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The Modern Buyer: How Baby Boomers and Generation Xers Shop Now

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Verified Blogger
Verified Blogger
Last Edited 11:22:25 AM by Verified Blogger

This is our next installment in “The Modern Buyer” blog series. We’re exploring the current global shopping habits of the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980)—two generational groups that helped pioneer eBay in 1995. By assessing their buying behaviors, we can create experiences that resonate and ultimately help convert more sales.  


First, let’s talk about the tremendous buying power of these two groups. The baby boomer generation consists of 74.9 million adults, and their younger counterparts, Generation X, number 60 million adults. With nearly 135 million people—135 million potential buyers—in this demographic, there’s no denying it’s a group that represents a large opportunity for eBay sellers. More than sheer numbers, there’s a lot of wealth in this group. Together, Gen X and the baby boomer generation represent 65% of net worth in the US.


So, how can sellers make sure they appeal to these two powerful groups of modern buyers? Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider your selling strategies to appeal to these generations.Seller_Seller Center_Mature businesswoman using digital tablet at desk in office.jpg

Baby boomers are online—and they know what they want.

Many baby boomers were among the first wave of eBay buyers and sellers, so you may recognize some of their habits as your own. In general, the generation has adopted the internet more than they often get credit for, with 85% of baby boomers reporting that they research products online and nine out of 10 users reporting that they have made a purchase online.


They can also be more exacting than other generations. According to Micro D, boomers “take their time surfing the web for all kinds of merchandise, products, services, and reviews.” And, a Colloquy survey found that boomers are more likely to write off a retailer for a bad experience.


What eBay sellers can do: Help buyers in these generations see you as a seller they can trust. Having great feedback, striving for Top Rated seller status, and having a clear return policy will make your buyers happy.  


Baby boomers and Gen Xers love a good deal.

All buyers appreciate discounts, but deals are particularly motivating to these generations. According to Synchrony Financial, “75% of baby boomers are more likely to purchase if they have a loyalty discount or coupon.” And, while Generation X is in the peak of their earning potential, they’re also very motivated to keep adding to their savings. These individuals are thinking about retirement, their children’s college expenses, and reaching financial independence. Offering sales events and other deals will attract this audience.


What eBay sellers can do: Appeal to these deal-motivated buyers by increasing your sales events, or adding more discount features throughout the year. And since we just learned that this generation also values a more personal shopping interaction, make an effort to connect with your customers on an individual level when you can.


Baby boomers are highly brand loyal.

Once they find a brand or cause they believe in, they’re fiercely loyal. Selling long-standing brands (think iconic names like Levi’s, Harley Davidson, L’eggs) can reel in the business of baby boomers. But really, any company that offers great, consistent service can earn the love of a baby boomer consumer.


What eBay sellers can do: Practicing diligent communication with buyers of the baby boomer generation can motivate return business. For example, setting up FAQs in your listings is a great start. Set up smart policies, and follow through on them. Your baby boomer buyers will love you for it.


Baby boomers are active on social media.

Over 27 million social network users in the U.S. are over 55 years old, but baby boomers feel most comfortable using social media to research a product, instead of making a purchase. From big purchases to small ones, the baby boomer group takes their time researching before making a purchase. This means they’re comparing vendors, brands and deals, and getting to know and trust a company through social media.

What eBay sellers can do: Look into getting your business active on social media, if you haven’t already. Check out our recent blog post about using Instagram—yes, boomers are on Insta—to promote your business.  


Generation Xers are a highly digital cohort.

It’s estimated that eight in 10 Gen Xers are projected to make a digital purchase by the end of this decade. This eMarketer report states that this group of consumers will naturally use digital tools when shopping—including their mobile devices.


The modern Gen X buyer assumes online retailers will have a mobile presence. “According to Accenture, mCommerce (mobile commerce) accounts for about 35% of all online retail transactions this year, compared to 30% last year.”

What eBay sellers can do: Include the right keywords in your listings, use structured data, and make sure your listings are optimized for mobile shoppers so that they can easily search and shop when it’s convenient for them. Here are three steps to optimize your listings and increase your sales from a previous blog post.


Generation Xers are also highly brand loyal.

Similar to the tendencies of the baby boomer population, Gen Xers also display extreme loyalty to high-quality brands that treat them well. A 2015 survey by CrowdTwist sites that, “nearly half of Gen X internet users polled in North America characterized themselves as extremely or quite loyal to favorite brands.”


What eBay sellers can do: Provide top-notch customer service and products. When your brand treats these customers well, they are more likely to return the favor with repeat business.

These two generations are important buyers that sellers can't afford to overlook. Baby boomers have embraced technology to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. These consumers still have years of buying power ahead of them. Generation Xers shop similarly to baby boomer consumers, but they have big life events to plan for—meaning big purchases to make in the future.


In the nest blog in this series, we’ll be diving deeper into the evolving modern buying experience, and how different generations of buyers shop. Up next, a look at millennials.


What strategies do you employ to appeal to the evolving behaviors of Gen X and baby boomer buyers? Join the conversation on Facebook, on Twitter @eBayforBusiness, or the eBay Community Board.