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How Each Generation Approached Shopping During Covid-19

Erin Ollila
April 27, 2021

3 minute read

There’s no doubt that consumers shopped differently during the pandemic compared to past years, but did the shoppers’ age play any role in what they chose to purchase or how they chose to shop?

Oracle’s New Consumer study analyzed consumer spending from February through December 2020, and the data indicates that different age groups did approach shopping and spending differently. Here’s a look at how Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z shopped for consumer packaged goods (CPG) during the pandemic.

Baby Boomers

It might come as a surprise to find out that Baby Boomers were the generation that dominated online purchasing in 2020. Born between 1946 and 1964, this group led the online shopping growth by 5.7x in 2020 compared to 2019. So, what type of consumer-packaged goods did Baby Boomers opt to purchase? Food for at-home cooking and snacks, such as chocolate and alcoholic seltzers.

Boomers also like BOPIS — the option to buy online and pick up the purchase in store. Data from the National Retail Foundation (NRF) indicates that more than six in 10 were familiar with BOPIS, with two-thirds having used the service—and of those, 63% percent shared that it was an improvement to their shopping experience. NRF continues, “The most common methods of BOPIS used by this generation are picking up at a store’s register (58%) and curbside pickup (30%).”

Gen X

Similar to their older counterparts, consumers aged 41-56 also took to online shopping in the midst of the pandemic. The New Consumer report indicates that Gen X consumers experienced a 4.7x growth in buying online from February to December 2020.

So, what did they buy? The report found that Gen Xers increased their shopping and buying of existing CPG products. Dry yeast, as an example, saw a 134% increase, and fruit pectin purchasing rose 49%. However, this group tested out new CPG products as well. Some of the most popular new purchases included variety pack chips, soda, and caramel dip.

Millennials

Born between 1981 and 1996, “Millennials consistently spent the most amount of money shopping for CPG products online compared to other generational groups,” according to the New Consumer report.

This group gave into guilty pleasures during the pandemic, such as purchasing glazed donut sticks, frozen pizza rolls, and sweet, cereal-flavored coffee creamer. They also shopped for convenience food items, such as frozen meals.

When it came to items they purchased prior to February 2020, there was a massive increase in certain items:

  • Fancy napkins (337%)
  • Organic baby spinach (198%)
  • Gum (185%)
  • And detergent pods (110%)

Gen Z

Gen Z consumers, who are 18 to 25 years old, might not seem like a significant consumer group since many are just entering the workforce, but they’re actually quite influential. The NRF found that mobile shopping is a priority for this age group, who might use it to research products, look up pricing and deals, comparison shop, and complete a purchase.

As for the New Consumer report, Gen Zers also bought convenience items. The purchasing of existing products included a whopping 530% increase in chocolate candy, while beer buying went up 114%. Snack products, like white cheddar popcorn and cheese puff snacks, were a common new purchase for this age group as well.

To learn more about the shifts in consumer shopping and to see the full Oracle New Consumer study, click here.

Don’t stop there! See more articles like this:

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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