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Top Marketing Tips for How Each Generation Shops from Boomers to Gen Z

Posted by Victoria Flores on August 25, 2019

People from different generations have varying shopping habits and preferences that correlate with their life stage, income level, and upbringing. And, knowing how a Millennial is likely to shop versus their Gen X counterpart is key to unlocking the customized shopping experiences that will help your brand resonate and make the sale with your target market. By understanding the differences between each generation’s consumer behaviors, you can finesse your marketing strategy for success.

In 2019, Gen Z-ers are 2-17 years old, so we’ll focus on the older end of this age range and discuss how these kids interact with brands and influence their parents’ shopping habits, since they don’t have as much buying power of their own just yet. Millennials are 18-35 years old, whereas Gen X-ers range from 36-51, and Baby Boomers are now 52-70, reaching that retirement phase of life. 

When you get a handle on these different age groups’ browsing habits, motivations, decision-making processes and level of loyalty, you’ll be on your way to meeting your customers exactly where they are and offering them content and experiences that reflect the way they think. Creating a high-quality shopping and customer service experience catered to each of these groups is increasingly important in the age of personalization.


On the Hunt: How Do They Find You?

Every generation of shopper is more mobile-focused than ever before, using their smartphones to shop or research on browsers and in apps. The in-store experience is still imperative, but it needs to be integrated with digital to attract the right customers in the product discovery stage.

Social and Connections

Those in Generation Z are likely to be persuaded by social media influencers and their friends on what products to investigate, and they’ll use both search engines and their social platforms to find out more about an item – then, most of the time, ask their parents about buying it. Millennials, who are college-aged and young professionals, are more into word-of-mouth from their connections, rather than merely checking out ads. Nearly 4 out of 5 have found out about new brands during a mobile search, and they’re easiest to reach via social or with valuable blog posts.

Email and Traditional

Gen X-ers are most swayed by email marketing and are less likely than other generations to find new brands on social channels, though some still will. They control close to a third of the US buying power and prefer authentic communication over marketing jargon. Baby Boomers, who are a bit more traditional, are more likely to seek out a specific brand and shop at places they know well. Many are tech-savvy, but since they didn’t grow up shopping online, a mix of traditional and newer tactics can be useful to get your brand’s message across.


Making Them Tick: What Factors Do They Consider?

Interaction and Social

Generation Z is looking to interact, interact, interact. They’re super social online and looking for brands that engage them in the conversation by asking questions, running polls, and responding to comments – especially with GIFs and memes. Brands can promote a hashtag this age group can use to voice any concerns and share opinions or use tools like Typeform to quiz or involve them in a meaningful way. They also tend to care about social issues and will pay more for products from mission-driven brands. Because they’re in a hurry, convenience is key to their shopping experience.

Reviews and Reputation

Millennials shop with price in mind but are more often looking to get good value out of whatever they buy, rather than simply bargain hunting. These shoppers want to feel emotionally connected to their purchase experience and the brand itself, so they’re ready to research as part of their shopping process. 

About a third rely on blogs for input on making a purchase and 80% won’t buy before checking reviews. 62% are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand interacts with them on social, and 66% will try a new brand if they are offered a discount of 30% or more. 

As a generally socially conscious group, they want to see brands giving back to the community so their purchases align with their values. On the other hand, their generation is also very likely to buy on impulse if the price is right.

Straight Talk and Quality

Gen X-ers prefer honest and transparent product marketing that offers them an obvious path to purchase. They want companies to tell them exactly why they would need your product and are attracted to high-quality items at the right price. The group is less influenced by fashion trends and is more likely to conduct research on their phones while shopping in-store.

Traditional Values and Bargains

Boomers are price-conscious and tend to be a more fiscally-conservative generation. They value in-person customer service and may abandon a purchase or even a brand following a negative interaction. The group likes to browse for new products, but many members of this generation aren’t interested in frequently testing out new products. They often buy what they are used to and stick to their shopping list. The older generation is not as pressed for time, but they are rather focused on value for their money and product quality. Brands can appeal to these groups with messaging about craftsmanship, reliability, and guarantees.


Gametime Decision: Where Do They Make The Final Buy?

Convenience is Key

If shoppers in generation Z ever choose not to buy online, they’ve more or less decided what they’re getting ahead of time. Brick-and-mortar used to be the place of purchase but is now acting as more of a pickup point for the younger crowd. These customers are in a hurry, so speedy shopping is critical with a fast checkout experience. They are also helping to bring back stores as mini fulfillment centers because they don’t want to wait around for shipping.

Multichannel Shoppers

Millennials are multi-device savvy, so they regularly switch between devices throughout the day. As a result, they purchase how and when they want without issue. They are more likely to buy on their smartphones than the rest of the population, so it’s essential to ensure the mobile checkout experience is seamless to help with conversions.

Desktop Devotees

Gen X shoppers are all about laptops and desktop computers for making their final online purchases. They are also likely to research online and purchase offline (ROPO) so they can learn more about products on the web before they get to the store. They’re flexible about shopping online versus brick-and-mortar but are not as likely to convert on mobile.

More Strategy in Store

Boomers are the most likely of the generations to want to shop in-store: 67% prefer to purchase at their local retailer rather than ordering online. This group is not as comfortable with online shopping as their younger counterparts, so brands need to take an omnichannel approach.


Top Takeaways: How to Reach Customers of Every Generation

Shopping behavior across generations certainly has vital variations, but in the end, there are a lot of similarities when it comes to what drives their final purchase, and brands should take all preferences into account.


All shoppers appreciate companies that are trustworthy, transparent, and offer top-notch customer service. Although you indeed need to understand your ideal customer and speak to them directly, there are a few tips that are useful for marketing to every generation. Data shows that payment security, smooth brand interactions, and transparent promotions are the most critical factors in determining where to shop. Everyone values excellent customer service, including email, phone, discussion boards, and live chat interactions.

Depending on your target audience, you can prioritize your messaging and channel strategy to encourage different aged consumers to become interested in and loyal to your brand. And, understanding how customers discover you, what matters to them, and where they swipe their credit card can make all the difference when it comes to growing your business.


Topics: millennial, mobile shopping, online shopping, generational shopping, genz, baby boomers, consumer behavior, genx


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