How Generations Shop: Online Shopping According to Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z

There is a good reason why people are divided into different generations. The biggest demographic that economies recognize consists of four major generations at the moment: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials (also known as Gen Y) and Gen Z, the generation that is only starting to become financially independent. Each of these generations has its own cultural and political traits that shape the world in a completely new way, and each of them has its own shopping preferences and marketing tactics. This is why every business needs to understand the needs and customs of each of them if they want to make their products available to everyone. But when it comes to online shopping and shopping in general, what are the differences between these four generations? Who is the biggest online shopper and what are the things that each generation finds important?

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers is the demographic group that includes everyone born between 1946 and 1964, during the post-World War II baby boom, and today, they are between 56 and 74 years old. As far as their shopping habits are concerned, Baby Boomers want convenience above else. Their greatest characteristic is that they have the spending power to make purchases without looking for bargains and discounts. Precisely this is why this generation knows the real value of a particular item – they know how much a product should cost and why. They have their trusted brands and shops where they shop from, and they very rarely try out and test new products. In many cases, Baby Boomers do not allow their younger family members to help them decide on a purchase – only 12% do this.

When it comes to online shopping, it’s not unusual that the majority of them prefer in-store purchases (84% of them according to Loyalty One), and more than half of this generation look for unavailable products in other retail stores and rarely look up for them online. But even so, Baby Boomers do buy online occasionally. In most cases, they browse online and find the products that they want to purchase, read reviews, and compare prices. Circa half of the population can be targeted through digital advertising campaigns, but it will need more than seeing a product online to make them click on the “purchase” button. Why is this? It’s very important to note that the Baby Boomers generation grew up without the Internet and online shopping abilities. Thus, a big portion of this demographic is scared of online shopping. That is why businesses need to take an omnichannel approach to sell their products to boomers.

But there are several good reasons why the shopping habits of Baby Boomers are like this:

  1. As already mentioned, they have the highest shopping power out of all the 4 generations, created out of years and years of working and saving up. Due to this fact, they do not need to look for bargains and discounts; they have no problem paying the full price for a single product.
  2. One of the most important things for this generation is customer experience that they will get in the store. They have high expectations of the clerks at the store, and they very often ask for advice or different recommendations from people who work there. This is also why the majority of the demographic who have complaints about customer experience consists of boomers.
  3. Boomers find shopping relaxing. Unlike other generations who also shop out of need, boomers often go shopping because it’s one of the things that help them relax.
Baby Boomers have the highest shopping power out of all the 4 generations, created out of years and years of working and saving up. Due to this fact, they do not need to look for bargains and discounts; they have no problem paying the full price for a single product.

Baby Boomers have the highest shopping power out of all the 4 generations, created out of years and years of working and saving up. Due to this fact, they do not need to look for bargains and discounts; they have no problem paying the full price for a single product.

Gen X

Born between 1965 to 1980, Generation X is a generation that is sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials, two significant generations for marketing specialists. Since these specialists tend to “divide” this generation into people who are closer to the older and the younger generation, it’s tough to find statistics and actually see how much they spend online. But this generation, which makes up to 25% of the population, has its own characteristics when it comes to in-store shopping and online shopping. Xers are more digitally savvy than Baby Boomers, for example, but they tend to shop less online. They do use the perks of the Internet and will conduct extensive research on the product they want to buy, but they will rarely shop from the comfort of their own home – they would instead start their car and hit the store. They also pay a lot of attention to the functionality and the quality of the product that they buy.  If you are a business, the chances of having an Xer complaining about the quality of the goods are very high. This is why one of the reasons they do this is the same as with Boomers – they have high expectations of customer experience. They would expect the clerk at the store to give them honest explanations on the functionality of a product and how to use them properly.

If a business wants to market your product to an Xer in the best possible way, they would have to spend a lot of time on social media showing how a certain product is used, and making them really believe it is worth the money that they have to spend. As far as marketing campaigns are concerned, even though Xers use social media and internet browsers to research a specific product, they are best influenced by email marketing.


Millennials, that is people born between 1981 to 1996 (though this varies as some sources cite 1997 as the last year of Millennials) make up the largest group in the workforce, and by being such, the biggest consumer group. Millennials spend roughly $600 billion a year on shopping. But this is also the generation that changed everything, including the way we shop. Most of them have been brought up in a world that’s very dependent on the Internet, so it’s not surprising that most millennials spend a lot of time on their mobile phones or laptops researching the products they want to buy. They understand the benefits of online shopping and are not afraid to use all the tools they have in order to make the best possible purchasing decision. Did you know that 8 out of 10 millennials read a review before actually buying a product? One of the biggest differences between Millennials and the previous generations is the fact that traditional ads do not easily influence them – less than 1% of Millennials pay attention to commercial and traditional advertising campaigns. Instead, they can be influenced by social media and with reviews of other people. They are also very dependent on technology, whether they are buying products in a physical store or online. Regardless of where they are, they will use their mobile phones to compare prices, to read the information of a specific product, read reviews and see the store inventory.

As far as online shopping is concerned, it is vital to note that this generation is still very price-conscious, and they base their decisions on getting the most value out of their purchase. Statistics show that Millennials are more likely to buy a certain product if they are offered a discount as high as 30%. They also gladly pay with alternative payment options as some Millennials do not like giving their bank account information to the sellers.

On the other side, customer experience is also very important to Millennials, but from a different perspective. They spend a lot of time in stores, as they find shopping a relaxing activity that they conduct with friends or family members. One will rarely see a Millennial shopping alone. But even though they are still spending time in physical stores as older generations, they pay more attention to how the brand they like behaves online. Social media presence is of utmost importance, and how brands communicate and interact with their customers online can make or break a Millennial’s shopping decision. This is what counts as customer experience for Millennials. They are also very interested in different causes that the brands support – 62% of Millennials are more likely to buy a certain product from a brand that supports a charitable cause, or if they are eco-friendly. Moreover, another quite helpful marketing tactic that Millennials love and never take for granted is word-of-mouth marketing that is very often a key influencer when they have to make a shopping decision.

The Millennial generation is very price-conscious, and they base their decisions on getting the most value out of their purchase.

The Millennial generation is very price-conscious, and they base their decisions on getting the most value out of their purchase.

Gen Z

Lastly, Gen Z is the youngest generation with any shopping power. This demographic consists of young people born between 1997 and 2010 and the biggest portion of it are teenagers all over the world. This generation is in its entirety born in the era of the Internet, and thus they cannot remember a time before it. This is why the Internet plays an important role in their lives, and they have only just started changing the way business is conducted. They also like purchasing things in physical stores, but just like Millennials, Gen Zers do this as a relaxing activity with their friends (which makes sense since the majority of this generation are teenagers). 84% of Gen Zers think of their shopping sprees as a social activity. 

But what is perhaps the most interesting fact about the shopping habits of Gen Z is that they tend to combine technology with in-store shopping. They constantly influence their peers by sharing photographs of the products they bought on social media. They also create polls to determine the quality of a certain product, and more than half of them leave reviews after a purchase. They prefer the best of both worlds, and that is why brands are encouraged to complement their brick and mortar stores with touchscreens. Gen Z is all about a modern shopping experience. 

As far as online shopping is concerned, Gen Z is a generation that stills finds joy in buying things in physical stores, for two reasons:

  1. Shopping is for them a social activity in which they engage with their friends and family,
  2. Ordering products online means they would have to wait for a certain period of time until the products arrive which is not a plus for many impatient teenagers

Moreover, research shows that alternative payment options and wallet-friendly incentives such as coupon offers is an amazing way to make a Gen Zer come into the store and buy products. This is very closely related to the fact that Gen Z is most likely to take action and purchase goods after seeing a sponsored ad in search results, especially if that product has been advertised by an influencer they like. Influencers, combined with digital marketing and social media, is the best possible way to pitch your product to this demographic, and will only continue to do so in the future.


Each generation is different, and it is essential to know how to pitch your products to each generation separately. While Baby Boomers love the functionality of a product, Gen Z is all about how the product looks like and how it’s advertised. Could it be because Gen Z has yet to reach shopping maturity and financial independence, or is this something that will be a constant in the years to come?

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