Consumer Behaviour created by jade dent


Sethna & Blythe (2016: 6) explain that consumer behaviour studies all of the activities that lead up to a consumer searching for information about a product, evaluating the alternatives, and making a purchase. Marketers can implement certain strategies and make decisions, activities, ideas, or experiences that could potentially satisfy the consumer’s needs, (Cohen et al, 2014: 872). The purpose of this topic is to understand and critique the consumer behaviour of two generations; millennials and baby boomers, within the area of entertainment.

According to Pantano & Naccarato (2010: 200), entertainment involves many enjoyable elements including music, movies, and gaming. The main focus of entertainment would be on music, as this industry has undergone considerable changes over the last few decades. In order to understand the consumer behaviour of millennials and baby boomers regarding music, it is important to compare them with each other to explore how their consumer behaviour might be different or similar. This will be followed by an application of a learning theory model to critique their consumer behavioural patterns.

Comparison of the Millennials & Baby Boomers


Millennials are those who are born within the years 1982 to 2002 according to Benckendorff et al, (2010: 2). They are aged between 15-35 years old, are highly educated or in full-time employment, (Qadar & Omar 2013: 5). Sethna & Blythe (2016: 372) mentions that they are very technology-oriented, growing up alongside the rise of new technologies, including the internet. They are confident, adventurous, self-reliant, tolerant and eager for a challenge, according to Barber et al., (2008: 124). Barton et al., (2012: 6) suggest that they highly value their friends, family, and also want instant gratification to their particular needs.

Qadar & Omar (2013: 5) mention that they have a high social awareness and they are also highly conscious of their self-image. They are also strong determinants of online purchasing, according to Dhanapal et al, (2015: 113). Oracle (2015: 5) highlights that offering them customisation of their products can increase their loyalty towards brands. As millennials are digitally-oriented, the most popular method of consuming music is through online services, with the amount of subscriptions online increasingly growing, (Smith & Alcorn 2015). For example, Statista (2016) shows that Spotify, a popular online music service, has grown over the last decade in subscriptions, reaching to 40 million paying subscribers.

Baby Boomers

Benckendorff et al, (2010: 2) state that baby boomers are born within the years 1946 to 1964, aged between 50 to 70 years. They are educated, either in employment or retirement stages, and are now considered very affluent as they have a substantial amount of savings and pensions, (Reisenwitz 2007: 202). They are quite optimistic and confident, searching for their own personal growth, according to Solomon et al, (2016: 469). According to Saldana (2016: 7), self-direction, power, and achievement are examples of their values. Baby boomers are nostalgic and drawn to relatable genres from their youth, such as rock and roll, country, and pop music. They are less likely to enjoy contemporary pop music.

They are becoming more affluent which means that they have a high level of purchasing power. This means they have plenty of money to spend and they are not averse to spending it on whatever they like, (Reisenwitz 2007: 203). Baby boomers tend to enjoy buying their music in the forms of records and CDs, although they are starting to demonstrate digital behaviours such as downloading music online, which suggests they are adapting more to technology, according to Saldana (2016: 8). Ingham (2016) explains that statistics show consumers have spent £514 million worth of physical music, whereas downloads are £293 million, followed by streaming services which are £251 million.

Learning theory model: Instrumental Conditioning

The chosen model is instrumental conditioning, which is a type of behavioural learning theory, (Sethna & Blythe 2016: 274). The application of the model will develop an understanding of the generation’s consumption in music. The model will show the difference between the generation’s consumption in music and thereby their consumer habits. This model is based on a trial-and-error process, which means that a consumer will try different ways to fulfil their need until they are satisfied with the outcome. The need for both generations in this case, is that they want to listen to their music in a method that appeals most to them.

Instrumental Conditioning of Millennials;

Regarding the trial-and-error process for Millennials, the first option they may wish to pursue is visiting a store to purchase a CD, however this means leaving the house and taking plenty of time trying to find specific CDs in the store. The outcome is they receive no instant reward, therefore not complying with the theory that millennials seek instant gratification and expect their products to be easily accessible, (Barton et al., 2012: 6).

Their second option could be listening to the radio; but again, this means going through advertisements and not having a choice in what music the individual may want to listen to. Therefore this doesn’t fulfil their individual requirements to have their music available on demand. They could resort to using an online digital service such as Spotify (e.g. Spotify Connect) which gives them instant access to a variety of songs they want to listen to from any device. This then fulfils their needs, which could lead to reinforcement, resulting in them paying for Spotify’s subscription services which is relatively cheap and easily accessible.

Alternatively, some millennials also tend to use Soundcloud, another online service which enables easy access to music. However, Soundcloud allows creativity and sharing between users which might be appealing to adventurous millennial consumers as they enjoy customisation in their products and services, increasing their loyalty to certain brands, (Oracle, 2015: 5).

Through these examples, you can see how the trial-and-error process would lead Millennials to favour online streaming services as their primary method for music consumption.

Instrumental Conditioning of Baby Boomers;

For the baby boomers, their trial-and-error process could be completely opposite depending on their adaption to new technologies and digital services. For instance, they might not be as keen to use Spotify and other online services as they may not have developed a confidence in using modern technology to browse and consume music.

Their second option could also be that they listen to the radio, but again, constant advertisements and lack of choice in listening to certain songs might leave them dissatisfied. The third option might be to visit a store such as HMV to purchase a CD or Vinyl record. This might appeal to them, as it supports the theory that baby boomers have more disposable income, and enjoy exercising consumer power. They would own the music in a physical format that would provide them with nostalgic value. However, the downside to this is it takes time and energy, which this generation might not have.

Therefore the preferred option could be to visit an online marketplace to order a physical CD or Vinyl record (e.g. Amazon Prime). This method holds the advantages of visiting a store, without the time and energy spent. This conclusion can be supported with evidence from Statista (2013), who say that older users prefer using Amazon for purchasing music as opposed to digital only services like iTunes. Over 30% of Amazon’s music sales came from older users.

These examples show that Baby Boomers prefer their music in a physical format rather than streaming through online streaming services.

Critique of the learning theory model

Through using the Instrumental Conditioning model, you can demonstrate a good indication of consumer behavioural patterns between the generations through the trial-and-error process. It presents a simple way of understanding consumer’s reasons and motivations for choosing a certain product; in this case music. In this way, the model is successful at highlighting the difference between generational consumption patterns.

However, you could make the argument that this approach oversimplifies the decision-making process of consumers. Looking at the results of the model you can see a large portion of the population that is not accounted for. For example, although it shows the number of Baby Boomers using Amazon increasing, it still doesn’t account for the consumers choosing not to use this service. Moreover, this model also assumes that consumers only use trial-and-error to solve their problems instead of critical decision-making. This could be problematic in an age where consumers are smarter and more confident in their purchasing habits.

An alternative approach might be better suited to understanding how consumers decide to use a certain product or service. One approach you could use might be the decision-making model. This model accounts for consumers doing their own research and evaluating alternative products before making a purchase (Sethna & Blythe, 2016: 74). Therefore using this method, you might get a more accurate understanding of how consumers choose their products, more so than using the trial-and-error approach.


The aim of this was to find out whether millennials are different to baby boomers with regards to consumer behavioural patterns in the area of entertainment, focusing on music. Recent literature has shown that millennials are adventurous and confident, highly valuing their friends and also revolving their life around technology; their self-image is very important to them. Baby boomers are also confident, but are considered very affluent and possibly have higher purchasing power than the millennials although they have a tendency to stick with what they know.

The model has demonstrated that their preferences towards music is different. Millennials are more prone to using mainstream online services such as Spotify to access unlimited amounts of music or Soundcloud to create their own music to share. Whereas the boomers are happy to purchase CDs or Vinyls, either in stores such as HMV, or online through Amazon. The main difference is their uses towards technology and digital services, particularly in the area of music. One thing to consider in terms of the future, is whether technology will advance so much that physical artefacts such as CDs may no longer be needed by consumers as they may eventually resort to online purchasing, meaning that retail stores risk losing out on consumers and profit.

List of References

Barber, N., Dodd, T. and Ghiselli, R. (2008). Capturing the Younger Wine Consumer. Journal of Wine Research, 19(2), 123-141.

Barton, C., Haywood, J., Jhunjhunwala, P. and Bhatia, V. (2013). Millennials. 1st ed. Boston: The Boston Consulting Group.

Benckendorff, P., Moscardo, G. and Pendergast, D. (2010). Tourism and generation Y. 1st ed. Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK: CAB International.

Cohen, S., Prayag, G. and Moital, M. (2013). Consumer behaviour: Concepts, influences and opportunities. Current Issues in Business and Tourism, 17(10), 872-909.

Dhanapal, S., Vashu, D. and Subramaniam, T. (2015). Perceptions on the challenges of online purchasing: a study from “baby boomers”, generation “X” and generation “Y” point of views. Contaduría y Administración, 60(1), 107-132.

Ingham, T. (2015). Physical music dominates UK market - and it's stubbornly refusing to die. [online] Music Business Worldwide. Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

Oracle. (2015) A New Perspective on Millennials: Segmenting a Generation for Actionable Insights for Consumer Goods Companies and Retailers. 1st ed. US: Interbrand Design Forum.

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Reisenwitz, T. (2007). A comparison of younger and older baby boomers: investigating the viability of cohort segmentation. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 24(4), 202-213.

Saldana, P. (2016). Boomers, Millennials, and The Music Experience. University Honors Theses, 238, 1-8.

Sethna, Z. and Blythe, J. (2016). Consumer behaviour. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage.

Smith, J. and Alcorn, N. (2015). Media consumption behaviours: trends that will influence how you engage customers - Strategy. [online] Strategy. Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

Solomon, M. R., Bamossy, G. J., Askegaard, S. and Hogg, M. K. (2016). Consumer Behaviour: A European Perspective, Harlow: Pearson.

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Created By
Jade Dent


Created with images by Unsplash - "records album vinyl" • Pexels - "headphone headphones listening music" • Unsplash - "smartphone digital camera camera" • vastateparksstaff - "Outdoors Nation Summit" • StartupStockPhotos - "student typing keyboard" • laterjay - "street students walking" • C. VanHook (vanhookc) - "Heading out to a Class Reunion" • foretagimark - "rock n roll black roses guitar" • theweredingo - "Vinyls" • aturkus - "Rich" • Fabio Sola Penna - "Vinyl player" • Photo-Mix - "music on your smartphone spotify music service" • Matt From London - "HMV" • JESHOOTS - "wallet money credit card" • Egle_pe - "turntable vinyl sound" • FirmBee - "mobile phone iphone"

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