Commentary

Understanding Boomer Shopping Habits

As advertising revs up for holiday shopping, retailers are quick to produce ads that appeal to their most desirable demographics — usually Millennials and Generation Z. Sure, young people are always going to be a prime market for retail goods, but this overlooks the fact that, in the United States, Boomers and seniors control more disposable income than the rest of the generations combined. This holiday season, savvy retailers won’t just try to get younger shoppers through their doors; they’ll also be engaging parents and grandparents with their marketing efforts.

Recently, Colloquy, a leader in developing loyalty-marketing programs, studied the shopping habits of different generations, including Boomers. From this data, the brand was able to glean some insightful points that should impact retailer operations. 

  • 84% of surveyed Boomers prefer to shop in-store.
  • Boomers place greater emphasis on convenience than other generations. They want an easy-to-access store, with ample parking and clearly defined return policies.
  • Boomers don’t find shopping relaxing. Only 27% agreed with the statement, “I think shopping is a great way to relax.”
  • Contrary to popular opinions, Boomers aren’t necessarily attached to classic brands. Of the groups surveyed, they were the only generation that didn’t prioritize buying the brands that they identified with from their childhood.

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But, let’s be honest: Most of those findings probably aren’t very surprising. If you asked someone if Boomers preferred to shop in-store vs. online, they could probably guess that in-store shopping would win out. However, Vantiv has reported that 37% of Boomers plan to make some holiday purchases online this year. Boomers are becoming increasingly comfortable with online shopping, though they initiate and complete their transactions differently than younger, digital-native generations. 

According to the customer experience firm Ipsos, Boomers are more likely to become interested in a product through video advertisements when compared to other digital ads. Ipsos’s research demonstrates that 36% of Boomers reported watching a commercial online in the past month, while only 11% clicked a banner or pop-up ad. This should also make sense, as Boomers were the first generation to grow up with television as a main source of entertainment, leading them to be more trusting of products advertised via video.

Having trust in a retail purchase is also immensely important to Boomers. Internet-based review sites now provide consumers easy access to product testimonials, and Boomers love them! EMarketer.com reports that Boomers strongly prefer to make “big or expensive” purchases after having read independent reviews online, usually from multiple sources. This kind of review-based shopping goes not only for purchases Boomers are making for themselves, but also for their loved ones. Thus, a brand looking to attract and convert sales from Boomers should spend its time and money advertising in the pre-purchase stage, when research is happening, rather than on fancy in-store displays or last-minute, impulse-buy ads.

More than ever, purchasing power in the United States lies with the older demographics; however, many high-end or luxury products are distinctly marketed to younger generations, using ads that are aspirational in nature while ignoring the influence that Boomers wield. Smart marketers and retailers will do well to keep this in mind as they look to the holiday season to put their books back in the black.

2 comments about "Understanding Boomer Shopping Habits".
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  1. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, December 4, 2017 at 1:27 p.m.

    Good advice that challenges conventional wisdom. Go for the low hanging fruit, i.e. where the real money is. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 4, 2017 at 8:09 p.m.

    Good luck - unside down exclamation point. Swing and a miss.

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