Finance & Economics

How shopping behavior differs from generation to generation

Baby boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z all have great purchase potential

shopping behavior generations

How shopping behavior differs from generation to generation. Source:

There are four main generations of consumers in the market today. Baby boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z all have great purchase potential.

According to research, each generation spends different amounts of money annually:

  • The purchasing power of Generation Z (aged 10-23) is $143 billion which is significantly higher than what Millennials and other generations spent at the same stage of life. It is predicted that Gen Z-ers will account for about 40% of global consumers this year.
  • Millennials – born between 1980 and 1997 – spend approximately $600 billion in the US alone. They are expected to become a major buying force in 2020 when their spending in the United States might skyrocket to $1.4 trillion annually, which will represent 30% of total retail sales.
  • The representatives of Generation X, born between 1965-1979, have a higher-than-average household income and considerable spending power of $2.4 trillion.
  • Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) account for more than half of all U.S. spending. They have added more spending growth over the past decade than any other generation. According to a recent AARP bulletin, baby boomers spend $7 trillion per year on goods and services.

The trick is, every generation also has different buying habits. Tracking common patterns will help you target the consumers of a certain age more precisely while satisfying their needs.

Baby boomers (1946-1964)


Those who are reaching retirement age now are often wealthy enough to start businesses, build houses, and make multiple trips. Moreover, they have sufficient health and energy to do that. At the same time, this group also includes retirees on a much slimmer budget. This generation has encountered the post-war socio-economic changes and the Great Recession. Hence, most boomers didn’t start saving early enough.

Nevertheless, boomers don’t fall easy prey to discounts and promotions. Idealistic and highly ethical, they value personal engagement and great customer service. They are the most demanding of all age cohorts. They cherish convenience, prefer hassle-free shopping, and can easily change brands once dissatisfied. Baby boomers make in-store purchases more often than others. Yet they don’t shy away from online experiences.

Marketing tips

If you wish to please Boomers, concentrate on quality and integrity. Provide a user-friendly web-interface. This generation may not be super tech-savvy, but they conduct their product research before going to the store as well. In fact, they spend more time online than younger Millennials.

If you target Baby Boomers, dedicate more time to social media rather than developing a great mobile app. More than half of Boomers who use social networking sites visit a company website or continue their research on a search engine as a result of seeing something on social media. Websites should be mobile-friendly too, as the majority of Boomers own tablets and smartphones. However, they are not likely to use m-shopping outlets for actual purchases.

Don’t forget about the TV commercials, Boomers watch 174 hours of television a month, 63% more than millennials.

Free shipping and flexible returns policies are important for 90% of consumers over 55. Show them that you care across all channels. Offer these consumers the same personal customer service in your online store as they would get in a brick-and-mortar store. It should be easy to get recommendations, view product guides and do comparisons. Make sure your customer support is available via the phone, email or chat.

Generation X (1965-1979)

Who they are

They are currently between 40-55 years old. Still in the workforce and, so to speak, in their prime years. Gen X is the biggest user group of social media, specifically Facebook, spending an average of 7 hours a week there. Moreover, 70% of Gen X will make a purchase from a brand they follow on social media, the highest statistics among all generations surveyed.

Sophisticated, educated and individualistic are words that describe them best. Gen Xers tend to shop more conservatively than other generations. They’re more skeptical about marketing tactics too. They won’t fall for flashy advertising until they get solid proof of a good deal. Gen X still reads newspapers, magazines, listens to the radio, and watches TV. However, they are also digitally savvy. Xers won’t purchase a product until they’ve researched it thoroughly. They are fans of search engines, online reviews, and social media networks, browsing them extensively before making a purchase.

This generation is also thrifty. Remember that Gen X is taking care of their Baby Boomer parents and their Millennial/Gen Z children. Hence, a good price or a stunning deal has the power to attract this group.

How to appeal to them

As mentioned above, lucrative pricing policies will help you win over GenX-ers. Information about the sales, price drops or personal discount should promptly reach this audience. At the checkout, highlight the amount saved to give them a better understanding of the bargain.

The best way to reach Gen X is through laptops and desktops. Moreover, while most are on social media, they are much more influenced by email marketing campaigns.

Perhaps the most noteworthy fact about Gen X is their extreme brand loyalty. Once you have gained their trust, they are willing to pay extra for the favorite brand’s products. Loyalty programs may also prolong Gen X’s interest in your store.

Don’t be too lofty with brand messages. Gen X shoppers are less influenced by fashion trends and are more skeptical about the sincerity of advertising. You have to be transparent and consistent in your brand strategy. These buyers also prefer unique products, so avoid the “one size fits all” advertising.

Millennials aka Generation Y (1980-1997)

What you need to know about the largest population group

Raised with technology, but not necessarily born to it, Millennials are the most diverse consumer cohort. Some of them are only coming of age, while others are building careers and raising children. They are rather socially influenced and care for good causes.

For Ys, the world is small. They like to travel and think globally. Many of them are cosmopolites. They are not deeply-rooted; they ignore national borders when it comes to travel, work, and commerce. Unlike their parents, Millennials avoid credit card debt. Believe it or not, a recent Credible survey shows that millennials rank their credit card debt as the scariest issue in their daily lives. They like flexible payment solutions and immediacy. These shoppers are also the ones who prefer buy-online-collect-in-store purchases.

Ways to improve marketing

Encourage reviews and consider integrating a review/feedback function into your store. Millennials love to be well-informed. Offer different delivery and payment methods. These shoppers cherish flexibility and immediacy.

Being opposed to traditional credit cards, Gen Y would appreciate try-before-you-buy and alternative forms of purchase on installments. A combination of immediate ownership and postponed financial obligations may work in favor of the buying decision.

Most Millennials are digitally obsessed and pressed in terms of free time. Mobile shopping is highly popular among this generation, but don’t limit your selling strategy to m-commerce. Omnichannel must be your ultimate goal. 68% of Millennials say they want a seamless shopping experience, across all channels.

Millennials are also dubbed as “worried” and “purpose-orientated”. 73% of them are ready to pay extra for sustainable offerings. Eco-friendly products, social business, and charity are trendy among this group.

Generation Z (1996-2010)

About them

This generation has been raised on the internet and social media, with some of the oldest finishing colleges by 2020 and entering the workforce. They are digital natives, treating gadgets and IoT as a given.

Gen Z-ers are controversial too. They value sustainability and social good – but they won’t pay more for that. According to a survey by Business Insider, 60% of this generation make shopping decisions based on cost. They look for good deals and discounts across all possible channels.

Despite their dedication to tech, 81% of them prefer old-fashioned stores over buying online. More than half of the respondents in a new survey said shopping in stores allows them to disconnect from social media and the digital world. This kind of “retail therapy” helps the youngest shoppers get distracted from the terrifying news and overwhelming information. Constant stress they face online also pushes Gen Z-ers towards health and wellness products.

Targeting Zs

Their virtual lives are equally important than the real ones. Engage them in your social channels with questions and polls, and don’t forget to reply to their comments. Get influencers involved.

Mind customer service and shopping experiences, both instore and online. Having a smooth payment solution that applies both online and offline is essential. Personalized, one-click shopping carts offer great payment flexibility and the speedy checkout experience. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and your shopping app works smoothly. This generation is the leader of smartphone usage. They spend over 4 hours a day on mobile while 78% of Gen Z-ers consider their mobile devices the most important online channel.

Fashion is their passion. Getting new looks every day with little money and little harm to the environment is hard, so Zs prefer clothing-rental subscription models, second-hand stores, and small shops with unique items.


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