From Gen Z to Silents—How to engage all consumers this holiday season

It’s that time of year again. We’re all getting ready for holiday 2019.

Consumers will soon be embarking on their holiday shopping journeys, and they will engage with your brand in multiple channels along the way. We know that they have high expectations for seamless experiences on these omnichannel paths to purchase—but not everyone has the same high expectations.

Each generation has different preferences and behaviors when it comes to shopping. Our recent report, Age matters: A guide to cross-generational marketing, explores these nuances, and here, we’ll explore how you can apply them to connect across generations this holiday season.

Not sure who’s a gen X versus millennial? And what’s a silent, anyway? Let’s start with a little level setting:

  • Gen Z minors: Born after 2000
  • Gen Z adults: Born 1994–2000
  • Millennials: Born 1983–1993
  • Gen X: Born 1964–1982
  • Boomers: Born 1943–1963
  • Silent: Born before 1943

Now, let’s dig into the details.

Holiday tip 1: Don’t neglect the older generations

If you’re under the impression that younger generations shop more, you’d be right. On average, gen Z takes the most trips to the checkout each year, followed closely by millennials.

However, you don’t want to forget older generations this holiday season. Baby boomers are spending heavyweights, accounting for 39% of all retail spend each year. Gen X isn’t far behind with 25%. Contrast this to gen Z, who only account for 1% of total retail spend. Although they make fewer transactions than younger generations, boomers and gen X spend more with each transaction.

Holiday tip 2: Tailor your digital strategy

Seventy-five percent of consumers say they will shop online this holiday season. But each generation shops differently. You can connect with each generation more effectively by understanding their digital habits and preferences.

Generation Z

Not surprisingly, gen Z spends more with industry disruptors such as Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Spotify and iTunes—demonstrating their comfort with tech and a desire for personalized experiences. About 75% of this generation use smartphones to shop online—more than any other generation. Gen Z is also twice as likely to use an online-only store or brand website than any other generation.

You’ll want to increase and optimize your digital connections—especially mobile—for this generation. Focus not only on a personalized experience, but an individualized experience for each person. This group expects highly relevant, 1:You experiences from your brand in all the channels they frequent.


This group spends more online than other generations, including Amazon, Gilt and Zappos, and enjoy the shipping convenience. In fact, they’re the only generation that does not over-index on in-store shopping experiences—they shop in-store and online equally. Millennials make heavy use of self-service offerings, and up to 80% of the group uses search daily or more (preferring Google).

You’ll want to keep in touch with millennials throughout the holiday season via digital channels and email. Focus on ongoing promotions as this group makes multiple, smaller purchases. Highlight your conveniences (like free shipping and returns) and self-service options, and don’t forget to implement a robust search strategy.

Gen X

Gen X is largely ignored by marketers, but they spend the next highest amount behind boomers. Gen X is looking for convenience, spending more in warehouse clubs than any other generation. Focus on your product offering so gen X can see your brand as a place they can get a lot of shopping done.

Gen Xers with kids are more likely to use voice assistants, shop on smartphones and use Facebook and Instagram. Consider connecting with them in these other channels that may traditionally apply to their younger counterparts.


Baby boomers are spending heavyweights due to their population, higher incomes and large family sizes—but they spend more in fewer transactions. Older generations like boomers prefer in-store shopping to experience products and for easy returns. Interestingly, boomers with kids are more likely to shop online (42%) than boomers without (33%).

You’ll want to determine what coveted gifts boomers are after—then put your best foot forward. With fewer and larger purchases, these shoppers are probably waiting for the best offer on the gifts they seek. Use digital messaging that encourages them to visit your store to “try before you buy.” Consider digital messaging and creative that includes adult children.


The silent generation doesn’t spend much. When they do, it’s selective and with the intention of enhancing life, investing in travel and education. Only 38% of silents spend on Amazon, making them the least likely to shop there of any generation. 

Use inspirational messaging and creative that’s focused on how your giftable products can enhance the lives of their loved ones. This generation is a good opportunity to highlight in-store promotions, as they aren’t as likely to shop online. 

Holiday Tip 3: Bring digital conveniences in store

According to 2018 US Census data, physical stores account for nearly 90% of all retail sales, physical stores are a vital channel for customers. Around the holiday season, people specifically look to physical stores for a great experience and for conveniences, like free gift wrapping and entertainment.

In fact, going to stores is preferable for almost every generation except millennials (which is not to say they don’t shop in-store; instead, the data shows they shop in-store and online equally). Even gen Z likes to shop in-store for purchase speed and the social aspect of shopping with friends.

But there are some challenges to in-store as well.  

1. The lines!

Forty-seven percent of customers selected “the ability to check out without having to wait in line” when asked what service or experience they would most prefer.

Providing technological conveniences like mobile checkout and digital wallets will help you to improve your in-store experience—especially for younger generations that want self-service. Research shows that it drives high satisfaction for users even though adoption is still a bit low.

2. Finding help and getting service.

According to Epsilon’s Shopper’s Voice survey, Forty-eight percent of customers ages 16 to 24 look to a store associate to find out about a store’s offers, promotions, or discounts, for example. Unfortunately, six percent of all possible sales are lost because of a lack of service.

The opportunity here is to take advantage of “brick-and-mobile” shopping to make sure relevant services and assistance are close at hand—online and off. Customers under age 35 are 34% more likely than older customers to use a mobile device in the store. Send timely email promotions when you know your customer may need a coupon to incentivize an in-store purchase. Complement these efforts with location-level marketing by serving digital media to in-store mobile browsers.

Holiday Tip 4: Give Amazon a run for its money

Nearly everyone loves Amazon, but millennials (62%) and gen Z (61%) are the biggest fans. Amazon Prime is accessed by more millennials and gen X than all other generations. Your brand can still compete with the ecommerce giant by offering conveniences like free shipping and in-store pickup.

According to Epsilon’s Shopper’s Voice survey, free shipping would persuade 33% of Amazon customers to purchase from a different retailer. Fifty-six percent of customers overall say “free shipping” is the promotion they prefer most at checkout, and 91% of the customers surveyed said “free shipping” had at least some influence on their decision to buy.

One third of customers bought items online and picked them up in store last year to save both time and money. Forty-five percent of customers expect to use the service this holiday season.

Bonus Amazon tip: consider upping your digital game. If you can reach customers with highly relevant and timely omnichannel messaging in the places they’re already engaged, you’re more likely to win their business over Amazon.

Take holiday 2019 to the next level

You have the opportunity to connect with the right customers across channels, devices and physical locations this holiday season by tailoring your 2019 holiday marketing to each generation’s preferences.

If you want to dive deeper to learn more about each generation’s shopping habits, check out our report: Age matters: A guide to cross-generational marketing