The Shopping Habits of Generations X, Y, and Z

The key to creating the most effective shopping experience for Generations X, Y, and Z is through understanding their distinct preferences.

Generation X, Y, and Z have each lived through their own social, economic and political evolutions. This has resulted in a unique set of characteristics that defines their consumer behaviour and shopping habits.


Generation X is a powerful consumer, accounting for 30% of total consumer spending while making up only a quarter of the population. [1] They are the most educated consumers in today’s market, [2] and make purchase decisions for other generations living in their household – their aging Baby Boomer parents, and Generation Z kids. With independence foisted on them at an early age, Gen Xers are shrewd, practical, and cynical.

How They Shop:

With their penchant for pragmatism, Gen Xers are driven by information. Most of their paths to purchase start with an extensive amount of online research, focused on value and product performance. If they already have a product in mind, they will actively seek out consumer reviews, comparison sites, and opinions via social media. They prefer to discover products through email and online search. [3]

Brands should aim to provide Gen X shoppers with straightforward product and pricing information and reward loyalty through targeted email promotions. Brands can help validate Gen X’s shopping choices by setting themselves up as industry experts – offering online product tutorials and practical advice relevant to the brand.


Where They Shop:

While bricks and mortar retail is still popular with this generation, online shopping is becoming increasingly important. In fact, Xers make more online purchases than any other generation, 20% more than Millennials. [4] Brands hoping to connect with Gen X should ensure they have a strong presence across online channels, especially social media.

What They Look For:

Generation X seeks high quality products at the best value. They are willing to spend money if it’s worth their investment. They have long outgrown the phase of ‘fitting in’ and instead look for ways to stand out through unique products that will help them express their individuality. Luxury products, travel, and food and wine are particularly popular categories for this generation. [5]



By next year, Generation Y, or Millennials are expected to overtake Boomers to become the largest living population. [6] Millennials are already spending $600 billion a year- 28% of total daily per person consumer spending. [2] With their sheltered upbringing, Millennials can be seen as entitled and pampered but they are also confident and optimistic.

How They Shop:

Growing up in a time when computers were widely available meant that Millennials have become numb to traditional online advertising. Their shopping preferences are instead influenced by peer recommendations and opinions from social media influencers, preferring authenticity from real consumers. In fact, 82% of Millennials say word of mouth greatly influences their purchase decisions. [7]


Millennials check their smartphones 150 times/day, [3] relying on this platform for product research and exploration. In fact, 4 out of 5 say that they have discovered new brands, products, or services using their smartphones. [3]

Where They Shop:

The majority of Millennials favour physical retail to online, [8] dispelling myths that they exclusively shop through digital channels. They are 50% more likely to visit a store versus Baby Boomers [4] when considering a purchase, preferring to trial products at the store level.

Millennials are the most likely generation to purchase products through their smartphones. [3] With research and purchases occurring online and off, brands employing omnichannel solutions can create an uninterrupted path to purchase. 68% of Millennials are looking for a smooth shopping experience across all channels. [3]

What They Look For:

Millennials are drawn to experiences versus tangible products and expect a high level of customization and customer service. In retail, brands can provide Millennials the excitement they crave with stand out retailtainment, Instagram-worthy displays and packaging, and exclusive events.



These digital natives grew up around easy Internet access and sophisticated mobile technology, making them integral components of their shopping journey. Their influence over household spending is estimated at $200 billion, and their purchasing power will only grow over time.[9] With a wealth of information at their fingertips, Generation Z is technologically savvy, empathetic, and independent.

How They Shop:

Gen Zers have an extremely low tolerance for poor quality when it comes to online experiences. Paths to purchase should be straightforward, easy to navigate, and seamlessly transition across online and offline worlds.

Generation Z are confident consumers who want to be in control of their shopping experience and have their feedback heard. Brands can appeal to this demographic through allowing interactivity with the brand, and incorporating Gen Zers opinions and concerns when structuring shopping experiences.

Where They Shop:

Two out of three Generation Zers shop online, and of that, over 50% do so through a mobile device. [9] While an online presence is therefore a must to connect with this generation, surprisingly, Gen Zers still prefer physical stores to online retail. Shopping trips present an opportunity to mix with their peers with 84% of Gen Zers stating they use shopping trips as a social activity. [7]

What They Look For:

Tech within the retail environment is a must to attract this generation. Touch screens, hashtags, and other opportunities for social sharing should be built into the retail experience. Generation Z has named smartphones and Mixed Reality as the coolest things in tech[10] making Augmented Reality an especially engaging tool for these consumers. Food, fashion, beauty, and video games are the top spending categories. [11]



In Conclusion

Whether consumers are looking for information, entertainment, or a social outing, physical retail plays a huge role across all generations. Still, brands cannot discount the growing importance online plays in the initial stages of the consumer journey through to product purchase. Shopping experiences must transcend digital boundaries allowing for a smooth transition between the online and offline worlds with a growing emphasis on excitement and personalization.


  1. Adweek
  2. Forbes
  3. Tapbuy
  4. KPMG
  5. Centro
  6. Pew Research Center
  7. Salesfloor
  8. Accenture
  9. Think With Google
  10. Think With Google
  11. WGSN