To understand the difference in behaviours of millennials to previous generations it is imperative to understand what is meant by the term consumer behaviour. Everybody is a consumer and everyone has different behaviours however these cannot all be considered consumer behaviours. Consumer behaviour can be defined as “the activities people undertake when obtaining, consuming and disposing of products and services”. (Blackwell et al. 2001).
Whilst Blackwell et al, give an insight into what consumer behaviour means it does leave the question as to whether or not it is the most well rounded statement in terms of consumer behaviour. This is because many people do not understand how obtaining a product or service fits within consumer behaviour. Some presume is reflects the process of purchasing a product or service, such as researching the product or evaluating alternatives. An example that can be used to suggest why ‘obtaining’ is not regarded as part of consumer behaviour is used by Sethna and Blythe who use the example that “A child who promises to keep his room tidy in exchange for payment towards a new gaming app is clearly obtaining a product, but this not usually regarded as part of a study of consumer behaviour”. (Sethna and Blythe, 2016).
It is now important to look at the three groups that are Millennials, generation X and Baby boomers. Millennials are generally seen as anyone born between 1981-2001 which means that they are aged between 15-35 in 2016. Sethna and Blythe explain the key aspect of millennials by stating that “the 21st century saw their coming of age politically, socially, economically and obviously, technologically. The rise of mass communications and the age of the internet are both world-changing events that this generation grew up with and witnessed first-hand”. (Sethna and Blythe, 2016, Pg. 372).
This shows that the changes that happened to the world when this generation were born will have a huge impact on their life and can ultimately change the outlooks of millennials compared to generation X and Baby boomers.
Baby boomers are the people that were born between 1946 and 1964. These years saw a surge in the number of births following the Second World War. This was also a time of improved prosperity and improved health care this therefore meant that life expectancy improved greatly. The baby boomer are aged between 50 and 70 and are heading towards retirement. This also means that the younger ones of the baby boomers are in the peak of their earning years. Sethna and Blythe suggest that “they have shaped modern society (for instance Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in politics). They represent the largest and most affluent market in history, and will continue to have a major economic and social impact for the next 30 years at least”. (Sethna and Blythe, 2016, Pg 371). This shows that even though this generation is the oldest they still are amongst the influential in marketing and therefore special attention should still be paid to this generation as they will affect the economy for years to come. As a result it is still important to take note and act on the consumer behaviours of this age subculture.
Moving on from Baby boomers is it vital to understand Generation X or as stated by Sethna and Blythe as “baby Busters which is a label given to this generation by popular culture”. (sethna and Blythe, 2016, Pg.317). Generation X are born approximately between 1964 and 1980. This generation are the children of the baby boomers.
From examining Millennials, generation X and Baby boomers it opens the question as to why there are different age subcultures. Sethna and Blythe state that Age subcultures exist because the members have differing attitudes and values”. (Sethna and Blythe, 2016, Pg.371). As a result of having differing views and attitudes, having age subcultures act as a way of being able to easily group together these views and attitudes. This therefore means that these attitudes and values can be easily recognisable. With age subcultures the general consensus is that behaviours stay with the person from a certain group which they obtained from their youth. An example of this could be taste in music. Sethna and Blythe however do state that “in some cases people change their views as they age. For example becoming more politically right-wing as they become wealthier and less inclined to radical change”. (Sethna and Blythe, 2016, Pg. 371).
To effectively understand the differences in behaviours of Millennials, Generation X and Baby boomers it is useful to research and understand the decision making process model. The decision making process model looks at the different stages that a consumer will go through when making a purchase of a product or service. This happens whether or not it is a big purchase or not. The different ways as to which each age subculture will make their decision will give a greater understanding of their behaviours. Jobber states that “the act of making a consumer decision generally consists of five stages including need/problem identification, information search, and evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision and post purchase behaviour”. (Jobber, 2012).
The first stage of the decision making process refers to the consumer identifying that they have a need or a problem. This is the stage that drives a consumer into consider making a purchase. Kurtz added opportunity to this stage, stating that “if supposedly a consumer is unhappy with a particular purchase, or just wanting to change from the same old brand to a new one, the recognition of this need can also get to be opportunity”. (Kurtz, 2012).
The second stage of the decision making process is information gathering. Hibić and Poturak state that “Consumer behaviour research has discovered two types of search that buyers engage in as they make purchase decisions. The first one includes personal information search obtained from earlier experience and word-of-mouth or advice from friends and relatives, and a second type of search, which is non-personal or external in nature, for instance advertisements in print and electronic media, as well as travel agents”. (Hibić and Poturak, 2016, Pg. 408). This shows the importance of both internal and external influences on a consumer’s behaviour. In terms of the millennials age subculture, external influences of friends will be a huge factor in the decision making process. A large part of this is due to the surge in social media activity. For example if a millennial is wanting to get information about a specific product they are considering then they can easily post the question as to whether or not the product is worth getting on their social media and they would generally get a quick reply. Whereas for Baby boomers, they would not usually use this type of communication so therefore for this stage of the decision making process they would be going through the medium of word of mouth. This shows the difference in the cultural behaviours of both millennials and baby boomers.
The Third step of the decision making process is the part where consumers will evaluate alternative solutions to their need or problem in the way of evaluating different products or brands that will equally satisfy their need or desire. Kotler et al suggest that “there is no single evaluation process applied by customers when making a buying decision. Customers generally look for a product that provides the best solution to their “problem” or a product offering them with benefits that they look for”. (Kotler et al. 2008). The way in which Millennials and Baby boomers evaluate different products or brands is completely different. For instance for a millennial they would use the internet as a wat of comparing products or brands by quickly looking at reviews, whereas the baby boomers would prefer to talk to someone face to face about what product or brand is best for them.
The penultimate stage of the decision making process is purchase decision stage. Kotler and Keller state that “Two factors can emerge in the middle of the purchase intention and the purchase decision. The first is the attitude of others in that, if someone important to the consumer thinks that a low–priced brand should be bought, then it decreases the likelihood of buying an expensive one. The second is the unpredicted situational factor where a consumer might have an intention to purchase a specific brand of car and there is an economic meltdown or a competitor severely decreases its prices and the purchase decision here can change in seconds”. (Kotler and Keller, 2009). Millennials are more likely to be influenced by external aspects such as friends, whereas baby boomers are set in their ways in terms of values and attitudes so it would be harder for their opinions to be changed on certain products or services.
The final stage of the decision making process is the post-purchase stage. The two main aspects of this stage is whether or not the consumer is satisfied. Hibić and Poturak suggest that “The prevailing factor for this lies between the consumer’s expectation of the brand preceding the purchase and the actual performance that it delivers after the purchase has been made”. (Hibić and Poturak, 2016). As mentioned before, Baby boomers like to distance themselves from change, as a result of this it could be suggested that satisfaction within the baby boomer age subculture would be significantly higher than that of Millennials as baby boomers tend to stick to what they know therefore there is less room for dissatisfaction.
• Blackwell, R.D., Miniard, P.W. and Engel, J.F. (2001) consumer behaviour, 9th edn. Mason, OH: southwestern.
• Sethna. Z and Blythe, J. (2016) consumer Behaviour. London, United Kingdom: SAGE Publications.
• Jobber, D. (2012). Principles and practice of marketing. London: McGraw-Hill.
• Kurtz, D. (2012). Boone & Kurtz contemporary marketing. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
• Hibić, S and Poturak M. (2016) Impact of a brand on consumer decision- making process. European Journal of Economic Studies.
• Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., and Wong, V. (2008). Principles of Marketing. Prentice Hall International: 5th European edition: Essex.
• Kotler, P. and Keller, K. (2009). Marketing management. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.