Thanks to the ever-growing, all-consuming presence of digital technology and social media over the past decade, the gap between generational cohorts has never been more prominent. How we search, browse and purchase products affects trends across the retail industry, and eCommerce is no exception. In fact, cross-generational buying habits and the increasing rate of social shopping have been universally shaping online businesses, such as print on demand.
Studying how Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z prefer to shop has become necessary in determining the parameters that can help print on demand business owners assess their primary audience’s expectations, sentiments, and tastes. To make your PoD brand successful, you have to not only know who you’re selling to but also how to approach your target audience and expand your core consumer base. It’s the ultimate buyer personas handbook of our times – one that every eCommerce store should have on hand.
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In this article, the Gooten print on demand team investigates what patterns you should look out for among the four most represented generational cohorts of consumers in 2023. With this data, you will be able to establish a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that fulfills your business’s key objectives.
How and Where to Engage Different Generations of Consumers
Since the dawn of human civilization, it has been a natural occurrence for different age groups in one society to influence one another in various ways. The younger generations harness their parents’ and grandparents’ accumulated experience, wisdom, and expertise to build upon the world they were born in and usher in innovation. In the same sense, today’s generations of eCommerce merchants and digital marketers are inventing new methods of effective shopping and brand awareness.
Because generational cohorts approach online shopping differently, you must conduct a thorough target audience analysis to steer your PoD business to the desired course.
Before we dive into what buying patterns to look out for, here are two factors to keep in mind that apply to each cohort, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z:
- In 2023, optimizing your brand for a mobile experience is a must. Most consumers nowadays will conduct search queries and finalize their shopping process using their mobile devices. With more people living “on the go,” it is vital for them to be able to sign on at any moment, anywhere, and perform almost any daily activity imaginable that doesn’t require in-person presence.
- Social media is an integral part of every generation’s daily lives—from grandparents sharing status updates on Facebook to Gen Z documenting their skincare routines on TikTok. Following or even starting social media trends can make or break sales campaigns.
Consumer Trends 2023: Cross-Generational Buying Habits
The term “Baby Boomers” describes people born between 1946 and 1964. This cohort represents one of the most populous generations globally. Being a highly affluent segment of society, Baby Boomers wield considerable influence over social and economic trends in general. They value face-to-face communication and in-person experience, which is why brick-and-mortar shopping is still prevalent for most. But make no mistake – Boomers are not impervious to the delights of social media. For them, YouTube is an excellent source of entertainment, but the platform that really takes the cake is Facebook.
If you want to cater to Baby Boomers right, your marketing strategy has to bridge their nostalgic sentiments and the advantages of doing business online. Here are a few things to consider:
Baby Boomers have high expectations when it comes to the level of customer service retailers are prepared to provide. They won’t shy away from making neither their grievances nor their needs heard and will appreciate it tremendously if you acknowledge them.
Once they recognize that your brand is right for them, Baby Boomers will become your most loyal customers. Brand loyalty is a common trait among this cohort’s consumers. In turn, they like to be perceived as valued customers, so never miss a chance to remind them of this.
Before committing to a purchase, Baby Boomers will mull it over to make sure they’re making the right choice. Nevertheless, if your products and services prove to be top-notch quality, Boomers will more likely overlook the cost.
Generation X refers to people born between 1965 and 1980. Positioned between old-fashioned Baby Boomers and tech-savvy Millennials, members of this generation have experienced life before the internet revolution. Despite that, they have fully embraced its many perks, including online shopping.
What’s interesting about Gen Xers is their hybrid nature of being able to fully immerse themselves into the modern digital trends while simultaneously always keeping a finger on the log-off switch. When logged on, they gravitate toward Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
There are a few things you should consider about your Gen X customers:
When looking for new products, Gen Xers tend to conduct online searches instead of relying strictly on social media. Targeting them with Google Ads and dedicating resources to SEO can effectively catch their attention.
This cohort values email marketing and all its benefits, like coupons or discount codes. Personalized emails, where possible, will go a long way as opposed to more generic email campaigns.
Just like Baby Boomers, Gen Xers will base their choice on the quality of the product rather than its cost.
Social media marketing in the form of live-streamed product plugs does well with Gen X consumers. This is where your YouTube channel and Facebook and Instagram profiles come in handy.
Millennials, by most definitions, encompass anyone born between 1981 and 1996. Population-wise, Millenials have surpassed Baby Boomers in many countries, including the US, making them a powerful economic force—especially by becoming the prime driving force in the global eCommerce space.
Millennials perform most product searches over mobile (giving you another reason to ensure your brand is optimized in this regard). Millennials boast a highly diversified usage of social media. Older Millennials are still very active on Facebook and YouTube, while Zillennials—members of the microgeneration on the cusp of the Millennial and Gen Z generations—rule Twitter and Instagram.
Here are the essential buying behaviors of Millennials:
User-generated content (UGC) plays a vital role in a Millennial’s shopping experience. For example, if they want to leave a review of your product, they’ll go beyond expressing themselves with simple text because a picture is worth a thousand words. Throw in a relevant hashtag, and the review masterpiece is complete. Use positive customer experience to your advantage by harnessing it for promotional purposes.
Speaking of customer experience, there are situations with any PoD business when customers need your support. In those instances, a Millennial will not hesitate to contact you through your business’s social platforms for help or advice.
In contrast to Baby Boomers and Gen X, Millennials are more mindful of how each purchase affects their budget, even if the quality is guaranteed. Pricing is fundamental in their purchase decisions, so winning them over on product quality alone is often insufficient.
Millennials are the first generation to develop solid parasocial relationships with influencers, making custom merchandising an incomparably lucrative business. This makes the entire generation one of the key target audiences of merchants in the print on demand space.
Studies continually depict Millennials as more sensitive to social and cultural issues than their parents or grandparents. That is why they’ll favor inclusive businesses over those they may deem ambivalent or close-minded.
Lastly, the youngest consumer generation is Generation Z, also known as Gen Z or Zoomers. It includes anyone born between 1997 and 2012. Don’t be fooled by their young age. Zoomers are a force to be reckoned with and a hugely impactful demographic globally. They are the first digitally immersed generation. While their chronological predecessors are leading the way in terms of mobile search queries, Gen Zers win the top spot with actual finalized purchases via mobile devices.
Social platforms built primarily for video content generation reign supreme among Zoomers. Instagram and Snapchat are highly popular, but the platform to beat is TikTok. With its signature short-form, easily digestible videos, TikTok is a love child between long-defunct Vine and the original content-creating hub – YouTube.
Here’s a Gen Z buying habits cheatsheet we’ve prepared for your PoD business:
Zoomers grew up with YouTube the same way the older generations grew up with television. In the vein of TV, ads on YouTube have proven to be an effective route to reach this cohort’s consumers. YouTube Ads could be an answer if you’re pondering where to direct your marketing resources.
Similar to Millennials, Gen Z is highly receptive to influencers. In fact, a recent HubSpot report found that 55% of respondents belonging to this generation found influencers to be a trustworthy source of product marketing.
Gen Z grew up in an increasingly inclusive environment. One of the more positive traits of Zoomer consumers is their insistence on brands being inclusive of people regardless of their ethnicity, sexuality, gender, religion, or other personal attributes. The motto is: Be welcoming to everyone.
This generation has raised the quality and impact of user-generated content to another level. We’ve already mentioned how prone they are to generating video content. Rather than writing lengthy posts, they commonly discuss product reviews and their customer experience in video form.
The good ol’ word-of-mouth did not die out with Generation Z. On the contrary, they hold recommendations from their close circle of friends in high regard, meaning one negative critique from a trusted individual can prevent them from trying out a product. Likewise, a positive reputation spreads far and wide and can put your business on the map for them.
Zoomers will often lean towards supporting small businesses and up-and-coming brands rather than more established enterprises where they can. They share this preference to a large extent with Millennials.
How Print on Demand Caters to Each Generation
Unlike some traditional retail models, with print on demand, you are more in control of your business’s development and growth. Fulfillment partners like Gooten provide your eCommerce store with a few advantages vital for a successful marketing and business strategy capable of catering to a cross-generational audience in this day and age.
Here’s how print on demand caters to each generation
One simple truth all the consumer generations can agree on is that time is of the essence. Product fulfillment, shipping, and delivery must be a quick process from A to Z as optimally possible. With our 1.7-day average production time and extensive carrier options, Gooten has continually tipped the needle in the right direction.
The world is becoming a global village in the digital era. Millennials and Zoomers, in particular, have been paving the way for the heightened interconnection. Print on demand must be available locally and internationally, which is why Gooten has a comprehensive network of industry-leading manufacturers based across 70+ locations in the US and on five continents.
Target audiences dictate the demand, and with different cohorts of consumers to cater to, you have to be ready to innovate your product line regularly. This is where Gooten’s diverse network of 30+ manufacturing partners comes into play. We have almost unprecedented access in terms of product variety procurement.
Our 99% error-free rate is above the industry standard. Tapping into the quality of our production capabilities will fare well with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who put quality over pricing.
Still, we’re aware of the importance of pricing competitiveness, especially if you’re trying to attract economically-conscious Millennials. With Gooten as your print on demand partner, you can set the desired margins for your business while making your products affordable. From our robust product inventory to consistent communication with printing facilities—we take care of all that for you.
For Gen Z and Millennials prone to content generation of every kind, putting a personal stamp on custom products is as natural as breathing itself. Using our personalization workflows, you will position your print on demand brand as the go-to for personalized custom product
Have Trust in Your Merchant Instincts and Gooten
Many crossover points exist between the shopping patterns of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. Like any other demographic category, they are a sum of their numerous nuances, so there’s no single set-in-stone business and marketing formula to follow. Instead, as an eCommerce merchant, you learn best from your experience and interactions with your consumer base. At the same time, insights provided by the Gooten print on demand team keep you informed and make it easier for you to develop the best formula for your brand when targeting different generations of buyers.