Straight From The Consumer: Millennial and Gen X Shopping Behaviors Amid the Coronavirus and Ways Your Brand Can Adjust | Coronavirus Series

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series that explores the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on the world of ecommerce. Explore daily insights surrounding the coronavirus crisis or check out these additional resources to help you navigate your marketing strategy during this time.

Over the course of the last three weeks, Klaviyo has been collecting ecommerce and consumer data to help our community of brand builders during these trying times.

We’ve polled and interviewed thousands of brands and partners from our Klaviyo community, along with many consumers for an additional point of view. We’ve crunched the numbers to see how this pandemic is having an impact worldwide on shopper behavior and business. 

To get a better understanding of how consumer behavior is changing, we went old-school. We took the data from our consumer polls, organized it in a spreadsheet, and created personas to help break down what we’ve been seeing. 

Today, we’re focusing on millennials and young Generation Xers, those folks who are on the cusp of the millennial and Gen X demographics. In order to understand more about their experiences, we’re looking at three key persona groups: female millennials without kids, male Gen Xers without kids and female Gen Xers with kids. 

Below, you’ll find five questions we asked each group, key takeaways from their responses, and perhaps most importantly, insights on how your brand can reach them more effectively right now. 

Take it from the top, or feel free to jump straight to the interview questions that feel most important to you. You’ll find a key below that will help identify each group’s answer. 

  1. What is the biggest difference in your shopping habits right now?
  2. Were there major purchases you had been planning on buying around now? If so, did you still buy or not and why?
  3. How are you deciding where to shop online these days? Are you shopping at places you’d shopped previously?
  4. Are you seeing delays in arrival for what you are buying? How do you feel about that experience?
  5. Is there anything you’d want brands and companies to know right now?

 

Persona Group Key:

Female Millennials Male Gen Xers Female Gen Xers
Age Group 25-34 35-44 35-44
Location Boston, New York City, Los Angeles Boston, Nevada Boston suburbs
Job Titles Marketer, Investment Banker, Defense Contractor, Instacart Shopper Key Account Manager, Consultant Recruiter for high growth tech companies
Job Status Essential Workers, Remote Workers, Recently Laid Off Remote Workers Remote worker
Kids under the age of 18? NO NO YES

1 | What is the biggest difference in your shopping habits right now?

Female millennials: Now I have more time to think about my decisions. Before, in the store, I had to make a decision quickly. I preferred buying things like jewelry and accessories in person to get the experience of trying them out, but even that has been moved online.

Male Gen Xers: I’m reconsidering everything I’m purchasing now. I’m basically in “essential mode.” Instead of spending on food delivery, I’m cooking more meals from home to try and save money.

Female Gen Xers: We’ve cut all discretionary spending—anything non-essential has been eliminated. We are a family of 4 with school-aged children and full-time employment for both parents who are working from home. We are not spending on childcare or gas since we’re not driving as much. Also, all kid-related expenses are on hold, such as swimming and boxing lessons. We’ve been shopping for more kid activities to do at home because we’re desperate to keep them active and engaged. We bought a new tennis racket for our younger son, which we consider longer-term investment anyhow.

Key takeaways

  • People are doing more planning and research before purchasing.
  • Consumers are shifting to essentials and new essentials.
  • Those with children are looking to purchase activities that will be useful in the long term.

 

How can brands adapt to new shopping habits?

Consumers are generally focused on purchasing essentials and new essential items right now, like food and beverages, health and wellness, fitness, toys and hobbies, and beauty and grooming products. Though Klaviyo has seen revenue spikes in categories such as toys and hobbies, electronics, fitness, and beauty and grooming to name a few, these age groups are still being a little more conservative with their spending.

While offering value to customers is always important, these days it’s more critical than ever. Since consumers are being more methodical with their purchases, it helps to show how products might fit into their newly adapted routines. For example, these days an at-home spa treatment offers more than just its direct benefits: To a mom who’s been figuring out homeschooling and juggling a constant houseful of kids, it might represent a much-needed mini-escape. 

As lifestyles change and familiar products take on new roles, it may help to adjust your marketing to reflect how your products meet customers’ evolving needs. Another way to approach this is by helping customers make sure they’re getting the most out of your offerings. For example, check out how Klaviyo customer brand Youth to the People is engaging customers and adding value with personalized consultations. A bit of extra attention can go a long way.

Example: Youth to the People virtual skin consultations

youth to the people

2 | Were there major purchases you had been planning on making around this time? If so, did you still buy or not, and why?

Female millennials: A lot of the major purchases I had planned have been put on hold. I had planned to do a lot of wedding-related purchasing around now that will just be put on hold until things go back to normal. And [there are] some things around my house that I either can’t do right now or just don’t seem as important.

Male Gen Xers: My wife and I are expecting a baby in 5-7 weeks, so you could say we need to make some big purchases for the baby, because it’s coming no matter what! We budgeted for this, and since canceling the baby shower, gifts have been delivered to our home. We were also planning on purchasing a new car, but this will definitely not be happening any time soon.

Female Gen Xers: We were going to get a new car in August—that’s now indefinitely on hold.

Key takeaways

  • Customers are putting major purchases on hold when possible.

 

How can brands who sell big-ticket items adapt?

Even though consumers are putting big-ticket items like cars and trips on hold, it doesn’t mean they will forever. Now is the perfect time to focus on building customer relationships with automations—or as we call them in Klaviyo, flows. 

For example, you might experiment with changing up the content of your abandoned cart messages. Rather than just mentioning the “abandoned” item(s), you could switch it up by including information like product comparisons, how-to videos, helpful blog content, or best practices. All this information adds value to the experience and can let your customers know that the items that they’re eyeing will be here for them when the time is right to buy. With a bit of empathy, your content can help them formulate a plan for when they are ready to complete that purchase. As Bill Gates puts it, “Patience is a key element of success.”

3 | How are you deciding where to shop online these days? Are you shopping at places you’d shopped previously?

Female millennials: I have more time than usual. I can spend more time looking at different products. Also, Instagram’s targeting has gotten really good. I keep finding things that I want to buy from there.

Male Gen Xers: Where I have shopped online really hasn’t changed that much. I did, however, get a recommendation from a work colleague about where to buy a kettlebell, because I wanted to get involved with some of those from my work who were doing virtual workouts. Normally, I would buy something like this on Amazon, but I wanted the same exact one my friend had purchased, so I ended up buying from a brand that I could trust, even if it meant it would take a little longer to arrive.

Female Gen Xers: There is a hair product I use that I normally buy at the salon. I switched the brand and purchased it on Amazon, but it was a fraudulent hair product and now don’t trust it—it came in sketchy packaging and was clearly watered down and fake, so now I only buy directly from the company. This has led to me trying a new brand because I could buy it straight from their website and they had free shipping.

Key takeaways

  • Social media still remains a great channel for targeting shoppers.
  • Word-of-mouth and referrals are crucial during this time.
  • Consumers are wary of purchasing “fake” products.

 

How can brands get in front of new customers and/or keep customers shopping from their online store?

There are tons of ways to engage new and repeat customers who are glued to their phones and computer screens right now. Here are a few:

  1. Try offering customers a discount, reward, or an exclusive peek into a new product for referring a new customer. Yotpo, for instance, allows you to collect and publish reviews, photos, and Q&A that can be used to identify segments and enrich marketing emails. In these times, people are looking at what their friends and family are purchasing so they can feel a sense of connection. Now is a great time to be utilizing your loyal super fans! 
  2. Make the most of SMS messaging to reach your customers in a timely, personalized manner. You might already be using texts to connect with customers, but tools like Klaviyo’s quick and intuitive SMS campaigns feature can help you take your communication one step further with immediate updates on things like shipping, new products, or a simple “hey, we’re thinking of you!”
  3. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have always been huge outlets to promote products on, and these days they play an even bigger role. To stand out from the noise of traditional product ads, try an at-home video demo of your product, or even a virtual event. (For example, if you are a health and fitness brand, you might try hosting a virtual workout.) Partnering with an organization that your product is helping out is another way to get your brand out there and do some good at the same time. Paying it forward goes a long way!

 

4 | Are you seeing delays in arrival for what you are buying? How do you feel about that experience?

Female millennials: I have 1000 percent seen delays. I was stressed out about it, but the company did a great job of sending me multiple emails communicating about the delay, and that helped a lot. They sent me a few emails with similar information about the timeline of when my products would arrive. It made me feel like they hadn’t forgotten about me and my order.

Male Gen Xers: Yes, for sure. We are pretty heavy Amazon buyers and they have had long expected arrival times. It’s unfortunate and frustrating, but fine because there are delays happening everywhere. I don’t really feel like I have another place to go other than Amazon because I could still get another version of an item that will ship faster.

Female Gen Xers: I’m experiencing some delays. I don’t have a formula for knowing what is or isn’t delayed, though. I’m more inclined to buy directly from the brand than to buy from an Amazon, Walmart, or Target online. I’m more attracted to the direct-to-consumer brands because they’re more invested in the shipping and I know I can talk to someone if there’s a problem. That’s not true with big box stores in my experience. Money is more valuable now, so I want the reassurance of knowing I can talk to someone if there’s a problem.

Key takeaways:

  • Delays are definitely happening.
  • Most companies are doing a good job of communicating about delays.
  • Consumers feel frustrated, but many understand.

 

How can brands combat shipping delays?

Right now, delays are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a thoughtful customer experience. If your company is experiencing operational, logistical, or supply chain challenges right now, you can still keep customers engaged, assure them that shipments are on the way, and shape expectations as scenarios change.

For starters, it may help to create a specific segment to keep track of customers who have purchased from your brand during the timeframe of the coronavirus outbreak. Whether they’re new buyers or repeat customers, by messaging them differently or even providing them with a coupon for the future, you can build stronger relationships and show customers how much you value them and appreciate their business.

We also recommend being upfront with your customers when it comes to delays and other challenges. If you are having shipping delays, it’s helpful to mention that on your homepage. Email or text updates can also help keep your customers informed.

Above all, empathy is important. It may take more resources or money to make the situation right for a customer who is inconvenienced, but it could benefit your brand in the long run. Shoppers remember the companies who go the extra mile to help. Investing in that experience now can lead to more valuable customer relationships in the future.

5 | Is there anything you’d want brands and companies to know right now?

Female millennials: I feel like some of the “we’re sorry you’re experiencing this, here’s a 20 percent off coupon” emails come off as pretty fake and ingenuine. On the other hand, I appreciate brands that are donating to causes related to the pandemic. I’ve switched buying some of my food staples from local restaurants instead of grocery stores because the restaurants are donating to local food pantries.

Male Gen Xers: Keep me up to date on what’s going on with your brand. I would prefer to have companies I’m ordering from over-communicate during this time. If what I purchased ended up being a huge inconvenience for me, offer me another accommodation.

Female Gen Xers: I’m at the point where I don’t want all of the brands I’m purchasing from telling me about the virus and what they’re doing about it—I’ve become exhausted [by] the messaging. I understand they are not trying to be tone-deaf during this time, but I personally don’t care if my hair product company is doing a lot for coronavirus. That may sound insensitive, but I’m ready for brands to get back to traditional messaging so we can buy something without it being linked to a tragedy. If we went back 4 weeks this sentiment would be different… Now I feel more like, “Lip gloss brand, just sell me your lipgloss and stop talking about saving the world.”

Key takeaways

  • Make sure product offers feel genuine and avoid sounding opportunistic.
  • Consumers want brands to be upfront and honest.
  • Be empathetic but stay true to who you are as a brand; don’t over-emphasize somber messaging.

 

How can brands be human during this time?

It’s important to remember that everyone is dealing with uncertainty and new challenges these days: Stress, anxiety, sadness, furloughs and layoffs, schedule changes, and the pressure to be productive are all weighing heavily on many people’s shoulders right now. 

In response, it’s now more important than ever for brands to be human: empathetic, kind, transparent, and authentic to your brand’s personality and values. Customers can tell when brands are merely paying lip service or acting opportunistically in light of a sudden event, so it’s best to be careful with your messaging. Communicate with your customers, show them how your product can help, and let them know how much you value them. It’s important to keep in mind that we’ll all get through this together. 

On that note, we’re working hard on a new Klaviyo community forum to help our users connect and keep learning together. For now, you can check out and join any of these Facebook groups for additional help and support:

 

Looking for more information? These resources may be helpful to you as you adjust your marketing strategies to navigate the coronavirus crisis.

Back to Blog Home
Get email marketing insights delivered straight to your inbox.