It’s that time of year again. The leaves have fallen, turkey has been consumed and consumers are in the midst of the annual spending frenzy known as holiday shopping. As advertisers and media planners target these consumers and adjust messaging and media plans to better reach them, it’s important to understand how consumers of different age groups shop and how media influences each group. The freshly released IAB Holiday Shopper Playbook coupled with the IAB Digital Shopping Report provide such insights by looking at consumer spending plans and the influence of digital media across different demos that roughly correlate to generations: U.S. Adults 18-34 (Gen Y), Adults 35-54 (Gen X), Adults 55-64 (Boomers) and Adults 65 and older (Silent Generation).
While similarities exist across all age groups, some key differences emerge immediately. First the similarities: Most U.S. adults intend to spend the same amount or more while shopping online during this season as compared to a year ago. 85% of U.S. Adults 18 and older plan to do so, ranging from 86% of 18-54 year olds to 83% of those 55 and older. Additionally, most consumers across all age groups plan to spend at least as much as they did last year on the top retail categories of Clothing and Electronics. Roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults plan to spend at least as much this season as they did last year on Clothing and Shoes and roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults plan to spend the same or more on Electronics. However, Clothing and Electronics spending plans do vary by age group with younger shoppers more likely than older consumers to spend the same or more on Electronics (75% of A18-34 vs. 57% of A65+) and Clothing (82% of A18-34 vs. 71% of A65+ on Children’s Clothing, 78% of A18-34 vs. 63% of A65+ on Shoes).
Beyond spending plans, younger consumers are more prone to being influenced by digital and mobile media than older shoppers are in their Clothing purchases. Overall, 1 in 4 U.S. adults report that they are influenced by Email Ads and 1 in 5 by Internet Ads in their Clothing purchases. More U.S. adults are influenced by Email (26%) than Broadcast TV (21%) and more by Internet Ads (19%) than Cable TV (13%) in their Clothing purchases. Digital influence is more pronounced among 18-34 year olds shopping for Clothing: 1 in 3 are Influenced by Email Ads, 1 in 4 by Internet Ads and 1 in 5 by Social Media. This younger demo is also twice as likely as the general adult population to be influenced by Mobile Video, Blogs or Web Radio. 35-54 year olds parallel the general adult population in digital media influence on Clothing purchases and 55-64 year olds are a bit less influenced by these media. Fewer clothing shoppers 65 and older are influenced by any media but twice as many of them are influenced by Internet Ads (10%) than Cable TV (5%).
Consumers show more variety by age group when looking at media influence on Electronics purchases. Across all age groups and all media types, Email ads and Internet ads are among the top 5 influences on Electronics purchases and influence more consumers than Cable TV. Word of Mouth is the #1 purchase influence for all ages except 18-34 year olds for whom in-store promotion is #1. Similarly, reading an article on the product is not a top 5 influence for 18-34 year olds. Interestingly, more 18-34 year olds report that their Electronics purchases are influenced by Internet ads than by TV (Broadcast or Cable). 35-54 year olds mirror the general population in digital media’s influence on their Electronics purchases. Mobile Devices are slightly more influential than Social Media among 55-64 year olds and Email Ads are slightly more influential than Internet Ads for Electronics shoppers 65 and older.
How shoppers use mobile devices also varies by age group. 18-34 year olds are twice as likely as the general population to shop for Clothing (5% vs. 10% A18+) and Electronics (17% vs. 9% A18+) on their Mobile devices. Consumers are more likely to shop for Electronics online than in a store, especially among 18-34 year olds among whom nearly 1 in 3 shops online. While 35-54 year olds are more likely to use their tablet to do any retail activity including making a purchase, 18-34 year olds prefer their smartphone for these activities. 55- 64 year olds are most likely to use a comparison shopping app. Over half of U.S. consumers check prices on their mobile device while in the store with an equal likelihood of them buying at the current retailer or a different retailer. Over two-thirds of 18-34 year olds comparison shop this way and they are most likely to do any related mobile activity in response. After checking prices, younger shoppers (18-34) are more likely to buy at another store; older consumers (55+) are more likely to buy at the same store.
As illustrated in these two reports, consumers of different age groups shop differently. These differences are seen in everything from how much they plan to spend to how they use mobile devices for shopping to how they’re influenced by digital and mobile media. As marketers navigate the holiday shopping season, it’s important to keep in mind the differences between consumers of different ages in order to better serve them and to serve them better ads. The IAB Holiday Shopper Playbook and the IAB Digital Shopping Report highlight the best ways to reach consumers of various age groups across devices and across media, emphasizing the need for a balanced media mix where Internet Ads, Email ads and other digital and mobile media play a key role. Keeping these findings in one’s back pocket when creating a media plan will assist in reaching the right consumers in the right ways.