Millennial and Gen Z’s shopping habits are as different as avocado toast and TikTok dances. Here’s how you can bridge that generational gap.
With a new generation entering the workforce and gaining more spending power, 43% of marketers agree: To successfully reach Gen-Z, they need a generation-specific playbook. While Gen Z and millennials are both digitally native generations, their relationships with technology and their respective spending power create some important nuances in how they shop.
To help marketers better understand how these generations shop, we surveyed 600 consumers across the US to discover how they make their purchasing decisions on mobile and in person. Here’s what they had to say (and how you can meet them).
Differences between millennials and Gen Z
At the most basic level, you can define the two generations by when they were born. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996 (making them between 28 and 43 years old), while Gen Z were born between 1997 and 2012 (making them between 12 and 27 years old).
The real divide comes from the stage of life each generation is in. Millennials are established in their careers, giving them greater spending power. They’re also more likely to be going through major life milestones—like getting married, moving into a home, and having children—and have their own households to shop for. Gen Z, on the other hand, are still in college or in the early stages of their careers. They have less disposable income, and fewer life events to shop for.
Millennials are impulse shoppers
When shopping on their phones, 56% of all consumers polled say they’ll make a purchase within a day of discovering an item. But when you know, you know: A whopping 74% admit to making frequent or occasional impulse purchases, followed by Gen X (69%), Gen Z (63%), and baby boomers (53%).
Interestingly, millennials are nearly as likely to make an impulse purchase on their phone (48%) as they are in-store (49%). However, they rarely make an impulse purchase on their computers (a measly 3%). Successfully spurring impulse purchases comes down to reaching shoppers with the right item at the right time, whether they’re browsing a check-out aisle or scrolling on their phones—something predictive AI is making easier than ever.
Gen Z likes to do their research
47% of Gen Z say they prefer to wait at least a few days before making a purchase, compared to 41% of millennials. It turns out that Gen Z are more thoughtful spenders, taking their time to research something before buying it.
That inclination makes sense. Gen Z shoppers are only just entering the workforce and aren’t making as many major purchases. They’re most comfortable spending between $20 and $50 dollars online, compared to their more established millennial counterparts, who are most comfortable spending between $50 and $100 online. That price point ticks up to $100 when Gen Z shops in-store, when they can see and test out a product in person.
Driving conversions among Gen Z shoppers comes down, in part, to tailoring your messaging to your products’ price points. When promoting offers and new items, highlight products that fall between $20 and $50. For more expensive items, consider sending a series of text messages that help them learn more about a recommended product. You can include positive reviews, user-generated content, a demo video, and invite them to speak to a sales associate via Attentive Concierge™. And using geo-targeting, you can encourage shoppers to visit a store near them after they’ve engaged with educational content.
Both Gen Z and millennials are turning to mobile to discover new products
Shoppers across all generations are very open to discovering and purchasing new items on mobile. A majority of consumers (50%) buy a mix of new items and repeat purchases when shopping on their phones. An additional 37% of shoppers buy products they have just discovered, indicating a willingness to explore and try new things. Only 13% say they strictly repurchase items they’ve bought before, presenting marketers with a great opportunity to not just recommend new products, but also cross-sell and up-sell via mobile.
When asked what types of emails and text messages they’re most likely to shop from, consumers said they’re equally interested in curated product recommendations and best-seller highlights. A/B testing will help you find which product discovery experience drives the most conversions for your brand. You can test whether new versus repeat customers prefer curated recommendations or a broader selection, or tie your tests to seasonal events (such as Valentine’s Day, back-to-school shopping, and more).
By tailoring your marketing strategies to the unique shopping habits of both generations, you can build loyalty among Gen Z shoppers and drive more conversions.
In December 2023, Attentive conducted a survey of 600 US consumers aged 18+ about their sentiments toward shopping online and in-person.