In a study about purchase behavior that focused on baby boomers, Generation X and millennials, brand consulting firm Corra found that social media influenced purchases across generations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, millennials had the highest response rate at 57%, followed by Gen X (37%) and then the baby boomers (17%), with women more likely to be influenced by social media than men, according to the study.
As far as different forms of social media go, Corra found that 55% of those who prefer online shopping were influenced by Facebook ads and posts, 48% by Instagram posts, 36% by YouTube videos, 28% by Pinterest images and 16% by tweets. Interestingly, for those who prefer in-store shopping the influence of social media platforms was roughly the same — if not higher — at 70%, 40%, 33%, 25%, and 18% respectively.
The study also noted that returns are more likely from those who shop online, as 75% of people rarely or never return items bought in-store, but that drops to 61% when the item was purchased online. Of all three generations, millennials were the most likely to return items (8% often or always return items and 35% sometimes do).
E-commerce and social media are on the rise as consumers become increasingly connected to digital platforms. While it’s become common wisdom that retailers should try to reach millennials and Gen Zers over these platforms, Corra’s study reveals that social media efforts are not lost on older generations.
In findings that align with many recent studies, the main reasons for shopping in-store versus online are consistent across generations. Corra found those who prefer to shop in-store overwhelmingly do so in order to feel and try products (this is true for 81% of millennials, 86% of Gen X and 83% of baby boomers). When asked if they would prefer to buy certain apparel items online or in-store, the vast majority preferred to buy apparel in-store, including bottoms, coats and jackets, dresses, shoes, formal wear, swimwear and undergarments.
For those who prefer online shopping, heightened convenience leads the pack (43% of millennials, 37% of Gen X, and 34% of baby boomers gave this answer), followed by the better selection offered online (29% of millennials, 31% of Gen X, and 29% of Baby Boomers gave this answer). That being said, consumers preferred to purchase only two apparel items online versus in-store: activewear and shirts.
Despite the growing importance of online and mobile shopping, omnichannel and personalization efforts on those platforms still have a ways to go according to a study by Kibo, which found that 70% of personalization experiences on e-commerce sites only happened when the shopper was logged into an account.
Indeed, retailers who don’t put enough effort into these platforms could face difficulties with impatient consumers and the digitally-savvy Gen Z. A similar study by Corra found that 68% of shoppers will leave an e-commerce site due to basic functionality issues and ContentSquare says that 60% of Gen Z won’t even use an app or website that is too slow to load.
As younger generations move toward more brand interaction and retailers plan to use more AI, online platforms could be the perfect place for these areas to diverge. Retailers should consider offering consumers a chance to interact with their brand on a mobile app, social media or an e-commerce site, where they not only feel increasingly comfortable but are also increasingly making purchases.