How Different Generations Search and Shop

header-How Different GenerationsNo two customers are alike—everyone has a different set of preferences, wants, or needs that can quickly change based on the customer’s situation or even the way the wind blows. Well, it can feel that fickle, but your customers are a little more predictable than you might think.

Generations of Being Predictably… Predictable

As much as we hate to admit it, humans are creatures of habit. We’re curious and excitable but predictable and impressionable. And a lot of that predictability is influenced by the habits and preferences of our own generation, which makes our customer habits relatively unsurprising, to say the least. If you’ve ever shown up to a party wearing the same outfit as a close friend, you’ve experienced this effect firsthand as you tend to mirror the people you spend the most time with.

Excluding the cross-generational popularity of Krispy Kreme donuts, Apple products, and Words with Friends, most age groups have defining attributes and unique characteristics that impact their priorities and daily lives.

Take millennials as an example.

Most millennials are tech-savvy-constantly-connected-multi-taskers, so they’re on their phones. A lot. No product is more appealing to a millennial than the smartphone. However, while millennials are digital enthusiasts, they also prefer the instant gratification that local businesses can provide. So they often start their journey online and buy products in-store, which caters to their need for immediate gratification and desire to support local businesses. Other age groups, like Baby Boomers and Generation X, have their own generational markers that differentiate them as customers. We’ll elaborate on those in just a few sentences.

Generational Profiles—Translated

For local businesses, these types of generational commonalities and nuanced predictabilities are great nuggets of information. Knowing how customers research, shop, and buy products or services allows you to provide better customer experiences and earn repeat customers. Here’s how we break it down:

Baby Boomers

  • Born: 1946-1964
  • Spending Power: 10/10—Baby boomers are power spenders. They’re slated to account for $15 trillion in spending power by 2020. Retirement never looked so good.
  • What Appeals Most to Them: Trust—Baby boomers have immense brand loyalty. Once they do business with you, you’ve got a customer for life. Classic recipes, products, or services they know and trust are a great way to keep them in your back pocket.
  • Preferred Communication: In-person or phone calls—In-person or voice communication is the best way to connect with baby boomers. They’re not opposed to text messaging, but they prefer the so-called old fashioned way of talking. Make sure you provide both contact options for them to choose from.
  • How They Research and Learn: YouTube—Believe it or not, YouTube has totally changed how baby boomers learn, catch up on TV shows, and more. They’re 1.3x more likely to use YouTube for video instructions than written ones. So it couldn’t hurt to throw a few videos about your business or how to install a product from your store on YouTube.
  • Obstacles to Overcome: Proof—Baby boomers want proof that your product or service does what it says it does. Reviews, videos, and pictures are easy ways to help offset these obstacles.

Generation X

  • Born: 1965-1980
  • Spending Power: 7/10—Generation X’ers spend a third more than millennials—and their purchase preferences can impact multiple generations, too. Most Gen X’ers are taking care of a parent and child, so their influence stretches further than millennials’ or Generation Z (but not as much as baby boomers). You might call Gen X “The Checkbook Triple Threat.”
  • What Appeals Most to Them: Value—Gen Xer’s are savers. Loyalty programs and other kick-back offerings appeal to their desire to count pennies. Generation X’ers are also most likely to make impulse purchases when shopping in-store, so it couldn’t hurt to email a coupon or two to help incentivize them.
  • Preferred Communication: In-person or email—Email marketing isn’t dead. Generation X is keeping it alive. Generation X tends to prefer email since they were coming of age when email first made its debut.
  • How They Research and Learn: Facebook—Gen X’ers spend around 37 hours surfing the web every month. They bounce around between websites, covering everything between banking portals to social media outlets. And boy, oh boy, they love Facebook. So if your business isn’t on Facebook, get the ball rolling and create a Facebook BusinessPage.
  • Obstacles to Overcome: Trendiness—Generation X couldn’t care less about the so-called latest and hottest trends. They aren’t flattered or wooed easily. They care about practicality and applicability. Keep this in mind when you’re doing targeted marketing on social media or via email. Or, alternatively, if you do want to alert them to new products, be sure to leverage the value of product features accordingly.


  • Born: 1981-1996
  • Spending Power: 5/10—In comparison to baby boomers and Gen X’ers, millennials don’t have much spending power—they’re estimated to account for $1.4 trillion in spending power by the end of this year. But don’t be quick to write them off as invaluable. Millennials do their homework on companies and once you earn their trust, you’ve got a customer for life.
  • What Appeals Most to Them: Convenience—Millennials put a premium on convenience. They want convenient communication, convenient purchases, convenient pick-up, and convenient access to services or inventory. Features like instant checkout, two-way messaging, or a chat tool on your website offer the efficiency and convenience millennials have come to expect.
  • Preferred Communication: Two-way messaging—For millennials, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and texting revolutionized communication. It provided direct connectivity. And it’s something that millennials continue to lean on today—75% of millennials would prefer to text than talk.
  • How They Research and Learn: Google and social media—Because millennials are primo multitaskers, they divide their research efforts between Google and social media. Their initial search starts on Google (with 55% of millennials turning to Google for fast answers). They then transition to social media for authentic reviews from people they know and trust. If you’re looking to appeal to the millennial generation, make sure your Google My Business and social media accounts have up-to-date hours and location information. And it couldn’t hurt to have happy customers leave you a few reviews or tag you in photos on Instagram.
  • Obstacles to Overcome: Ethics—Millennials care about the environment and other people. They want to know that the businesses they choose to support also care. But you don’t need to rush and implement an eco-friendly strategy this-very-moment. Instead, show millennials that you care by putting your customers and employees first. Respond to customer reviews, follow up with millennial customers after they’ve done business with you, or send them one-off discounts.

A Cross-Generational Common Ground

With all that said, you’ve got more in common with your Grandma than your curly hair, long fingers, and taste for lemon meringue pie—you both crave and demand convenience. Because in spite of age differences, all generations place immense value on convenience. Advancements in technology have totally enabled this expectation, too. From free two-day shipping to virtual wallets, customers count on businesses to provide friction-free, convenient experiences.

For local businesses, fulfilling this customer expectation can feel overwhelming. The key to overcoming this obstacle is to be where your customers are and to provide quick, immediate access to your business. So, whether you’re appealing to Generation X through email or having millennials texting you to make an appointment, you want to pinpoint generational predictabilities and make the customer experience as seamless and easy as possible.