Consumer Behaviour Differences in shopping behaviour between Generation X and Generation Y

What is the generation cohort?

According to Strauss and Howe, a generational cohort is defined by demographic group of individuals, whom share commons in attitudes, ideology, birth time period, living experience, and having the same political, economic events that happened during their growing-up period (age 17-24) (Howe and Strauss, 1991). It is believed by Meredith and Schewe (1994), that the center of value, through the reflection of events and experience encountered, is shown through jobs, money, tolerance, sexual behaviours. Having created and developed their values, beliefs, expectation, and behaviours, those aspects remain there and cannot be changed throughout the generation’s lifetime, which created the identity for that generation (Howe and Strauss, 1991). Moreover, the shopping behaviours and purchase patterns are greatly affect by consumer context (Parment, 2011) (Parment, 2013).

Generation Y - the Millennial

The Millennials, in other word the Generation Y, which comprised of individuals born in between 1980-1999 (Gurau, 2012), is the first generation to be considered high-tech generation (Norum, 2003) and also considered as a being consumption-oriented and sophisticated in terms of shopping (Jackson, V., Stoel, L., & Brantley, A., 2011) (Wolburg, J. M., & Pokrywczynski, J., 2001).

These people are portrayed by their penchant to utilize innovation and take part in different media exercises. However, this individualistic group that values their own characters and the customization of items recognizes firmly with group orientations and activities involve companions (Sebor, 2006). These individuals considered themselves to be special and allow themselves to have the luxury of enjoying life like listening to music, eating out, going for movies, and watching television (Morton, 2002). Recently, companies have given a lot of thought on improving products for this generation due to the expansive size, advantage in income, and the behaviour of consumption process sooner than earlier generation (Bakewell, C., & Mitchell, V. W., 2003).

Generation X

Generation X, which refers to those born from 1961 to 1979 (Gurau, 2012). Having confidence in their education, Generation X individuals are usually confidence in their abilities. They are knowledgeable with computers and internet, distrust on authority, very confident and logical, also they tend to be cautious from the people whom do not use base knowledge, experience as primary source (Jackson, V., Stoel, L., Brandley, A., 2011). Generation X individuals view themselves as politically independent and call themselves liberals (Mitchell, 2001) (Mitchell, 2003)

These generational accomplices have diverse experience, qualities, dispositions and inclinations that essentially impact their purchase patterns and shopping conduct (Parment, 2011) (Parment, 2013).

Differences in shopping behaviour between Gen X and Gen Y

Generation X has been raised with a sharp comprehension of advertising and media, and concentrates on social event data and picking up a profound comprehension of items before purchasing. It makes them become shrewd online customers and in their information gathering progress, traditional media and the Internet play important roles. “Generation X-ers tend to use information not as a point of pride but as assurance that they are not being taken advantage of by marketers and are getting the best deal possible,” according to Nelson Barber - University of New Hampshire professor. For Generation X, marketers should build strategies giving product-related data that is verbally and visually rich and very instructive in light of the fact that such messages are compatible with the needs of elaborate processors.

It can be seen that Generation X’s making decision on shopping bases on cognitive learning theory. Cognitive learning occurs when a person has a goal and must search for and process data in order to make a decision or solve a problem. (Barber, 2011)

In contrast, shopping behavior of Generation Y is affected by their parents and specially their friends, their companions and sometimes those consumers have trouble in making decision by their own because of “strictly” control of their parents. “Generation Y selects and consumes products that help them achieve their goals of blending in with the crowd or a certain group. Thus, they are influenced by the need to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them,” Nelson Barber- University of New Hampshire professor says. Therefore, companies should attract Generation Y consumers through associate collaborations.

And because Generation Y is media savvy and conscious of being the target of marketing so if brands want to succeed, they should focus not only their website but also social networking, blogs and live chat customer service and essentially become more transparent. Moreover, the mobile Web additionally assumes an imperative part in how Generation Y socializes. (Barber, 2011)

Observational learning, a process that individuals learn behaviour by observing the behaviour of others and the consequences of such behaviour (Schiffman and Joseph, 2015), describes the way Generation Y individuals make their decisions in purchasing goods.

In addition, Generation Y consumers are attractive with brands because their shopping behaviours are considered compulsive, the financial responsibilities of its members are few, and this group has a keen eye for trends (Sebor, 2006).

Differences in luxury goods shopping behaviour

Nowadays, luxury goods market has been more and more attracting marketers and it is also one of the markets that shopping behaviours of two generations express different the most.

In the US’s market, both Generation X and Y consumers control 60 percent of luxury market sales (Rubin, 2011). In 2011, It is estimated that Generation Y consumers has spend an increased amount of 33 percent compared to the previous year on luxury fashion items (Hutzler, 2011).

Luxury is considered as a right rather than a privilege to Generation Y consumers (Stein, J. and Sanburn, J., 2013) (Silverstein, M. and Fiske, N., 2008). Most of Generation Y individuals are young and income are yet to be considered high. However, this generation is very brand conscious (Fernandez, 2009) and are willing to spend more to obtain more luxury brands (Silverstein, M. and Fiske, N., 2008) (Grotts, A. and Johnson, T. , 2012). High level of materialism, status consumption, and brand-signalling are displayed greatly among generation Y consumers (Eastman, J. K., & Liu, J., 2012) (Loroz, P. and Helgeson, J., 2013).

Status consumption is roughly defined as the process of any individuals seeking the improvement on social status through the act of purchasing products which confer and symbolize for both the individual and surrounding communities (Eastman, J.K., Goldsmith, R.E. and Flynn, L.R., 1999). Each individual has difference preference and motivation for consumption of status (Kilsherimer and J.C., 1993). Chao, A., and Schor, J.B. (1998), has defined status consumption as purchased made by individuals whom seeking the status items and brands with the purpose of having these products being publicly visible (Chao, A., & Schor, J. B., 1998)

The consumption of luxury goods fulfill buyers with satisfaction from reaction of surrounding individuals to the display of wealth rather than concernment of the actual value of product itself (Mason, 2001). The attitude toward the purchase of luxury goods is greatly related to the display of wealth and act as the symbol of power in social position The conspicuous consumption of luxury goods provides the consumer with satisfaction from others’ reactions to the wealth displayed rather than from the value of the product itself (Mason, 2001). The attitudes about luxury consumption are linked to the display of wealth and the symbolic meanings from one’s social position as status consumption fulfills hedonic consumption needs (Eng, T-Y, & Bogaert, J., 2010).

Eastman & Liu (2012) found there are generational differences in the motivation to consume for status. Higher demands for status consumption appear in Generation Y instead on working class Generation X (Eastman, J. K., & Liu, J., 2012). Brand-conscious, novelty/ fashion-conscious are the characteristic of the motivation for shopping belong to Millennials, along with being recreational, brand loyal and impulsive shoppers (JACQUELINE K. EASTMAN, RAJESH IYER and STEPHANIE P. THOMAS, 2013). The willingness to allow oneself to purchase luxury at young age and spend on any items that they want make generation Y much more different than other previous one (Stein, J. and Sanburn, J., 2013).

On the other hand, Generation X individuals demand much more personalized brand experience (Peralta, 2015). They preferred to be offered high quality products and much more concern about the uniqueness of the personalised value of the item. It is estimated that more than 20% of Generation X consumers’ income was spent on shopping luxury goods and services. In general, Generation X consumers used average $26,751 annually on luxury. (Heebner and Jennifer, 2005)


In conclusion, these two generations have some similar characteristics including they are well educated, have a comprehensive understanding of the media as well as the internet. However, because of different experiences, values, attitudes and preferences, they have dissimilar habits and decisions in shopping. Generation X seems to research carefully relevant information before making a purchase decision. Generation Y consumers’ decisions are often affected by other people including family members, friends, lovers. In addition, Millennial individuals are more brand conscious than previous generations. In luxury goods shopping behaviour, Gen Y-ers are materialism, status consumption, and brand-signalling while Gen X consumers focus more on quality and the uniqueness of the personalised value.


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