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Generational Shopping: How to Get Your Retail Right

This is an archived post from OrderDynamics, now Tecsys retail division.
Generational Shopping: How to Get Your Retail Right Technology is ubiquitous in society today. Yet it is also a fickle thing. Adoption rates for most technologies are at all-time highs, but the adoption of certain technologies are much more prevalent in some generations than others. What’s the impact of this trend on retail? More so, how can retailers determine how to cater to a variety of generational shopping challenges where each has varying levels of savvy and a broad array of tech preferences?

Generational Shopping and the Market Problem

The problem is, retailers have limited resources to invest in new technologies that make shopping more appealing, easy or satisfying for their consumers. Especially for retailers catering to consumers across generational shopping boundaries, it can be difficult to figure out what technologies deserve the money. Let’s look at each established generation and learn a little about them, which we’ve based on four of the six generations in this Marketing Teacher post. Then we’ll explain how to reach them all, even when you can’t be perfect for each.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers aren’t naturals when it comes to technology. They represent one of the largest generations in history, accounting for 77 million people in the U.S., and have worked their whole lives. Therefore, they represent a ton of buying power. But they didn’t grow up with technology, and have had to learn as they go. They are often capable users of simple computer programs and have adopted cell phones en masse, but aren’t exactly what we consider savvy users. They aren’t tied to their phones the same way younger generations are. But the most interesting part of the ‘boomer’ generation isn’t how they use technology, it’s how they use their free time. Boomers were born between the mid-40s and mid-60s, and are either entering or are now in their retirement years. And they are the first to treat retirement as an opportunity to ‘do’. They take their money and they enjoy life once their kids are out of the house. But how can retailers get Baby Boomers to spend all that freed up money? Online. Shockingly, Boomers spend the most on online shopping of all generations. They use simple web stores and product searches, and their buying power simply can’t be overlooked.

Gen X

Gen X was born from the mid-60s to mid-80s, making up the meat of the American management and near-retirement class. They tend to be very individualistic, having abandoned the conformities of post-war America. Government and big business mean little to them, other than to say they don’t care for them. But they do like labels, brand names and status symbols. Gen X is the generation that most traditional retail and advertising models gear themselves towards. Advertisers have been so successful at removing the fear of debt and getting Gen X to buy stuff that they are, as a group, deep into credit card debt. They shop freely online, in stores, and even on cell phones. They also represent the fastest growing social media user demographic, and can be reached easily on this platform for the first time. Gen X is the bridge between the old guard and the new consumer, and represents the expansion of commerce into an omni-channel paradigm.    


Millennials get all the attention these days. They grew up in a digital environment, trust technology, and get most socialization via their screens. This generation expects fast and easy everything, from information to new goods. Furthermore, they have new expectations around the work-life balance. And aren’t as materialism-driven as their parents. According to Nielsen, Millennials have more of a positive view of how technology is affecting their lives than any other generation. According to the report, “More than 74 percent feel that new technology makes their lives easier, and 54 percent feel new technology helps them be closer to their friends and family.” When courting millennials, retailers need to acknowledge these lifestyle demands and cater to them. It’s not about being flashy or elite. To millennials, the most important things are identity, convenience and community. Peer reviews, social media presence, fast shipping and a seamless omni-channel experience are great ways to connect and profit from this generation, now the largest in the nation.

Gen Z

Gen Z represents a population that has never known a world without computers or cell phones. As consumers, they are discerning; they know what they want and how to get it. Brands have lost most of their luster among this group. They take the lifestyle preferences of Millennials to the next level. As we’ve covered in detail in a previous blog, there are three keys to reaching Gen Z via technology: be on every channel, provide great customer service and experience, and offer fair prices. Gen Z has a short attention span, as short as eight seconds. Their social media platforms and screen time reflect that. They’re moving away from the behemoth social media platforms like Facebook towards faster, simpler platforms like Snapchat. They move fast and don’t have the time for filler or advertisers. Retailers need to be everywhere, offering experiences quickly and easily, in order to snag the growing Gen Z slice of the pie.

What Should Retailers Do?

Retailers need to identify their target market and cater to their needs. If your customers are older, you can stick with what works as you slowly prepare for their children to become your new target market. If you cater to a younger crowd, you need to move now to become truly omni-channel. Understanding trends across generational shopping isn’t always easy. But all consumers expect shopping to be. Omni-channel access, fast fulfillment and great customer service are the future. It’s time to make it the present within your organization.   Related:     
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