thumbnail How Have Shopping Habits Changed Over the Last Few Generations

How Have Shopping Habits Changed Over the Last Few Generations

Let’s define the term generation first before moving on to any actual or imagined differences in shopping habits between generations.

In short, we call a group of people a generation raised in the same area and born around the same time. Over their lifetimes, members of this birth cohort demonstrate similar traits, tastes, and values. 

Distinct generations of people appear to have different values, beliefs, and attitudes. Some people deeply believe in the differences, while others think they are untrue. Those who accept the distinctions contend that they must be acknowledged and considered, particularly in environments with different generations.

By generational disparities, we mean a generational gap, a divergence in ideas, politics, or values between one generation and another. This also drastically affects their shopping habits as well as lifestyle choices.

Differences in Shopping Habits Between Generations

Knowing where the target audience is, in reality, might be challenging with all the new marketing trends and platforms that are continuously emerging. It’s also known that according to generational categorization, even the applications and websites people use in daily life differ.

Companies should be aware of how consumers depend on their generation gap regarding shopping, which is heavily influenced by their age group and where they spend their time.

There are nationwide studies conducted on thousands of US consumers from all generations to learn about their media consumption, purchasing habits, and the newest fashion trends to assist producers in deciding where to meet audiences.

In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive look at each generation and the distinctive elements that set them apart and learn the differences in how shopping habits have changed over the last few generations.

Shopping habits depend on generations

Before delving further into the generational comparison of today’s shopping habits, we’ll briefly summarize the buying preferences of each generation and identify their main contrasts and parallels. First, here is the demographic trend of general shopping habits overall:

  • Gen Z and Millennials can best be reached through social media, internet search, and Youtube advertisements, while Gen X and Boomers prefer TV, search, and retail.
  • Gen X, Millennials, and Boomers use Facebook more frequently than any other social media platform.
  • Gen Z, on the other hand, is totally into TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Gen Z uses social media more than any previous generation to discover and purchase items in addition to connecting with friends and finding entertainment.

Let’s look at the general demographic trends depending on the generations below.

How Have Shopping Habits Changed Over the Last Few Generations

Boomers (1955 – 1964)

  • Boomers frequently find new things through television advertisements, online searches, and physical storefronts.
  • Just 15% of boomers have found a product on social media in the last three months, and only 5% had purchased a social app.
  • Most baby boomers believe businesses shouldn’t take a position on social problems. This is because most Boomers simply don’t consider social concerns relevant when making purchasing selections.

Gen X (1965 – 1980)

  • Gen X finds new things through online searches, television commercials, and in-person shopping.
  • Social media isn’t favored, but Gen X uses it more often than any other avenue to find new products.
  • 90% of Gen Xers utilize social media; their preferred platforms are Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
  • 20% of Gen X consumers made an in-app purchase in the last three months. 35% of Gen X consumers believe businesses should take a position on social issues, including climate change, access to affordable healthcare, racial justice, and wealth inequality. During that time, the same amount of people purchased products based on recommendations from influencers. 40% believe businesses shouldn’t take on social concerns, while 25% are uncertain.

Millennials (1981 – 1996)

  • Millennials primarily use social media, online searches, and YouTube advertisements to find new products.
  • The most popular social media apps among Millennials are Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
  • In the last three months, 30% of Millennials purchased a product through an in-app store, and 25% did so in response to an influencer’s recommendation.
  • 40% of Millennials want businesses to take a stand on social problems, particularly LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, financial inequality, climate change, and accessible healthcare. When businesses support these causes, it significantly influences the purchasing behavior of Millennials.
  • Advertising on cable TV narrowly outperformed streaming services in Millennial audience reach. While still important, retail discovery is less common than digital channels.

Gen Z (1997 – 2012)

  • Gen Z mainly uses social networking, YouTube ads, and internet search to find new products.
  • Generation Z’s leading social media platforms are Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
  • In the last three months, 35% of Gen Z purchased a product based on an influencer’s recommendation, and 30% did so through an in-app store.
  • 50% of people in Gen Z want businesses to support causes like racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, gender inequality, and climate change. When companies support these causes, it significantly affects Gen Z’s purchasing behavior.
  • Ads on streaming platforms outperformed cable TV in attracting Gen Z. While still important, retail discovery is less common than digital channels.


In conclusion, all generations are heavily influenced by pricing, quality, and product reviews while making purchasing decisions. In addition to Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X, these groups prefer companies with vibrant online communities. Additionally, Gen Z is very concerned about whether a portion of the sales will be contributed to a good cause.

All generations prefer purchasing goods in-person rather than through any other channel, although as people get older, this preference lessens dramatically. It’s common to buy products directly from a company’s website and online stores like Amazon. However, Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X are most likely to purchase using a company’s mobile app and social media.

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