There has always been trash-talking between the generations, and today is no different. For a while, Millennials were dragging Baby Boomers (remember when “Okay, Boomer” was trending?), and now, Gen Zers are trolling Millennials.
But are we really that different? Are the shopping behaviors of a Millennial the exact opposite of a Baby Boomer’s? Or are the generations more alike, sharing the same concerns about the future and shopping from the same stores?
In May 2020 we conducted an anonymous survey of 1,006 U.S. consumers* and asked about their buying preferences and behaviors.
This is what we discovered.
WHERE DIFFERENT GENERATIONS SHOP
For reference, these are the years and ages we are associating with each generation:
|Gen Z||1997-2002||18 to 24 years old|
|Millennials||1981-1996||25 to 39 years old|
|Gen X||1965-1980||40 to 55 years old|
|Baby Boomers||1946-1964||56 to 74 years old|
|Silent Generation||1925-1945||75 and older|
Online vs. In-Store: Where do different age groups shop?
Very few members of the three youngest generations shop only in-store (just one in 10). But the same can’t be said of Boomers and the Silent Generation.
For the Silent Generation, one out of every four will only shop in a physical retail store. And for Boomers, it’s one out of five.
11% shop in-store only
89% shop online
9% shop in-store only
91% shop online
10% shop in-store only
90% shop online
19% shop in-store only
81% shop online
24% shop in-store only
76% shop online
Which stores or e-commerce sites do different generations favor?
When it comes to shopping online, all five generations agree on their three favorites.
Far and away Amazon is the e-commerce site most consumers said they’ve shopped on. Walmart and eBay were the second and third most popular online stores.
1. Amazon: 75%
2. Walmart: 37%
3. eBay: 15%
1. Amazon: 75%
2. Walmart: 46%
3. eBay: 20%
1. Amazon: 75%
2. Walmart: 42%
3. eBay: 24%
1. Amazon: 62%
2. Walmart: 43%
3. eBay: 21%
1. Amazon: 59%
2. Walmart: 24%
3. eBay: 10%
Why the generations prefer shopping online
From the ease of being able to shop without leaving the comfort of their own homes to being able to read other shoppers’ reviews of a product, the generations have a variety of reasons for why they might choose to shop online.
1. See others’ reviews: 42%
2. Easier to price check: 40%
3. Easy to get desired products and ease of not having to leave home: 39% each
1. Fast shipping and more product options: 44%
2. Ease of not having to leave home: 40%
3. See others’ reviews: 36%
1. More product options and ease of not having to leave home: 47% each
2. Fast shipping: 44%
3. Can avoid public places: 43%
1. Can avoid public places: 55%
2. Ease of not having to leave home: 54%
3. Easy to get desired products: 44%
1. Ease of not having to leave home: 59%
2. See others’ reviews: 41%
3. Easier to price check: 38%
The younger generations care about brand names
Though most consumers (regardless of their generation) say whether or not they buy a branded product is dependent on price and the product they’re looking for, the three youngest generations are much more interested in brands than Boomers and the Silent Generation.
Millennials are the most brand-driven, with 29% saying they’re always looking for brand name products online.
But Gen Z and Gen X like their brands too. One in five Gen Xers (21%), and one in four Gen Zers (24%) will go for the branded item over the non-branded.
Only 3% of the Silent Generation say they will only buy a product based on its name.
Generational shopping on Amazon
Millennials shop on Amazon most often
The older generations may not shop on Amazon a lot (just 10% of the Silent Generation and 16% of Boomers shop on the site weekly), but Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X are big fans.
Nearly half of Millennials (47%) say they shop on Amazon at least once a week. And one in 10 say they shop on the site seven times per week or more.
Most Gen Z and Gen X members are also frequenting the marketplace regularly, with 42% of Gen Zers and 39% of Gen Xers shopping on the platform weekly.
As for the Silent Generation, they’re not overly keen on the site. 35% of the group say they don’t currently shop on Amazon.
Reasons for buying on Amazon are the same
It doesn’t matter when you were born, if you shop on Amazon then chances are you’re buying something because it has the lowest price and/or the best reviews.
Aside from Gen X, all generations said their number one reason for buying on Amazon is the reviews and rating a product has. The second reason they’ll purchase an item from Amazon is its low price.
Gen X was a bit more indecisive, with both reviews and price tying as the generations’s number one reason to buy on Amazon.
Baby Boomers are the biggest spenders
Baby Boomers may not shop on Amazon that often, but they are willing to spend the most money. When it comes to buying a product on the platform, 22% of Boomers are willing to spend $251-$500 on a single product.
Millennials and Gen Z aren’t quite as extravagant as Boomers, but they’re still willing to spend $101-$250 for a particular item (22% and 31% respectively).
But the group that has the most money is the one that’s willing to spend the least. Gen X has the highest average household income (more information on this below), yet their max spend for an item is $51-$100 (22%).
Gen Z and Millennials find Amazon’s subscription model attractive
If sellers are offering a subscribe-and-save product on Amazon, their best bet is to target younger shoppers.
Why? Because, unlike Boomers and the Silent Generation, Millennials and Gen Zers already use Amazon’s subscription model and plan on continuing to do so (37% and 31% respectively).
Plus, a significant number of individuals from the two youngest generations stated that though they don’t use the model currently, they are open to purchasing subscribe-and-save items (18% of Gen Z and 17% of Millennials).
The majority of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers are uninterested in Amazon’s subscription model (55% and 41% respectively). But, those who had never heard of the program before (14% for each generation) said they would consider signing up for a subscribe-and-save product.
People not shopping on Amazon prefer shopping in stores
As for those who aren’t buying from Amazon, the number one reason is because they would rather shop in a brick and mortar store.
The only generation that differs in their reasoning is the Silent Generation. They said they don’t shop on Amazon because they don’t have a Prime account (58%).
And while Gen Z agrees with Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials about their preference to shop in-store, they also said they aren’t shopping on Amazon because it doesn’t have the type of products they’re looking for (21%).
GENERATIONAL SPENDING HABITS
Changes the generations made to online spending
Millennials and Gen X think (and act) alike once again!
Most have increased their online spending — 39% of Millennials and 38% of Gen Xers — though a similar number have decreased their online budgets (36% and 34% respectively).
For Gen Z consumers, the largest group said they’ve decreased their online shopping (37%). Boomers biggest group said their online shopping has remained constant, and 31% of the Silent Generation said it doesn’t matter since they don’t shop online.
Gen X conflicted about spending on Amazon
When it comes to shopping on Amazon, Gen Xers are split.
Virtually the same number of Gen X consumers said their spending on Amazon hasn’t changed (32%) as those who said it has decreased (31%), and those who said it increased (31%).
Gen Z and Millennials, on the other hand, are spending more on Amazon since COVID-19 (30% and 35% respectively). Of the Gen Zers who said they’re spending more, 17% increased their Amazon spending by as much as 25%.
Most Baby Boomers say their Amazon spending hasn’t changed (42%), but nearly a quarter say it has decreased (23%). And the Silent Generation: 38% say they don’t shop on Amazon.
THE FINANCIAL PICTURE
Household income by generation
Even though marketers tend to target Millennials and Gen Z, it’s Gen X that reports having the highest household income.
While 64% of Gen Xers say they’re earning less than $75,000 per year, 22% reported a household income of over $100,000. That’s four percentage points higher than any other generation.
But it’s the oldest and the youngest generations making the least.
Gen Z reported having the lowest annual household income, with 37% saying they earn less than $25,000 per year. The Silent Generation is steps behind, with 35% living on less than $25,000 annually.
Millennials are worried about their financial future
Gen Z and the Silent Generation may have the smallest incomes, but it’s Millennials who are most concerned about their financial future.
In fact, two out of three Millennials (64%) say they are unsure of their future finances versus the one of two Gen Zers who say the same.
Gen X isn’t feeling all that secure either. Regardless of their higher average household income, 62% of Gen Xers worry about money.
And though most of the older generations are also concerned financially, they have a significant number of people who are comfortable with their financial position.
38% of Baby Boomers and 35% of the Silent Generation are ready for the future.
The younger generations are looking for ways to earn more
Considering the fact that Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X all voiced concerns about their financial futures, it makes sense that these three generations would also be the ones looking for ways to increase their incomes.
Three out of four Millennials (77%) are trying to find a way to make more money, while seven out of 10 Gen Zers and Gen Xers are doing the same (70% and 71% respectively).
They’re also looking for ways to spend less
One way the younger generations are putting more money back into their pockets is by spending less on non-essentials.
Moving forward, Millennials (69%), Gen Xers (63%) and Gen Zers (60%) say they will cut back on buying luxury items.
Boomers and the Silent Generation are also planning to spend less on non-essentials, though it’s not as much of a priority for these groups (53% and 48% respectively).
THE FUTURE OF SHOPPING
Millennials and Gen X both think shopping online is the future
More than any other generation, Millennials and Gen Xers think that, in the future, the majority of shopping will happen online (75% and 73% respectively).
The Silent Generation has the most detractors of that theory, with 14% disagreeing that online shopping will replace physical stores down the road.
Half of Millennials are fine with shopping only online
Perhaps that’s why such a large segment of the Silent Generation (69%) would not be okay if their only option was to shop online. Baby Boomers aren’t big fans of the idea either, with 60% saying they are not okay with online-only shopping.
The younger generations, however, are fine with the prospect of no physical stores.
One out of every two Millennials (52%) are good with it, while Gen Xers and Gen Zers are a little less sold (but still on board, if necessary) at 43% and 41% respectively.
But every generation wants to get back into stores
Gen Zers, more than anyone else and despite being okay if they had to shop online, are looking forward to shopping in-store. 64% said they can’t wait to get back into brick and mortar stores.
Every other generation shares that sentiment though.
Millennials and the Silent Generation feel strongly about getting into stores too (63% and 62% respectively), and Gen X is just slightly behind at 59%.
Baby Boomers are the least excited about shopping in stores again. Only half (51%) said that they cannot wait to physically walk into a store.
Millennials and Gen Zers most likely to change their online shopping habits
While it may not be surprising that the two youngest generations are most likely to adapt their online spending in the future, how they change their spending might be.
Rather than increase their online spending, Millennials and Gen Zers are most likely to decrease their online shopping (32% each).
And while the other generations say their online spending will also decrease, they’re more likely to maintain their current budget for online shopping. Boomers and the Silent Generation lead the way, with 58% and 59% saying respectively that their online spending won’t change.
Half of Gen X (49%) won’t change their online spending habits either, though one in four (25%) said that they’ll decrease shopping online.
Retail stores reopening won’t change how generations spend on Amazon
Though most of the Silent Generation said they wouldn’t want to just shop online, one in 10 said their spending on Amazon could increase by as much as 25%, even after retail stores open again.
But, like the other generations, the largest group of Silent Generation members falls into the won’t-be-changing-my-Amazon-spending-habits category (45%).
Boomers are most likely to maintain the status quo when it comes to shopping on Amazon after physical stores reopen (60%). Next is Gen X at 52%, followed by Millennials and Gen Z (45% and 42% respectively).
So, as you can see, the generations aren’t as different as we tend to think! Even the generations currently dragging another generation have many similar shopping habits as their targets, like:
- Millennials and Gen X think alike; for example:
- They made the same changes to their overall and online spending and think online shopping is the future
- They’re most likely to change their future online shopping habits and are looking for ways to earn more money
- Boomers and the Silent Generation think alike; for example:
- Neither is that interested in brand names and both are ready for the future financially
- Gen Z and the Silent Generation have the smallest household incomes
- Gen X and the Silent Generation are willing to spend the least on a single product
Respondents of our survey ranged in age from 18 to 75+, and represent every U.S. state, all genders and employment types, and various levels of income.
For more information about this article and Jungle Scout’s data, please contact [email protected].