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How Old-Fashioned Are Baby Boomer Shoppers?

Though they trail younger age groups, boomers still use digital tools for shopping

When a marketer ignores aging baby boomers, this typically reflects an assumption that boomers have made their choices as purchasers and will stick with them to the grave. In fact, though, boomers are heading into a period of great disruption in their lives, and it’s putting a good deal of their consumer activity in play, according to a new eMarketer report, “How Boomers Still Matter: A Disruptive Life Stage Puts Their Consumer Behavior in Play.”

Many boomers have introduced a digital element into their shopping process, though less so than younger consumers.

Prepurchase research online is now common among boomers. A December 2013 survey by Prosper Insights & Analytics found that nearly half of US boomer internet users researched online before buying electronics. More than one-fifth said they did this before purchasing apparel or appliances.

Boomers’ online research has a distinct generational flavor. In a February 2014 survey by Market Strategies International, they were more likely than millennials to use “consumer websites and publications” and much more likely to cite these as “primary” sources. Boomers were correspondingly less inclined to rely on social media.

For some US boomers, research continues in-store—and, at times, diverts purchases to online venues. In Harris Interactive polling in November 2013, 44% of boomers said they showroomed. Looking at the matter from a slightly different angle, yearlong Experian Marketing Services research (concluded in December 2013) found nearly three in 10 boomers would seek a better deal online if they saw something they wanted while in-store.

In-store or otherwise, many boomers go beyond research to transact purchases online. However, comparatively few see their online purchases crowding out in-store purchasing. In January 2014 polling by Deloitte, 18% of 60- to 70-year-olds vs. 45% of 21- to 29-year-olds agreed that “Online purchases are displacing purchases I used to make at my preferred brick-and-mortar retailer for stock-up purchases.”

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “How Boomers Still Matter: A Disruptive Life Stage Puts Their Consumer Behavior in Play.”

This report answers these key questions:

  • What financial shape are boomers in? Do they have enough money for retirement?
  • Where will boomers live as they get older?
  • How are their expenditures shifting in categories that range from food to cars?
  • Are boomers locked into brand loyalties?

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer corporate subscribers.

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