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Holiday Shopping 2020: Here’s What to Expect from Gen Z to the Silent Generation

Erin Ollila
December 16, 2020

3 minute read

In a year with so much uncertainty, holiday shopping will likely look much different from past years. But how exactly will consumers approach buying gifts this season, and does their age play a role in their approach? Here, we’ll share up-to-date 2020 data, which details how each generation is shopping this holiday season.

82% of the Greatest Genreation

Consumers trust online shopping

71% of consumers feel confident that online transactions are safe, reports the PwC Holiday Outlook: November 2020 edition. Though the level of trust between generations differs in a way that may be unexpected. 82% of consumers from the Greatest Generation, shoppers 74 years old or older and also referred to as the Silent Generation, reported confidence in online shopping security. Only 49% of Gen Z consumers, ranging in age from 17 to 24 — feel the same.

Online beats in-store

Most generations seem to agree that online holiday shopping is the smartest option for 2020. Physical stores saw drastic drops in customers during the Black Friday weekend, while online shopping steadily increased. Sensormatic reported that trips to physical stores decreased by 52% on Black Friday, compared to figures from last year. Shoppers flocked online instead. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 44% more consumers shopped online during the 2020 Black Friday weekend, compared to last year.

However, while store foot traffic decreased significantly, you could expect to find one generation of consumers shopping in-store. 40% of consumers from the Silent Generation, the oldest of all shoppers, planned to head out to local shops, according to data from a recent CreditCards.com survey.

Mobile holiday shopping still growing

Last year, over 80% of shoppers planned to do some shopping by using a mobile device, whether it was browsing or buying. This year that figure is likely to be even higher. Sensor Tower data indicates a surge in first-time installs of shopping apps in the U.S., which increased to almost 8% more than last year to reach a new single-day record of approximately 2.8 million on November 27.

50 % of Gen X Shoppers

And consumers aged 39-73 — Gen Xers — make up the biggest group contributing to the rise of mobile shopping. According to Facebook, 50% of Gen X shoppers report shopping more on mobile devices compared to last year. The same data shows that a whopping 88% of Baby Boomers, aged 54-73, complete more mobile shopping year over year.

Return policies are important

Without the ability to see or try on items in-store, online-only shoppers want to be sure what they purchase can be returned if it’s not what they had hoped. PwC research indicates that 53% of consumers factor in return policies as part of their decision to purchase, and Millennial shoppers, aged 25-38, are especially concerned with their return options. In fact, 59% of Millennials shared that a return policy will affect their choice of retailer. According to the report, “Millennials anticipate returning items this holiday at double the rate of consumers overall.”

Spending remains about the same

The PwC survey results found that holiday shopping won’t change much, with only an overall predicted 3% decrease in spending from 2019. However, their survey found that a third of Millennials plan on spending more this year.

But how much will these 25-38 year-olds spend on gifts for themselves and others? Statista indicates that Millennials are “expecting to spend 1,367 U.S. dollars on average, with their younger counterparts, Generation Z, planning to spend 797 U.S. dollars on the festive period.”

Want to compare how the different generations shopped in the past? Check out the following articles:

Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. After a 12+ year career in human resources, she's jumped headfirst into digital strategy. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media.
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