How Each Generation Shops

How Each Generation Shops

The retail industry is currently experiencing its most dramatic transformation since the introduction of currency and this evolution is largely being driven by the way we, consumers, are choosing to shop.  
Technology, the internet and the growth of e-commerce and m-commerce have widely been blamed for killing high street stores, but is this a sweeping generalisation or does the data actually hint at something more about how generational shopping behaviours are the real driver of change?


We’ve looked at four generational groupings:

Baby Boomers - born in the post war years between 1944 and 1964.

Gen X - born between 1965 and 1979.

Millennials - born between 1980 and 1994.

Gen Z - born between 1995 and now.


Each generation has its own cultural, economic and political experiences which shape and characterise group behaviours - backed by our Mallzee Insights data we’ve explored how the different generations display different shopping behaviours.


Baby Boomers - as the name suggests are the generation born in the post war years who  grew up in increasingly affluent times, witnessing a huge surge in consumerism.  They are the most affluent generation and are therefore less inclined to hunt down and research bargains in the way Generation X and Millennials will. Yet they don’t have expensive tastes and on average according to the Mallzee data, they choose products at a mid price point.


A recent survey found that whilst Baby Boomers are very comfortable browsing and shopping online they still by far prefer the personal engagement of traditional stores when making actual purchases. Over 80% of Baby Boomers surveyed expressed their preference to shop in-store, and nearly 70% of them said that if an item they want is available online or in a nearby store, they prefer to purchase it at their local retailer rather than order online. The root of Baby Boomers bricks and mortar preference is tied to customer service - they attribute a lot of brand value (and loyalty) to the interactions they have with sales staff.  


Generation X, the generation following the Baby Boomers is often also called the MTV generation thanks to the emergence of music videos during this period. Both Generation X and the next generational category, Millennials, are the most time poor when it comes to shopping - with heavy work and home demands on their time. Generation X spend slightly more time browsing online but are more decisive when deciding if they like a product than the older generation of Baby Boomers. They also, on average like items with a slightly higher price point.


Millennials came next and are probably the most well known grouping/demographic, often nicknamed the avocado generation for their expensive (some say high maintenance) tastes and their love of eating out and travel. Mallzee data backs this up this more extravagant behaviour, as on average, the products they like have the highest price point. This generation is very comfortable with technology and making purchases online - as a generation they are the most likely to make use of every avenue of purchasing available to them.  


Millennials see shopping as a social event and enjoy it.  Millennials are the generation that do the most online research before making purchasing decisions.  We know from our own research that 90% of our Millennial Mallzee users say that they use Mallzee as their main discovery channel for finding fashion. Whilst many obviously buy, others do their research but still like to buy in a physical store - viewing the actual act of buying as a social and fun event.


The youngest generation - Gen Z are the young adults and children who have grown up with technology and are used to the online convenience of 24 hour opening and infinite global choice, instead viewing the high street as somewhere to socialise rather than shop.


Generation Z make the quickest decisions on liking items in the Mallzee app - no doubt driven by the fact that they are so comfortable with decision making on screen. They are also the most influencer led, demanding new trends and looks very quickly and at a much higher turnover rate - thus the average lower price point for products.


The table below highlights how the four generational groupings interact with products on the Mallzee app and how they score products.

Looking at Baby Boomers' behaviour on Mallzee we can see that on average they spend the least time in app browsing. However they take the longest time to view individual products deciding if they like them or not. Interestingly they have the highest average Mallzee Performance Score (MPS is the percentage of total positive interactions on a product) of all the generations. No doubt related to the fact that they are far more specific in their browsing habits - searching for brands/items they are actually interested in. This remember is the generation who want as much information on an item as possible before they make a purchase decision.


Millennials and Generation Z shoppers spend on average slightly longer in app browsing items, with Generation Z making the quickest decisions on liking/not liking products.  Yet it is Generation X and Millennial that are the most aligned in terms of the average price point.


However looking at the Mallzee Performance Score (MPS) it is once again Millennials and Generation Z whose behaviours are most alike, with both sitting at just over 11% on average - this is indicative of their shopping habits - they browse widely often without having a predetermined goal, liking items as they scroll through feeds and brands. Whereas Generation X shopping habits are a bit more specific, tending to focus on brands or styles that they know they like whilst Baby Boomers are more specific still.


Four generations of consumers now coexist and whilst retailers need to understand the particular demographics of their target customers, the differences amongst the four generations aren’t as dramatic as their life experiences might have led us to believe.  They all expect a seamless shopping experience, great service and these expectations are only going to increase further as shoppers learn to expect the best bits of every distribution channel combined.


Mallzee Insights utilises the unique data generated in the Mallzee app to deliver retailers authentic pre-release product testing and actionable retail insights.


Catriona Rist

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