Group of young people on their mobile phones

When you’re a retailer – is age really just a number?

Does age really affect how we shop? Actually, yes. While, naturally, each of us is complex and unique in how we think and act, data shows us that certain buying behaviours can be tracked clearly as trends across age groups and demographics.

Our consumer spend data from May is a great example; while spend on socialising in pubs and restaurants saw the most significant growth among 16-24 year olds (+1.4 per cent compared to the same period last year), older consumers spent the most on staycations, with spend from those aged 50-64 up 40.5 per cent.

And, according to new research from Barclaycard, the UK’s youngest shoppers are most likely to abandon their baskets when shopping online...

Meet “Generation Shop-and-Drop”

Our latest data has revealed that Generation Z (aged 18-24) abandon £6.5bn of items in online shopping each year - that’s £3bn more than those over 65, despite there being almost twice as many shoppers in the over-65 demographic. Diving a little deeper into those figures, 69 per cent of Gen Z’ers admit to abandoning baskets, compared to just 42 per cent of over-65s, with baskets also worth twice as much on average - £156.40 compared to £63.90. 

It might not surprise you to learn that clothing is #1 in the list of most often walked-away-from items among 18-24 year olds (40 per cent), with technology (25 per cent) and food and drink trailing in second and third. What might surprise you is that this dynamic doesn’t really shift at all when looking at older demographics; fashion was also the most-abandoned would-be purchase among over-65s.

What makes shoppers of all ages walk away from baskets that are clearly filled with things they like? As we found earlier this year, Barclaycard research showed that window shopping, or the “fantasy basket” trend, spiked during lockdown, as many became more reliant on online shopping than ever before. This led to a staggering £39.4bn of goods being abandoned over the past 12 months, more than double the figure seen in 2018. In that piece of research, high-delivery costs (37 per cent), cyber window shopping (26 per cent) and lengthy authentication processes (24 per cent) were found to be the key reasons for these “high scroll dropouts” to jump ship at the crucial moment. For many, the act of browsing and more or less ‘pretending’ to shop was a fun and soothing enough activity in and of itself.

So, as we look further at how this trend for ‘window shopping’ plays out across different age groups, we see that while Generation Z enjoys virtual window shopping the most (33 per cent), leaving items in their basket with plans to return at a later date. Lengthy payment and authentication also leads them to turn away at the last step. Over 65s on the other hand are more likely to be put off by delivery costs, or there being too many steps in the whole checkout process.

When it comes to shopping, every generation has its quirks 

Interestingly, our research shows the group we look at as our millennials (25 – 34 year olds) actually get whipped up into a shopping frenzy more often that their younger counterparts, shopping 5.4 times during an average week, compared to 4.4 times for 18-24s. 

They may be quick to drop their baskets without a second thought, but Gen Z care. Along with millennials, Gen Z are the most likely to make purchasing decisions based on their values and principles, according to Forbes research, with sustainability a top priority for many.

If you know your demographic cares deeply about certain aspects of their experience, it’s worth accounting for them by sewing them into the fabric of your evolving strategy. As a retailer, you can recalibrate the experience of shopping with your brand to ensure you aren’t losing any sales for reasons within your control. For example, a clothing brand might find that a lot of their young audience have been expressing concerns around fast fashion, then this is an issue to address sooner rather than later. That doesn’t have to mean revising your entire business model, it could mean launching a pre-loved section or your site, making your packaging sustainable, or partnering with a carbon offset business.

As the pandemic continues to have an impact in the retail sector, now is the time to be clear, available and seamless in your operations, tuning into the specific desires and ‘must-haves’ that apply to your target demographic to help ensure those baskets make it through the checkout process. It’s all about crafting a buyer experience that goes above and beyond to cater to the needs of your customers – from product selection to payment.