Consumer Buying Habits by Generation

The year you were born places you into a generation category. I know what you are thinking… what does this have to do with my c-store business and why should I keep reading? Every generation has its own unique wants and needs when it comes to shopping. Reports, studies, and articles are everywhere about how each generation shops and what they want to buy, but it can seem a bit overwhelming. Let us break it down for you.

Generation What?

I am sure you have heard of Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Generation Z. But where did these names come from? According to Peter Francese, a demographic and consumer markets expert, Baby Boomers were the first named generation to exist when the Census Bureau referred to the years between 1946 and 1964 as the “Post War Baby Boom”–ad agencies found traction by marketing their products to so-called “Baby Boomers” and this is the first and last time a generation’s “official” name would come from a government organization. All other generations named were done so by ad agencies. [1]

Since the names and dates are not given by the Census Bureau, the born dates are slightly different depending on the website you are reading. According to the Pew Research Center:

  • The Greatest Generation: born before 1928
  • The Silent Generation: born between 1928 and 1945
  • Baby Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X: born between 1965 and 1980
  • Generation Y / Millennials: born between 1981 and 1997
  • Generation Z: born after 1997

It will be interesting to see what the next generation will be ‘named’ and how they will be depicted by media.

C-Store Buying Habits

Synchrony Financial released findings about how Millennials and Baby Boomers shop called Balancing Multi-Generational Retail Strategies: Winning over Millennials without losing Boomers. The study describes how retailers want to capitalize on the changing landscape, they can’t ignore the spending potential of Millennials or alienate the loyal spending power of Boomers. They’ll need to create a single brand experience for both. To do that, they’ll have to embrace the similarities and the differences between Millennials and Boomers. [2]

Another study, partnered by The Wharton School’s Baker Retailing Center and The NPD Group is called Exploring Cross-Generational Buying Behavior at a Time of Complex Change in the Retail Landscape. It’s based on data from NPD’s Checkout Tracking service and features data collected from January to June 2015. The study reports that Boomers use convenience stores mostly to get gas (almost 65 percent of expenses). Grocery and foodservice shopping at convenience stores is particularly strong among Millennials (almost 25 percent), driven by older Millennials and those with kids. [3]

Millennials vs. Baby Boomers

Check out this infographic which breaks down the similarities and differences in the buying habits of Millennials and Baby Boomers.

generation breakdown


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