The Coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on seemingly every area of our lives, and eCommerce is no exception. Since the virus spread around the world in the Spring of 2020, everyone turned to online shopping to fulfill their needs. Suddenly online shopping wasn’t just a “nice-to-have;” it was a necessity.
When we wrapped up our eCommerce study, it exposed real differences in preferences and behaviors among generations. Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z do exhibit some similarities in how they shop online. But there’s also some key differences that brands must be aware of as they try to appeal to the widest range of consumers and maximize revenue opportunities across different generations. This is particularly timely, as we’re already in the thick of the holiday shopping season.
Here’s a closer look at the generational insights we uncovered in our study, and recommendations for how you can incorporate these findings into your research today and inform your eCommerce strategy:
General preferences for online shopping
Millennials, followed closely by Gen X, were the generations most likely to have purchased a category online for the first time during COVID. Baby Boomers seem to be dialed into the convenience factor of online shopping more than any other generation. They felt that the ability to shop 24/7, avoid going to a store, and get products delivered were the key arguments for doing their shopping online.
Even though convenience is a big draw regardless of age, there’s still some effort that goes into online shopping. Baby Boomers research easily accessible information, such as comparing product prices, reviewing shipping/delivery information, viewing product pictures and videos, and comparing product features and specifications. But Millennials take research even further, spending time reading articles and blogs and requesting additional product information.
Another key decision is price. Gen Z in particular likes to compare prices of one product across sites and even use dedicated price comparison sites, showing a high level of comfort and adeptness at exploring products online. On the other hand, Baby Boomers tend to compare products on the same website.
When it comes to how consumers are shopping online, the majority use their smartphones, with Millennials the most dependent on these devices and Baby Boomers less so. In addition to smartphones, a variety of other devices are used across generations for online shopping, including laptops, desktop computers, and tablets.
How to incorporate into your strategy:
- Across the board, everyone wants ease and convenience. Online shopping, no matter the generation, must be straightforward and not create hiccups in consumers’ busy lives.
- Online shopping has to be optimized for any and every possible device. While optimizing for the smartphone is the most obvious, the shopping experience has to be equally flawless across every other device to keep shoppers engaged.
- Because Gen Z and Millennials have grown up online, they’re quite comfortable using multiple apps, searching, selecting, and comparing during the shopping process. Their online capabilities are high – and so is their bar. Anything that gets in the way of an ideal shopping experience—such as information that’s lacking or communication that isn’t forthcoming—could easily turn them off and send them to a competitor’s site. Communicating clearly and making all pertinent information obvious and available is important if you want to appeal to younger generations.
Issues with online shopping
Online shopping is not always smooth sailing, though. We found that consumers’ biggest issues with eCommerce are related to shipping and returns, specifically high shipping costs and complicated returns. Baby Boomers are especially sensitive to these problems.
Delivery is another differentiating factor. The expectation of free delivery has increased during COVID and will likely stick around for some time to come. Major retailers like Amazon have set a precedent when it comes to free shipping and easy returns. If free shipping isn’t automatically offered, Millennials and Gen X are more apt to take the necessary actions to achieve free delivery – for example, hitting a minimum total in their cart. But if the shipping and delivery options are less than ideal, it’s Baby Boomers who are more likely to walk away from a purchase.
How to incorporate:
- A good rule of thumb to follow is if you can’t offer free shipping, make it possible for shoppers to achieve free shipping. You’ll appeal to all generations with this strategy and increase your chances of repeat customers.
- It’s a good time to review your return process too. Make sure it isn’t complicated or tedious in any way to avoid losing shoppers, especially Baby Boomers.
Payment and purchase process
Online shopping opens the door to a plethora of payment options that in-store shopping can’t provide. Needless to say, nearly everything is on the table. Baby Boomers prefer to pay with credit cards while Millennials and Gen Z like to use PayPal and debit cards. Gen Z in particular looks for alternate methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay/Google Wallet, and even cash or check on delivery.
Convenience and habit are two factors at play during payment. Baby Boomers like to type in their credit card information each time, but Millennials are okay with saving their credit card information on their browser or scanning their credit cards.
Purchase completion can come to a screeching halt if anything unexpected happens during payment. Again, there are just too many other options that shoppers can access online. Certain generations have no qualms about leaving their cart. Gen Z is the most likely to stop their purchase, followed by Millennials. And Millennials, more than the other age groups, claim to encounter the most issues with payment types, which affects their purchase process.
How to incorporate:
- Offering a variety of popular and less-popular payment types is crucial to appealing to all generations.
- There’s also an opportunity to accommodate the preferred payment user experience of each generation, e.g., making sure older shoppers can type in their credit card info and younger shoppers can save or scan their information.
- Payment and purchase are two of the points in the customer journey where you should always take a customer-centric approach and make sure every expectation can be reasonably met.
As everyone gets used to online shopping—regardless of age—it’s important that you carefully consider the behaviors, preferences, and expectations of each generation. Older shoppers may gradually become more comfortable with different ways of shopping, paying, and purchasing over time, but younger shoppers will always be a step ahead when it comes to online savviness. Building an eCommerce strategy that accounts for the comfort level and experience of each generation will go a long way toward maximizing your revenue this holiday season.
If you’re looking for a market research expert who you can rely on to provide deep consumer insights like those we’ve outlined above, get in touch with one of our team members – we’d love to get your brand on the path to growth.