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Getting Product Discovery Right for Every Generation

Sarah HillelSarah Hillel | August 4, 2020

From Gen Z to Baby Boomers, there’s no one-size-fits-all discovery strategy that will work across generations. Each age group has a distinct purchasing style based on shared experiences. As a result, retailers must consider these nuances to make brand experiences relevant and products easily discoverable to their target audience.

As the shopping landscape continues to transform, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z will continue to find and buy products differently. To ensure that all age groups get the best discovery experience, here are some key strategies for each generation:

Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers represent around 80 million consumers in the U.S. They hold 70% of the disposable income and spend $3.2 trillion annually.

While the popular “OK boomer” meme pokes fun at the generation’s out-of-touch attitudes, the reality is that they’re increasingly comfortable with technology. Baby Boomers’ digital adoption rates have been growing: Pew Research found that 68% now own a smartphone, compared to just 11% in 2011.

Moreover, Baby Boomers spend more time online than watching TV. Google and Ipsos found that 83% ranked the internet as the most popular source for learning more about a topic of interest.

product discovery by generation

Discovery Strategies for Baby Boomers

After checking the news and weather, Baby Boomers go online to shop. According to eMarketer, around 59% are digital buyers. But 84% prefer to shop in-store, especially for personal engagement and customer service. In general, the key value drivers for this generation are convenience, immediacy, and trust.

  • Baby Boomers do a lot of online research, which is likely why they spend smartly. According to Google and Ipsos, 82% use search engines to gather information. It’s important to optimize your website for search so they can find you.
  • This age group is less prone to using mobile phones while shopping in stores. So, location-based messaging wouldn’t work — they would also likely find it intrusive. What Baby Boomers do expect and appreciate is engagement from sales associates. You should arm your staff with tools such as in-store tablets to help them discover the products that Baby Boomers look for. Plus, tablets and other technologies that help shoppers find what they need quickly and with minimal contact are must-have assets in the context of COVID-19.
  • Speaking of customer service, you can offer the same personalized experience to Baby Boomers through one-on-one engagement online. Recommendations based on their shopping behavior is a great way to cross-sell or up-sell. In addition, they should be able to contact you via phone, email, or chat if they need immediate help.

Generation X

Sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials, Gen X are born between 1965 and 1980. They make up about 66 million, or just 20% of the population in the U.S., but they have the spending power of $2.4 trillion.

Gen X is among the most highly educated generation in the U.S. In the traditional sense, they’re reaching the peak of their careers. When it comes to shopping, Gen X are conservative consumers as they on their aging parents and children.

This generational cohort splits their time between new and old media. The top three activities that Gen X carries out on the internet are email, news, and banking transactions. Moreover, eMarketer estimated that 77% of Gen X use social media and are likely to stick with the platforms they know, such as Facebook.

product discovery gen x

Discovery Strategies for Gen X

Navigating intergenerational demands, Gen X values practicality and proof of performance. Compared to other age groups, they are the most loyal to brands. Having gone through the Great Recession, they focus on getting the best products for the best deal possible.

  • Gen Xers research products before purchasing or buying in-store. In addition to search optimization and paid search, you must ensure that your website and product pages clearly communicate the benefits and potential value they could save.
  • Like Millennials, Salesforce found that more than 50% of Gen Xers are willing to share personal data in exchange for personalized offers, shopping experiences, and product recommendations. So, reach out to this brand-loyal generation with relevant and exclusive promos based on their previous purchases.
  • Similar to Baby Boomers, Gen X is more likely to use desktop than mobile when online shopping. So, if your shoppers come from multiple generations, make sure you have a responsive website to make product discovery fast and easy for all.

Millennials

The first digital-native shoppers, Millennials are born between 1981 and 1997. Their spending power is projected to reach $1.4 trillion annually this year.

According to Nielsen, “Compared with previous generations, Millennials are living their lives differently and, overall, they’re reaching milestones later in life. For example, in 2016, only 8% of Millennials were parents, which is notably lower than the 22% of consumers of the same age back in 1975.”

product discovery millennials

Discovery strategies for Millennials

Living through the cusp of digital transformation, Millennials are tech-savvy consumers who value information and authenticity. They’re the first generation to demand a seamless experience across channels and to see shopping as a social activity.

  • Millennials are more inclined to hunt for bargains and know the prices. So, brands need to differentiate beyond price both online and offline. For example, discount bundles, free shipping, loyalty points, experiential retail, and the ultimate goal — a seamless omnichannel customer experience.
  • Ypulse found that 51% of Millennials purchase what they see on social media. In addition to posting relevant content, make sure you are engaging consumers and starting conversations. According to BCG, “Millennials expect a two-way, mutual relationship with companies and brands.”
  • Besides being social, Millennials are visual shoppers, especially on mobile. Instart Logic found that 55% “could not live without’ compelling visuals.” To deliver an engaging and memorable visual experience, make sure it’s both instant and relevant. You can offer the ability to search with an image on your website or app, so shoppers don’t have to struggle to come up with the right keywords. You can also create shoppable galleries to help inspire them.
  • While price plays an important role, Millennials consider many things when purchasing. In addition to a friend’s recommendation, online reviews, and influencers, they also choose brands that align with their values. So, if your brand supports environmental and social causes, make sure you’re communicating that clearly if you want to win over Millennials.

Generation Z

Born post-1995, Gen Z has a spending power of over $140 billion. Because digital is the foundation of their buying journey, Gen Z gravitates towards brands that provide the newest tools and channels.

product discovery

Discovery strategies for Gen Z

More so than previous generations, Gen Z is thrifty. According to a Business Insider survey, this age group buys from brands based on price (60%), shared values (18%), social media presence (9%), and friends’ influence (7%).

But like Millennials, they consider shopping to be a social activity and brands a social enterprise. Gen Z makes educated purchases, considering price and ratings. And they value authenticity—a lot.

  • Social media is a huge source of product inspiration because, like Millennials, Gen Z shops visually. In fact, 37% use social media for purchase decision-making. Beyond increasing engagement, you need to focus on delivering a consistent experience. For instance, when Gen Z shoppers take a screenshot of your social media post, they should be able to easily find the products on your website or in your brick-and-mortar store.
  • Similar to other age groups, 60% of Gen Z prefers to shop and purchase in stores. The difference is, they are more open to innovative in-store solutions so long as they make shopping more convenient. For example, you can consider installing a smart mirror that surfaces relevant products quickly. This is especially important now as shoppers don’t want to linger in stores and try on clothes due to COVID-19.
  • While loyalty is difficult to cultivate among Gen Z, one way of doing it is understanding them and what they believe in. If you can authentically promote values such as inclusivity, diversity, sustainability, and female empowerment, you’ll be able to attract and retain Gen Z shoppers while supporting important causes.

The retail landscape and generational preferences are fluid. While the differences are obvious, similarities do exist across age groups.

Successful discovery strategies lie in your ability to adapt to changing shopping habits and deliver personalized experiences at the individual level. It’s all about delivering the right product to the right customer at the right moment.


Sarah Hillel

Sarah Hillel

Sarah is the Global Events and Marketing Manager at Syte. From conception to evaluation, Sarah is passionate about delivering impactful events that enhance the organization's image and brand to client experience.

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