Feb 11, 202014 min read

Guide: 4 Generations and 4 Different Shopping Behaviors.

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by Isabella Ahmadi

Millennials and Gen Z, Boomers and Generation X. Who’s what and what’s who? It’s a jungle out there where the inhabitants can be really tricky to figure out and even trickier to attract to your online store. Fear no more, here’s a guide to the four main generations of today and their unique shopping behaviors.

Boomers are just old-school and Gen Z is inseparable from their smartphones. Well, those are pretty superficial descriptions, don’t you think? It’s time to challenge your prejudices of the different generations and discover their true identities and their unique characteristics. It might just cut you a bigger slice of the cake, since they all behave differently online and they have distinct preferences when it comes to shopping.

Get to know them and stay in the game.

Baby Boomers

Born: 1946-1964
Characteristics: Idealistic, strong work ethic, self-sufficient, competitive
Top desires: Good customer service and a professional shopping experience
Purchasing power in the US: 2.6 trillion dollars annually

The younger generations might have turned Boomers into a laughing stock with the “OK Boomer” memes taking over the internet, but this generation is no joke when it comes to shopping. These guys are generally well-off as they have reached the end of their careers and have built up hefty savings accounts over many years. But don’t forget that this group also contains retirees that may be on a slimmer budget. Boomers tend to be loyal to brands and might have shopped from the same company for decades.

Boomers are less likely to be found scavenging dollar stores for a bargain than the young generations. Instead of low prices, they value personal engagement and great customer service. Which is one of the reasons they still go to physical stores – but hey, the majority of them also shop online. They’re not the tech-savviest people on earth but they do love convenience, which reliable online companies can provide.

Top Tips to Connect With Boomers

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. When communicating, skip the slang and use more formal language as this group prefers a professional approach when spending their hard-earned money. Also, make sure it’s easy to connect with you via phone, email or chat.

Tap into the Baby Boomers’ loyal streak by showing that your business is reliable and honest and deserves their commitment. A valuable loyalty program should do it. Boomers are less likely to use new technology so focus on a trustworthy experience on desktop to satisfy this target group.

How to build loyalty you ask? Here’s a guide.

Generation X

Born: 1964-1979
Characteristics: Individualistic, independent, practical, educated
Top desires: Great deals and a trustworthy, convenient shopping experience
Purchasing power in the US: 2.4 trillion dollars annually

Gen X is often referred to as the forgotten generation. But make no mistake – as a merchant you should definitely have these intriguing people on your radar as they have huge spending power. Squashed between two bigger generations, the X-ers are in the middle of their career and can have reached high positions. Sophisticated, educated and individualistic are words that describe them well.

As shoppers, Gen X-ers appreciate and understand good value and are likely to remain loyal to brands. They don’t suffer from ad blindness like the younger generations, and therefore they can be approached with more traditional marketing. A good price or a stunning deal has the power to attract this group.

Top Tips to Connect With Gen X

To appeal to Gen X’s economical shopping minds, put some thought into discounts, deals and price drops. It doesn’t have to be exclusive offers, it just has to be a good price. At the checkout, highlight the amount saved to give a feeling of satisfaction.

Email newsletters are appreciated by Gen X and you can catch their attention with special value deals and time limited offers. To get their hearts beating a little faster, present a clear message stressing the need for the product. But don’t be outrageously salesy or pushy. Members of this generation often have kids and elders to take care of and little time to research every single purchase choice. So here’s your chance to do the comparison for them and nudge them in the right direction.

Last but not least, loyalty programs are a sure-fire way to engage with Gen X. They just adore collecting points and getting extra value for their shopping.

Millennials (aka Generation Y)

Born: 1980-1995
Characteristics: Global minded, tech-savvy, well-informed, hearts for travel
Top desires: Flexible, fast and conscious shopping experience
Purchasing power in the US: Predicted to spend 1.4 trillion dollars in 2020

Oh, the millennials. They have been the center of attention for a while now, as the group has entered the job market and increased their spending power. They have transformed the way we shop and are often accused of killing certain industries. Millennials are the largest generation by population and are therefore an incredibly important target group. For the millennial, the world is smaller than ever; with easy access to travel and products from all over the globe, many proudly call themselves globalists. Having grown up with the internet they are tech-savvy and great researchers, with the time and know-how to find the right product for the right price.

Millennials avoid using credit cards, as they fear going into any kind of debt. Although they appreciate value for money, data from a survey by Prosper shows that millennials consider free shipping and low prices less important than the older generations. Instead, they place a higher value on having the option of same-day delivery. Immediacy and convenience are two of their major desires, according to the study.

Want even more insights on Millennials? Learn the rest here.

Top Tips to Connect With Millennials

Take advantage of online reviews and recommendations in order to attract millennials. Encourage reviews and consider integrating a review/feedback function into your store. Offer different delivery methods and setups, since some of this group prefer same-day delivery and others would rather have free delivery. Also, flexible payment options are a must as many millennials don’t have a credit card, nor any savings in the bank.

Millennials are well-informed and take the time to read up on products they intend to buy. Therefore merchants can provide inspiration when selling and upselling to this group. Help millennial consumers to find more items with an “Others also bought” or “Buy the whole look” section.

Supporting a cause is right up this generation’s alley, too. If you add the extra value of sustainability or social care to your brand and products, you might just melt millennials’ hearts.

Generation Z

Born: 1996-2010
Characteristics: Digital natives, creative, knowledgeable, thrifty
Top desires: Seamless, individualized and authentic experiences
Purchasing power in the US: Predicted to spend 143 billion dollars in 2020

Brace yourselves for this brand new shopping generation! Generation Z is a fascinating, growing group with increasing spending power. They are digital natives, brought up in a world where the internet is a given and the border between the online and the physical is blurred. A seamless experience is one of their top 5 expectations of enterprises, but Z-ers also appreciate a personal approach, transparency and authenticity.

Good value for money is something that attracts this thrifty generation too. Like their predecessors, they appreciate a wide product range, clarity, smooth delivery and fair return policies. Above all, they value a good price. According to a survey by Business Insider, 60% of this generation make shopping decisions based on cost. A possible dilemma for the group is that they value sustainability and being socially conscious – but they don’t necessarily want to pay more for products that align with those causes.

Some predict that Gen Z-ers can revive the brick-and-mortar world as they often shop in physical stores. Contrary to preconceptions, 81% of them prefer old-fashioned stores over buying online.

Also, keep in mind that this generation highly influences the buying choices of those around them from other generations.

Top Tips to Connect With Gen Z

First of all, to target Gen Z, merchants need to think “mobile first”. This generation research and purchase on their phones, not on desktop. Engage them in your social channels with questions and polls, and don’t forget to reply to their comments. You can also promote a hashtag or connect with relevant influencers. Another challenge for merchants is how to build loyalty with Gen Z-ers. They’re attracted to clarity, transparency and honesty. So you could make a point of not retouching model pictures, for example, and always be sure to follow through on any promises made.

Merchants with both online and physical stores need to put great effort into brand coherency and consistency. Gen Z wants to move seamlessly from floor to app.

Tapping into the generation’s desire for individualization and uniqueness, merchants should personalize the customer experience and tailor their offers to fit Gen Z better. Send out discounts targeted at an exclusive group such as students, for example. Be clear in what value you offer. Is the product eco-friendly, limited edition or reduced in price? Spell it out!

Bonus: Generation Alpha

Born: 2011-2025
Characteristics: Creative, tech naturals, diverse
Top desires: Screen time and devices

How could anybody describe a generation that consists of babies, young children and those yet to be born? Well, their true characteristics are still to be unveiled but some attempts at portraying Alphas have already been made. Generation Alpha is being brought up in more diversity than previous generations, and in families where changing jobs and moving frequently is normal. They’re considered to be powerful in influencing purchasing decisions in their families – or they might even already be decision makers.

Technology is one of the main themes of this up-and-coming generation. A nickname for Gen Alpha is Generation Glass, as they live with an omnipresence of screens, being raised as “screenagers”. They are expected to think freely and be extremely creative with tech. Some predict this generation will truly change the world and set us upon a new path. Buckle up, here comes Gen Alpha!

Addressing All the Generations

It’s hard to cover all bases, considering the varying needs of the different generations, right? What does unify them all, though, is that they want a reliable, frictionless shopping experience. From Boomers to Gen Z, they all agree that technology is here to make life convenient.

As a merchant, you should choose partners for your online store that make the purchasing experience flawless. There are many decisions to be made: what platform best suits you and what delivery options should you offer? One of the most important decisions is your payment partner. The Swedish fintech wonder Klarna stands out, offering several payment options for consumers that give them the freedom to pay however and whenever they like. Basically, it’s buy now, pay later.

Read more about how “Buy Now,Pay Later” is transforming online shopping.

Today, Klarna offers its services in many European countries, the USA and Australia. And it’s not all about payments. With Klarna, merchants join a huge shopping network. In the Klarna app, millions of users are looking for inspiration and are ready to go shopping. It’s an opportunity too sweet to miss out on. The combination of smooth payments, safety for merchants and an understanding of modern shopping are bound to be helpful in reaching both the older and the newer generations. OK Boomer?