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Kristina Tipton

Director, Market Research at Near

4 mins read

From Gen Z to Boomers: Unpacking Evolving Shopping Behaviors

The rapid evolution of consumer behavior in the modern era has led to a profound transformation in the way individuals approach shopping, interact with brands, and engage with shopping centers. However, to truly understand this evolution, businesses need to recognize that each cohort brings unique preferences, values, and expectations to the shopping experience. There are clear divisions between groups of consumers, and one of the biggest divides is generational.

Enter The Great Generational Shopping Divide, a new report by Near that delves into the distinct shopping habits, preferences, and outlooks of four major generations: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers. This comprehensive exploration peels back the layers of each generation’s shopping journey, shedding light on what drives their choices, their expectations from brands and shopping centers, and their visions for the future of commerce.

The importance of utilizing high-quality consumer behavior data is key when it comes to addressing the distinctions among generations. Consumer behavior data unites multiple data sources to deliver insights into how consumers dine, shop, travel, work, and more. These insights can be utilized by businesses to inform their marketing and operational strategies around trade area, path to purchase, dwell time, demographics, and more.

Near surveyed 2,048 global consumers across generations in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The report explores a range of topics including:

How consumers approach shopping using online, in-store, and omnichannel shopping behaviors

What attracts them to shop at certain shopping centers and stores

How consumers feel about spending for the upcoming holiday season, and how they’re looking for deals

Key findings show how distinct age groups approach shopping, their expectations from brands and shopping centers, and the platforms they prefer for their shopping experiences. The findings of generational variations in shopping approaches hold significant ramifications for businesses striving to excel in today’s dynamic marketplace.

Younger Generations Are Leading the Way on Omnichannel Shopping

Online shopping is widely adopted across generations, yet younger generations are leading the way in omnichannel shopping, showing that retailers must provide omnichannel experiences to cater to today’s diverse shopping landscape:

  • 80.1% of respondents across generations are shopping online.
  • Gen Z (62.7%) and Millennials (64.6%) are twice as likely as Boomers to use omnichannel approaches (32.9%), where shoppers used more than one channel in their purchase journey.
  • 52% of respondents overall have adopted omnichannel behaviors.

Personalization is Key, Especially for Younger Consumers

Gen Z and Millennials are seeking deeper engagement and personalized experiences from brands and shopping centers:

  • 88.2% of Gen Z and Millennials want to engage with their favorite shopping center versus 53.3% of Boomers.
  • 53.7% of Gen Z and Millennials shop more from brands that have an app versus 20.5% of Boomers.
  • 84.3% of Gen Z and Millennials are more encouraged to shop in stores with personalized in-store recommendations based on previous shopping history versus 59% of Gen X and Boomers.

Proximity Matters, and Consumers Are Shopping Closer to Home

A shopping center’s proximity to a respondent’s home has emerged as a critical factor, especially among younger generations:

  • 57.1% of respondents consider proximity to home a top priority, while just 15.8% of respondents consider proximity to work a factor.
  • 64.4% of working-aged respondents (18-65) are commuting to an office at least one day a week; this is higher for younger generations (72.2% of Gen Z and 70.3% of Millennials).
  • 56.5% of office commuters say remote & hybrid working makes it easier to shop during the workweek.

Generational Spending Patterns

Younger consumers plan to spend more on shopping for the rest of the year compared to last year, including during the holidays:

  • 51.6% of Gen Z and 47.7% of Millennials plan to spend more for the rest of the year, including the holidays, versus just 29.3% of Gen X and 20.6% of Boomers.
  • However, Millennials and Gen X shoppers are the most impacted by the economy – 42.3% of Millennials and 42.7% of Gen X say the economy is affecting their spending plans a lot versus 33% of Gen Z and 34.2% of Boomers.
  • Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to shop the sales over Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday – 43.8% of Gen Z and 41.4% of Millennials plan to shop over Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday, versus just 27.8% of Gen X and 18.9% of Boomers.

Navigating Generational Differences and Evolving Consumer Preferences

As retailers decipher and adapt to this multifaceted generational shopping behavior, the significance of high-quality consumer behavior data and a steadfast commitment to consumer privacy cannot be overstated. It is imperative for retailers to gather accurate, comprehensive data that offers deep insights into the preferences and behaviors of diverse consumer segments. However, this pursuit of data-driven excellence must be underpinned by a profound respect for consumer privacy, fostering trust and goodwill with customers. While it can be delicate to strike the balance between utilizing consumer behavior data-driven insights and upholding privacy, it’s critical for successfully navigating the ever-evolving landscape of generational shopping behavior.

Study Methodology

This survey was conducted between July 7-19 2023, with a total of 2,048 global respondents in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, census-weighted by age, gender, and geography.

Want to learn more about consumer shopping patterns? Download the report, The Great Generational Shopping Divide.
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