are they purchasing?

It’s important to quell the stereotype that Gen Xers aren’t digitally savvy. In fact, Millward Brown Digital, surveyed more than 1,000 consumers in three generations (Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers) finding that 60% of Gen Xers use a smartphone on a daily basis, while 67% use a laptop/PC daily – which surpassed the 58% of Millennials who use laptops/PCs daily. Meaning, the best way to reach Gen X is through laptops and desktops.

 

Baby Boomers | 52 – 70 years old

The Boomer generation has the greater amount of disposable income than all the other generations, but it is their purchasing patterns that set them apart the most from the younger generations. According to a study conducted by Visa, by 2020 there will be 11 million more consumers over age 60, while the share of spending among younger consumers is expected to decline over the next 10 years.

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What goes into their purchasing decisions?

They value in-person customer service above all; LoyaltyOne found that the Boomer generation was most likely to abandon a purchase following a subpar customer experience.

A report by Colloquy shed light on the purchasing patterns of the Baby Boomers:

For them, shopping serves a different purpose than other generations, less than a third of baby boomers find shopping relaxing. And likely the best generation to win at The Price is Right; boomers scored highest in knowing how much products cost – reflecting a more price conscious and fiscally conservative generation.

Just 37% of baby boomers say they are likely to browse for new products, the majority of this generation isn’t interested in trying and testing out new products, and much more likely to buy what they originally intended on buying. This purchase confidence is echoed in how baby boomers see reviews and referrals, only 12% of boomers rely on family and friends to help them decide on a purchase.

How are they purchasing?

At 84 %, Boomers were highest amongst all the generations to want to shop in-store and 67% note that if what they are looking for is unavailable, they prefer to purchase it at their local retailer rather than order online.

And while boomers are preferential to the in-store experience, they are not unfamiliar with online shopping. With 85 percent of surveyed Boomers reporting that they research products on their web browsers, brands need to take an omnichannel approach when marketing and selling to boomers.

Younger generations aren’t purchasing like their parents or grandparents, so to move the purchasing needle to implement a tailored business approach for each generation.

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