Word-of-Mouth A Bigger Purchase Influence For Millennials Than Boomers, Who Rely More on Ads

Radius-Top-Purchase-Influencers-by-Category-Generation-Jan2014A recently-released study from Radius Global Marketing Research identifies some key similarities and differences in shopping habits, preferences, and influences among Millennials (18-32) and Baby Boomers (49-67). One of the key differences pertains the top sources of information that influence purchase decisions. Millennials appear to be more influenced by word-of-mouth than Baby Boomers, while the latter are more reliant on advertising than the younger generation. (For more on influencing Baby Boomers, see the new MarketingCharts Debrief, “Advertising to Baby Boomers: The Why and How” [download page].)

The survey asked respondents which sources of information are influential to them across 4 product categories – apparel, packaged goods, financial products, and big-ticket purchases (such as travel and electronics). Word-of-mouth emerged as the leading purchase influencer (top-2 box score) in each category among Millennials, with search engines also among the top 3 for each category.

Among Boomers, word-of-mouth (WOM) is the top influencer for financial products and big-ticket purchases, but was only third for packaged goods purchases, and fell out of the top 3 for apparel decisions. Interestingly, though, Boomers ranked advertising among the top 3 influencers in each category, giving it top billing for packaged goods decisions.

The strength of WOM isn’t too surprising, given research released last year by Nielsen finding that recommendations are the most-trusted and most-influential information sources among global consumers. Traditional advertising media also figured prominently in that survey.

Meanwhile, the Radius study also turned up some other intriguing data. Among the highlights:

  • Boomers are more likely to have purchased travel products online than Millennials, although both generations generally buy a range of products in retail stores rather than online;
  • Quality is the most important apparel purchase factor for Boomers, while price is tops for Millennials;
  • Millennials are about 4 times more likely to use smartphones to research product information than Boomers, but that doesn’t take away from PC research, as they’re also slightly more likely than Boomers to use a computer to research products; and
  • 9 in 10 female Boomers use Facebook, putting them on par with Millennials’ use.

About the Data: The data is based on an online survey conducted in the summer of 2013 among a nationally representative sample of 738 respondents.