, , , ,

A recent survey confirms something we’ve heard all along: You’re using social networking differently than your parents do. While Baby Boomers use the online tools to find a good deal, Generation Y shoppers visit sites for the sensory excitement.

This general assertion stems from three main findings detailed in the study. First, most Baby Boomers (80 percent) choose retailers on the basis of practical decisions, such as price, convenience, or availability. In contrast, only half of the Gen Y respondents indicated the practical considerations were important for them.

Second, the notion of “sharability,” such that users would want to share the experience they have with others they know, is twice as important for Gen Y users than for Baby Boomers. Similarly, the younger crowd takes careful stock of whether they would be fine if others knew they had visited a site.

Third, Generation Y users demand sensory appeal. The site has to be exciting and “make me smile” for it to attract them to shop. The Baby Boomers considered this aspect considerably less important.

The researchers responsible for the survey summarize their findings by referring to a “practicality divide” that reflects the contest between “sensible shoes versus smartphones.” This shorthand description of the differences in generations may be a little oversimplistic, but it helps demonstrate the need for different appeals to different users. Baby Boomers may be heading online, but they are acting very differently than the digital natives.

Discussion Questions:

1. What implications do these findings have for social media providers?

2. What characteristics of the two generations studied might help explain these findings?

Source: Tom Ryan, “Study: Gen Y Bringing Social Networking to Retail,” Retail Wire, March 21, 2012.