Consumer Behaviour and Luxury Purchases: The Millennial perspective How do generations differ in their consumer behaviour patterns?


To what extent is the consumer behaviour of Millennials different to that of previous generations (Generation X, Baby Boomers) in luxury beauty products? Well, to answer that question the generations must be identified. Millennials, Generation Xers, Baby Boomers – all of them are people existing in today's current society. All of them have the same basic needs, and yet their buying patterns and behaviours are different. Once they have been identified by brands, the products can be tailored to the generation (Foxall, 1990). This process is called segmentation and is crucial in the framework of consumer behaviour. But this too is dependent on numerous factors (Erasmus, et al, 2001).

The Millennial generation includes those born from 1980 up to the early 2000’s. It is also referred to as Generation Y (Main, 2013). With the members of this generation traditionally growing up and experiencing many new forms of digital and technological advances from a younger age compared with the previous generations; Millennials generally learn new digital skills and can adapt with technology advances faster than the previous generation. This is due to the age of the generation and learning rates within them.

Generation X is harder to place. It’s the generation immediately following the Baby Boomers and precedes the Millennials. Typically speaking; this generation was born in the 1960-1980 period (Brosdahl & Carpenter, 2011). With the main marketing techniques being TV or print media. With computers, still being mainly office based, marketing products online would not be common or effective. This is the generation that would purchase the first home computers, most likely for work purposes – but this generation is now being tailored to become online consumers. With online retailers becoming more popular in response to ease of accessibility and availability of products multiple generations are choosing to forgo the traditional purchasing route, and order products online – this has led to consumer’s leaving online reviews and relying on the reviews/ratings of these products.

Baby Boomers are the generation born from 1940 – 1960. So called boomers because of the large opportunities available to them, they did not have the same technological advantages that Millennials have. They are less likely purchase products through the internet, but they are more likely to wait for a product to become available in-store than the Millennial generation.

The Sociological Model

The sociological model of consumer behaviour relies on the consumer being heavily influenced by society. It also works on the basis that the consumer will then influence society by reviewing the product and contributing to the wider function of society. For this model to function the consumer needs to both engage with the product, the company and society. This model works through a process involving the marketers looking at the segmentation of their target audience. When using luxury products such as high end makeup the type of platform the products are advertised on is essential to the level and how affective the engagement has been. Traditionally, high end makeup is advertised in print media such as luxury magazines (Vogue, Marie Claire and Elle), at department stores or through broadcast media such as television. This would be the case for previous generations such as the Baby Boomers and Generation X.

The Howard Sheath Model of buying behaviour works on a basis of explaining why consumers make purchases without knowing all the information available to them. This occurs when variables influence the consumer as opposed to information. These variables can be direct stimuli such as the environment the consumer is in, the response to the stimuli, motives or other variables (Desai, 2017). The model however can be criticised as it can be difficult to follow. The variables can be hard to define and can often be viewed as needlessly complex. In the case of Millennials using luxury makeup products, the sociological model is a more desirable framework. The segmentation described can only occur if the consumer participates in the desired behaviours of society.

Different sectors of industry thrive when the technology sector advances. When society became infiltrated by digital platforms and a new form of media, the marketing industry was gifted with an entirely new demographic to market to and in the case of millennials; with. With the added accessibility of mobile phones, tablets and laptops the use of online advertising, marketing and shopping is very common among the Millennial generation (Gasca, 2015). The trend of purchasing goods online is not uncommon with Generation X or the Baby Boomers – in fact it is growing. This, along with an increase in Generation X and the Baby Boomers using social media such as Facebook – whereas the Millennials are turning away from Facebook and heading towards Instagram and SnapChat – social media channels that are more visual and instantaneous. With the advantages of so many social media platforms to market these luxury products and engage with the consumers themselves, it has never been easier for companies to directly market the current generation their goods. Social media makes the engagement quicker, is often more effective with customer engagement, and makes the use of the product seem more attractive (Scott, 2015).

Previous generations did not have social media. These online profiles can be an informatic goldmine for companies to use as market research (Bolten, et al, 2013). They can keep an eye on their current audiences, prospecting audiences and market trends by having an online presence over social media platforms. By following public influencers, the organisations can tailor their engagements with potential brand ambassadors. These could be as simple as influential celebrities, social media stars, charities or a target consumer. They can also pay these public influencers to advertise and review their products. This is very common among luxury make up companies as they can use these beauty bloggers to reach out to their own followings and engage with them without the company directly having too. This aids the company as the beauty bloggers have a large following who trust their opinions and recommendations. It also feeds of an aspiration aspect of the relationship between the consumers and the beauty bloggers.

The consumer follows the public influencer because of common interests (Solomon, et al, 2013). These influencers have a lifestyle that is aspirational and exclusive – by using the product the consumer has gained a small piece of the influencers life and is part of the same makeup brand community. The Millennial generation can view exclusive lifestyles and aspirations from their phones, tablets, laptops, as well as traditional mediums such as print advertising. This may increase the sense of immediate gratification or need to possess the latest products, to keep up with the latest trends.

Keeping up to date with the latest trends on social media is largely to do feel feeling inclusive with the online community. The Millennial generation is likely to do this more so than other generations, due to various degrees of pressure. Often, they are criticised for living their lives through various social media platforms, with many scholars believing that this is the generation who has forgotten how to exist without their gadgets. However, this is the generation that is most susceptible to digital user engagement tactics (Lenhart, 2010).

Similarities within the consumer behaviour of Millennials alongside those of the previous generations can be gauged by their buying habits. All generations are looking for the best option available to them through means of price, availability, longevity and quality (Weiss, 2016). Other generations are now engaging with brands through new media types as they are more accessible to them. This is through the increased amount of older generations having mobile devices and having increased the access of social media sites to engage with.

Differences with Millennial buying patterns is that this generation isn’t as influenced by advertising as others (Bruwer, Saliba, Miller, 2011). This could be due to the over saturation of all markets – with so much choice, the advertising of products can become redundant. This can also influence brand loyalty and preferences. Millennials are more loyal (up to 60% more) to brands based on the quality of the product and the overall experience they have with the product (Schawbel, 2015)(Martin, 2017). This would lead to the Millennial consumer sticking to certain brands because it is what they are familiar with. This generation also uses online sources such as blogs to review their products before they make a purchasing decision. This happens frequently within the luxury beauty industry as they are relatively expensive products, that are not a necessity. Often referred to as splurging – an expensive purchase often has the consumer researching the product. This can be through social media sites, combing for reviews and online forums for the opinions of people of significance in terms of luxury beauty products and consumerism (YouTube, 2017).

Millennials also expect the brands they use to contribute to society (Schawbel, 2015). This only increases with the brands status and popularity in the market. This also increases the likelihood of consumer brand loyalty (Martin, 2017).


The differences in consumer behaviour have to do with the ease of advertising (Bray, 2008), the desires – rather than the needs – of the consumer and the platforms which the brands choose to advertise on. Where the consumer shops – be it online or in-store – will have a drastic impact on the engagement strategy and the level brand loyalty the consumer feels.

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