Cross Generational Study: Reveals Surprising Similarities Between Millennials, Gen X & Boomers

By Aliza Freud, SheSpeaks CEO

Lately, Millennials are the new black. Studies abound on how to address this large and important generation. As someone who managed a brand portfolio that cut across a variety of generations and segments, I was trained to look for insights on similarities between segments in order to be most efficient with my marketing budget.

With this in mind, my team and I at SheSpeaks developed a cross generational study that looked at Millennials, Gen X and Boomers along a number of elements including social media usage, shopping habits and technology usage.

The study was featured in Women’s Wear Daily, click here to see the article.

What we found may surprise you. Despite some key distinctions in areas such as communication preferences and smartphone usage, women of all ages share surprising similarities when it comes to shopping habits.

Here are some select findings that highlight both differences and similarities between the segments.

Distinct differences in communication preferences
  • Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Millennials are most likely to use their mobile phones to do personal email vs. only 7% of Boomers. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Boomers are most likely to use their desktops/laptops for personal email, compared with only 61% of Millennials
  • Gen Y women are most likely to use their computers for video chat (37%), although about one-quarter (24%) use their mobile phones most frequently. Seventy-two percent (72%) of Millennials video chat, compared to 53% of Boomers
  • Fewer Millennials strongly agree that they are concerned about privacy online (29% vs. 40% of Boomers), but only 21% of Millennials and 17% of Gen X women have an anonymous social media account
  • Although social media is the No. 1 way for women of all generations to stay connected on a daily basis, Millennials are more likely to text (32% vs. 21% of Boomers). Boomers are more likely to cite email (16% vs. 5% of Millennials) and talking on the phone (18% vs. 4% for Millennials) as their preferred way to stay in touch
Across generations, women are heavy users of social media
  • Women of all ages visit Facebook at least once a week (91% for total), but Millennials are relatively more active on Pinterest (68%), Twitter (64%), YouTube (60%) and Instagram (57%)
  • Millennial women are also big sharers on social media, sharing a mix of family photos (83%); observations or stories about their daily lives (74%); new purchases (74%) and local/world news (52%)
  • On average, women spend the largest amount of time each day connecting with friends and family via social media (42% for women overall say social media is their top channel)
Despite age differences, women share similar purchasing habits
  • On average, 63% of women generally know which products they will purchase when they visit a store, although they are not certain which brands they will buy
  • Price trumps convenience for all generations (74%)
  • To prepare for in-store shopping, 74% of women clip coupons or find coupon codes for online shopping. Seventy percent (70%) of women make a list on paper of what they need to buy; 65% research what products are on sale and 52% research product features/styles in order to make purchase decisions
  • Seventy-two percent of Millennials make purchases on their phones (compared with 65% of Gen X and 38% of Boomers), but all generations are more likely to make online purchases via desktop or laptop most frequently (74% Millennials, 76% Gen X and 81% Boomers), when compared with frequency of purchases on mobile phones and iPads
  • For women of all ages, 66% cite a review on a retailer’s website such as Amazon.com or Walmart.com as a primary influence in purchasing a product. Meanwhile, Millennial and Gen X women are more likely than Boomers to have been influenced by a coupon they saw on a social network, a blog review, or a photo on Pinterest when making a purchase
Not surprisingly, Millennials more comfortable with smartphones
  • Seventy percent (70%) of Millennial and 65% of Gen X women use their smartphone or tablet each week as part of their shopping process, with 20% of Millennial women saying they plan to make more purchases on their mobile phones in the next six months
  • Millennials are more comfortable purchasing all types of products with their smartphones, including downloadable music (56%); downloadable books (48%); beauty products (41%); toys/games (35%) and general household items (34%)
  • Millennial women are most likely to use their smartphones to play games (36% compared to 26% of Gen X and 11% of Boomers)

Our hope is that people can use these findings to build more successful marketing and content programs as well as to create efficiencies across media and communication efforts. If you have any questions on the study, please feel free to contact me at aliza@shespeaks.com.

Study Methodology: The study was conducted nationally via online survey of over 3,300 U.S. women from June 16-18, 2014. Segments are defined for this study as: Generation Y (also known as “Millennials”, born between 1981 and 1995); Generation X (born between the 1965 and 1980); and Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).

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