Who Shops At The Digital Mall?

Who exactly is shopping online? Currently, the Millennial generation easily dominates the world of Internet users. But, what are they spending all of their online time doing? Recently, it was brought to my attention that Millennial may not be the generation of online shoppers that marketers may think that they are. So, I did some digging and here is what I came up with.

According to PEW Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, Generation X is the most active group of online shoppers. In fact, 80% of people between the ages of 33 and 44 are using the Internet for online shopping. They’re the most active online generation when it comes to using the Internet as a tool for shopping and banking. This is a fact that surprised me. Like many, I assumed my Millennial generation would be more apt to partake in these online activities.

Being a Millennial, I would feel a bit lost if I wasn’t logged into the Internet at some point during the day. Therefore I just assumed that shopping online would be the natural progression of things for other people my age. Then I got to thinking about how I spend my time online, and then how my friends spend their time online. The fact is, we are not really shopping online at all. We are spending the majority of our time on social media sites. We are on Facebook updating our status, or on Hulu catching up on our favorite TV show. I found that 75% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 are online using an online social networking site – not shopping (subscription required).

I feel that one explanation for the disparity between Millennial and Generation X’s online shopping habits is simply stage of life. A Gen Xer would typically have a family, a job that requires them to work a longer set of hours, and a house to keep up. All of these things take time and leave less time to go wander around the mall. So, online shopping for Generation X is a function of convenience more than anything else. Millennials have more free time to wander around malls, and spend time on Internet for entertainment purposes, and less for a shopping tool.

As a digital marketer, being aware of how different people are utilizing digital channels is extremely important. Knowing who you are targeting with your digital marketing campaigns – and knowing the best way to stay relevant to these people – will ultimately determine the end result for conversions. So, happy targeting!


  1. Donnell Harmon
    Posted February 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I have to say I was suprised to read people belonging to Generation X were most likely to engage in online shopping. I would have assumed the same thing you did which was that people belonging to Generation Y are so connected online, that naturally they would shop online the most.
    The explanation you gave however, makes complete sense to me. At the end of the day, I spend most of my time on social media sites such as You Tube and Facebook. Thank you for the insightful entry.

  2. Thirty Something
    Posted February 21, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it more likely that the difference in online shopping habits has more to do with general differences in either total household income or disposable income? I bet if you compare income levels regardless of age group, it will be a more significant factor.

  3. Posted March 5, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I think thirty something as a great point on the generational aspect of this.

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