Are Boomers and Millennials More Alike Than We Think?

Conventional wisdom says that Millennials (18- to 32-year-olds) and Boomers (49- to 67-year-olds) are more different than alike. But when it comes to shopping, exactly how wide is the generation gap? A study of Millennial and Boomer purchasing trends conducted by Radius Global Market Research (Radius GMR) shows that while there are certainly differences, there are also significant similarities between the groups.

Top similarities: Millennials vs. Boomers
  • New media and technology are not just for the young. An overwhelming number of both Millennials (90 percent) and Boomers (86 percent) routinely research products online. Boomers and Millennials are both engaging via social media at healthy rates. Female Boomers and Millennials use Facebook at a nearly identical rate (90 percent). And streaming movies and television programming is a reality for both Millennials (77 percent) and Boomers (40 percent).
  • Millennials and Boomers have similar concerns when making purchases. Both focus primarily on quality or price/value, depending on the category.
  • Millennials and Boomers have the same habits when it comes to where they shop. The physical store is the prominent channel for buying most everyday packaged goods, apparel and electronics.
Top differences: Millennials vs. Boomers
  • Millennial consumers are more optimistic. They have a more favorable outlook on the economy (71 percent) and were more apt to maintain/increase spending during the recession (55 percent).
  • Millennials and Boomers have different buying priorities. Millennials place travel and apparel as their top two priorities for increased spending in 2014. Boomers are more focused on "necessities" like packaged foods and insurance.
  • Boomers and Millennials access product information differently. While product research via PC is high with both groups, 60 percent of Millennials research via smart phone (vs. only 14 percent of Boomers). Boomers are twice as likely (at 38 percent) to research in newspapers or magazines.
  • Word-of-mouth sways Millennials. The younger consumers rank word-of-mouth most influential as they make purchase decisions across all categories. Boomers tend to rely on advertising and advice from sales reps.
"While it is beneficial to understand the similarities and differences between generational groups, it is also important for marketers to look beyond these over-arching categories," says Radius GMR senior vice president Lesley Brooks. "Nuances such as gender require at least as much attention when it comes to engaging both Boomers and Millennials."
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