Online Shopping Habits of Today’s Different Generations

Online Shopping Habits of Today’s Different Generations

In today’s competitive small business landscape, identifying the right customers through their online shopping habits is essential for success. You also need to stay current with the latest shopping trends, since online shoppers’ buying habits have changed dramatically as the ecommerce industry has developed.

Today, you can tailor your entire online marketing approach to each and every customer based on their needs and preferences. In fact, meeting the expectations today’s consumers have for the user experience without using personalization is almost impossible!

One of the most pivotal factors influencing shopping behaviors is the age of the consumer. Older generations have substantially different needs and preferences when it comes to shopping online than younger consumers. In fact, each generation exhibits distinct habits shaped by their unique experiences.

Let’s explore how this phenomenon impacts your ecommerce business!

Decoding generational differences in consumer shopping habits

Each generation exhibits distinct consumer shopping habits shaped by the way they grew up and the prevailing societal and technological trends of their time. 

Let’s see how their consumer behavior differs!

1. Gen Z

Generation Z, born from the mid-1990s through the early 2010s, is fully immersed in the digital age. Ecommerce has usually been around for their entire lives. They are true digital natives and avid online shoppers, often discovering trends and products through platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

Gen-Z shopping habits, heavily influenced by online discovery and social media trends, highlight the growing importance of digital marketing and brand authenticity.

Customization and personalization are key for Gen Z, as they seek unique and authentic experiences. This generation is more likely to support brands that align with their values, and they’re highly sensitive to issues like inclusivity and sustainability.

2. Millennials

Millennials were born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, which means they experienced the arrival and growth of ecommerce.

They’re highly reliant on technology and follow the latest trends, utilizing smartphones and social media for product research, price comparisons, and online reviews. Seamless shopping experiences, hassle-free returns, and a strong emphasis on sustainability and socially-responsible practices resonate with them.

With $200 billion in annual buying power, Millennials are a powerful economic force. It’s no surprise that marketers are fighting tooth and nail to connect with them!

3. Generation X

Generation X was born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s. Landing somewhere between Baby Boomers’ traditional values and innovative Millennial viewpoints, this generation is a true hybrid of our society. 

They tend to be pragmatic shoppers who appreciate both online convenience and physical stores. These consumers buy into new business models when it makes sense for them, but they don’t necessarily follow all consumer trends.

This generation values convenience and efficiency, often seeking out information online before making a purchase. While they appreciate the ease of online shopping, they also value the tactile experience of brick-and-mortar stores and the ability to assess products firsthand.

4. Baby Boomers

Baby boomers, born between the mid-1940s and the mid-1960s, often prefer traditional in-person shopping. They shop online less than the other cohorts, and many consumers in this age range began to use online shopping for the first time during the pandemic as COVID made in-store shopping difficult.

These shoppers value face-to-face interactions with sales associates and retailers, appreciating the opportunity to ask questions and receive personalized recommendations. Brand loyalty and trust play a crucial role in their decisions, and they often stick to familiar brands they’ve known for years.

Product discovery patterns when different generations shop online

As an online business, it’s crucial to stand out from the crowd to attract more customers.

First, you need to do everything you can to create quality products and content, whether you’re in the apparel or the health food industry. 

But even after you’ve done that, you still need to get your products and content to the right people through the right means of communication. That’s exactly where product discovery comes in.

Although product discovery has a number of stages, for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the way that different consumer generations learn about your brand.

1. Millennials & Generation Z

Growing up during the digital revolution, these so-called digital natives are familiar with the basics of online marketing and are very aware of their value as consumers. Because of these two factors, Millennials & Gen Z don’t respond as well to traditional marketing tactics.

For them, images of products posted on social media by other consumers serve as a guarantee of quality. Social proof is essential to how these consumers make purchase decisions.

Millennials also want brands and marketers to know about their opinions on products, using hashtags to ensure their content is seen. This is called user-generated content, and it serves as a powerful form of social proof. 

They’re more receptive to influencer marketing than other generations, a fact that is not lost on influencers themselves, who are increasingly embracing custom merchandise as a revenue stream.

Numerous brands have already made use of user-generated content (UGC) to attract younger generations. 

For example, Burberry launched the “Art of the Trench” campaign, which encouraged their current customers to share photos of themselves wearing a Burberry coat. In this way, they engaged both their existing users, who had their 15 minutes of fame, and potential customers, who could comment and share the images.

Burberry Art of the Trench campaign

2. Generation X

Although they don’t typically use hashtags and still prefer Facebook over Instagram, this so-called “Slacker Generation” also puts its trust in user-generated content when shopping online. Displaying social proof is important for this consumer group, too.

It’s important to note that UGC is not their main source of information. Studies show that Xers are highly influenced by good old email marketing.

To be more precise, 68% of them say that they use coupons they receive in their email to make a purchase. It goes without saying that in order to address them properly, you need to have a highly personalized email marketing strategy.

3. Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are still influenced by traditional marketing campaigns and sales strategies, such as telemarketing, print ads, and face-to-face communication. You should include these strategies if your target audience includes the Baby Boomer generation.

Although 65% of them are active on social networks, they don’t consider these channels relevant for discovering new brands. Consequently, once your Facebook ad pops up, they’re more likely than other generations to report it as spam.

Wrapping up

The shopping habits of different generations has a major impact on ecommerce companies, which means that understanding generational shopping habits is of critical importance for a successful digital marketing campaign.

In this article, we’ve revealed the ways that different groups of consumers spend (or tend not to spend) money online. You can’t expect a customer who just recently learned how to use a computer to have the same shopping behaviors as a teenager who has grown up on their phone.

Using this understanding, you can employ generational marketing to segment your audience, choose the right tactics, enhance personalization, and differentiate your business.

About the Author


Emma Miller is a digital marketer from Sydney. Works as a blogger, Senior Editor for Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University. Interested in digital marketing, social media, start-ups and latest trends.