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Similarities Across Generational Shopping Behaviors

Similarities Across Generational Shopping Behaviors

It’s impossible to look at advertising best practices without hearing about omnichannel marketing. Omnichannel marketing is so important now because shoppers do research and shopping across channels and devices depending on their unique needs in the moment. It’s tempting to believe this only applies to the digital-native generations, but omnishopping habits can vary more by category than they do by age.

Omnishopping across Generations

There are similarities as well as generational variances in omnishopper expectations. This post highlights the need for tailored experiences — shoppers have expectations about how they want to shop for particular categories on particular channels, and online habits don’t necessarily mirror offline habits.

Positive Brand Experiences

Every generation desires easy brand interactions (76% of all consumers) when choosing where to shop, and they rank customer service as the number one most memorable part of their shopping experiences. This crosses channels as well — a third of all shoppers see the total in-store experience as important. Brand experience might look different depending on the age group, as 71% of Boomers prefer to shop at a physical location to take items home, and 35% of Millennials desire shopping online for home delivery.

Despite the generational stereotype of Millennials primarily wanting to shop online, they still value the in-store shopping experience. Even 60% of Gen Z shoppers will make purchases in-store, while 46% will head to a physical location for more information before shopping online. Each segment may go to a location with different needs, or shop online for specific items, but each will look at physical stores or brands online and expect consistent, valuable, and positive experiences.

The Necessity of Mobile

Mobile is a growing shopping platform for both Millennials and Gen Z; it becomes easy to forget the role it can play for others. 36% of Millennials have made a purchase via smartphone in the last year, and 24% of Gen Z prefer shopping online (13% of those on mobile), while a mere 4.8% of Boomers have shopped via smartphone in the last year. The younger age groups want to see better mobile services from brands (36%) and integration with the in-store experience (31.7%); they’ve always led the trend in desire for innovation. That is not the full extent of a branded mobile experience.

Both Millennials and Boomers want to be able to regularly check for product information via mobile while in-store (95.5% and 68.4% respectively); nearly a quarter of each generation (23%) have abandoned purchases in-store because of that lack of information. Almost the same percentage of Millennials and Boomers believe associates don’t know enough about what they sell (26% and 29% respectively), and while it’s expected that Millennials would want those associates to have mobile smart devices to handle shopper questions, a considerable 31.7% of Boomers believe that should be the case. Outfitting associates with these types of devices would open up the inventory tracking capabilities that could meet the desire to check product availability at a location before visiting (46% of Millennials, 32.4% of Boomers).

Trust and Loyalty

All shoppers want to be loyal to brands they trust, but the expression of that will look different across ages. For instance, most Millennials (52%) express loyalty by going out of their way to shop for specific brands (compared to 41% Gen X, 41% Boomers, 38% Silent Generation). The two older demographics prefer showing their loyalty by shopping at a specific store. Meanwhile, some studies believe Gen Z has yet to develop loyalties — only 19% shop at a single place for health and beauty and only 38% shop at a single place for groceries — while others expect Gen Z to follow the pattern of Millennials. At the same time, all are influenced by loyalty programs and rewards.

Payment Security

Secure payments are critical, no matter the platform, device, or channel in question, so it’s evident why nearly 90% of all shoppers say that it’s the most influential factor in their purchase decision. Credit cards and debit cards are by far the most preferred methods of payment both in-store (especially at grocery stores, discount stores, and gas stations) and online. Credit cards are seen as the safest to use in-store, while credit cards and PayPal are seen as the most secure for shopping online. Sustained use of mobile wallets remains low, but adoption is growing and is expected to increase as updated POS terminals become available and more shoppers desire to control their finances via mobile devices. Meeting security expectations and making payments as frictionless as possible will improve trust and confidence.

Transparent Promotions

Roughly 70% of all shoppers say transparent promotions are one of the most influential factors in their purchase decision. Given this growing emphasis — enough that publishers like Business Insider ran gift recommendation lists based on transparency in everything from values to pricing — it’s only natural that shoppers want clarity here as well.

Tips for Reaching the Omnishopper

The tactics deployed should rely on the data specific to your brand. These tips are based on trends, and this advice should be applied according to your shoppers’ behaviors.

  • You don’t necessarily need a different approach for each segment. Instead, develop a strategy centered on the fact that you’re a brand that can provide each shopper the individual experience they expect.
  • Don’t focus too tightly on the channels being used either. Look to the overall brand experience online and in-store because all generations are expected to be in both places at some point in their journey.
  • Embrace new technologies that make it easier to connect with shoppers and add value to their experience, but don’t dismiss the powerful experience of “old fashioned” shopping and hands-on experiences.
  • Remember that Gen Z is on the rise as becoming a major shopper segment. The trends you see starting with Millennials are likely to continue to grow, including the desire for channel-blended experiences. Start planning for how your brand will engage and capture their loyalty.
  • Make transparency a priority to bolster confidence in purchase choices. This goes hand in hand with ensuring associates are knowledgeable about the products they’re selling.
  • All brands should have mobile-forward websites, and many should consider offering an app. Make information readily accessible to position your brand as a thought leader and the go-to choice for that information.
  • Stores should develop plans that empower associates with technology that enhances the in-store experience across generational needs. Whether a shopper is just looking for information and advice or the location of a product to buy now, that associate should be capable of meeting that desire.
  • Data and payment security need to be a priority. Ensure shoppers understand the measures put in place to build their confidence and trust your system.
  • Research the product preferences of your target shopper. Attract the younger demographics by providing the right brands, and secure older-generation loyalty with quality and the right product value for their money.
  • Loyalty programs are a winner across the board, so be sure you have one in place. This is an opportunity to tailor your message specifically to an individual’s needs, expectations, and pain points.

Reaching and winning the omnishopper is important to lasting brand success, especially as channels and devices continue to evolve. Different generations aren’t as diverse as they seem to be at first, but the nuances between them need to be noted for a fully personalized experience. Use our tips as a baseline to update your approach.