Factors affecting the online buying behaviour of Millennials and Gen Z

By Priya Chetty & Shruti Thakur on July 26, 2019

The buying process goes through a series of steps, leading to a purchase decision (Ordun and Ordun, 2015). The series of steps that lead to either of the two outcomes is very important for marketers to understand to avoid negative outcomes. To understand these steps, marketers should first assess consumer buying behaviour (Sivakumar and Gunasekaran, 2017). Both millennials (25-39 years old) and Gen Z (4-24 years old) are socially aware and technology-savvy generations.

However, there are clear distinctions in the consumption patterns of Gen Z and Millennials, needs and priorities. Millennials’ perceptions towards quality, relationships and interactions were developed in a more personal way in the late 1990s (Hall, Towers and Shaw, 2017). On the other hand, Gen Z has been online since their childhood and their interaction with society have been highly driven through the internet. Moreover, millennials are more loyal to certain brands as compared to their Gen Z counterparts. As per a survey conducted in 2017, 60% of the millennials’ purchase decisions were based on brand-loyalty. Whereas only 42% of Gen Z showed brand loyal purchase decisions (Bulut, Kökalan Çımrin and Doğan, 2017).

Impact of social media on the online buying behaviour of Millennials

The social media behaviour of Millennials plays a key role in determining their online purchase decision. As Ordun (2015) noticed, the millennials are the ones who are more content-driven on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Social media advertising is better received by millennials than any other advertising medium due to interaction with friends and family, which enables trust. Therefore a variety of advertisements are popular on this medium to target millennials such as sponsored stories, page ads, video ads, comment gift ads, etc. (Pate and Adams, 2013).

Impact of income on online buying

As millennials are the new working generation of today, they have more money and fewer responsibilities, as per Ordun (2015). Fountain and Lamb (2011) also mentioned that due to the better pay structure and higher lifestyle needs, Millennials has the highest numbers of shopper. Due to an increased level of income, more and more Millennials are shopping for their needs and also for luxury. As the generation has become socially active and technology savvy from their early teens, their online shopping behaviour consists of a healthy level of online shopping.

Impact of peer pressure and influencers

As the internet has led millennials to become socially aware of their early teen years, the peer pressure in this group of generation is slightly higher than Gen Z. This leads them to buy products which have been experienced by a friend, family member or a colleague (Papp, 2011). Due to this, many purchase decisions taken by the millennials stem from competed purchases or their peers.

Millennials are also influenced by unknown individual’s experience of a product. Bucic, Harris and Arli (2012) mention that these individuals may range from their known social circle to individual who has big followership.

Impact of shopping experience and social validation on the online buying behaviour of Millennials

According to Sivakumar and Gunasekaran (2017), millennials are not very brand-loyal but highly value the shopping experience. Thus, millennials tend to switch brands based on the quality of the shopping experience.

Millennials share their intention of purchase on their blogs, personal social accounts and ask for reviews and opinions (Yadav, Gupta and Khetrapal, 2018). Millennials validate their purchase decisions with the opinions of their social circle before buying.

Understanding the behaviour of Gen Z

Gen Z individuals are more expressive in their choices and are more comfortable with the dichotomy of having both an online and an offline persona (Priporas, Stylos and Fotiadis, 2017). Members of Gen Z also have a very strong influence on their family members in terms of purchase decisions. They have become a very potent influence in the purchase decisions of people of all ages and income groups.

Social media on the online shopping behaviour of Gen Z

Gen Z is more inclined towards those platforms who have a very high ‘refresh’ time which includes platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. Another major difference between Millennials and Gen Z is brand loyalty (Priporas, Stylos and Fotiadis, 2017).

Gen Z is influenced by the control of their freedom, individuality and social concern. Gen Z has had the longest time on the internet. They have been exposed to the earliest of their lives (Kitchen and Proctor, 2015). Their purchase decisions are largely influenced by social movements, such as freedom, liberalism, gender oneness. A survey conducted by McKinsey showed that Gen Z individuals were more interested in purchasing garments which were unisex, as they did not like gender differentiation as a concept. Gen Z individuals are the ones who largely follow trends like veganism, to showcase that their decisions are based on their perception of what is right or wrong, according to Jain, Vatsa and Jagani (2014).

In-store and online comparison

The purchase decision of Gen Z is largely based on information from various sources that are online and offline. This helps them to assess products and services based on both virtual and physical experiences. Their purchase process is online, while offline stores are limited to a pick-up or delivery point. This behaviour has reduced the importance of offline stores in terms of shopping experience and purchase (Bulut, Kökalan Çımrin and Doğan, 2017).

Impact of interest and response time on the online shopping behaviour of Gen Z

Many studies have corroborated the fact that Gen Z shows interest in a very short period of time and tend to take and change decisions rapidly. Their response time is merely 8 seconds, which means that if they are not interested, they will move forward to the next (Fountain and Lamb, 2011).

Gen Z is relatively young as compared to the Millennials. Their choices, preferences, and needs are evolving and are not yet earning. Their purchase intentions are likely to change over the course of a few years (Bucic, Harris and Arli, 2012). However, their huge social media presence and their relatively easy understanding of the virtual structure provides them with a huge advantage of assessing a product before buying.

Marketing challenge

Both Millennials and Gen Z are very diverse generations and have their own process of assessing products and service. Millennials have grown in the internet era while Gen Z has been born into it. Thus, both generations are very socially aware. Marketing strategies that are based on social validation and are able to engage social influencers and peers will positively impact brand loyalty and sales.


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