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The Who, The What and The Wear of Fashion and Apparel: Generational Spending

The Who, The What and The Wear of Fashion and Apparel: Generational Spending

eCommerce has exploded over recent years, with online spending predicted to reach $6 trillion by the end of 2022. Retailers are increasingly looking for new and innovative ways to engage with their consumers. With this in mind, Elliott Jacobs, EMEA Commerce Consulting Directing at LiveArea, explores the generational spending trends and how, as over 65s move to the online marketplace, younger generations look towards social media and online influencers to inform their buying decisions.

One major challenge is appealing to an audience that consists of multiple demographics, each rather particular in how they shop.

Today’s main generations include:

  • Generation Z – those born between 1997 – 2015
  • Generation Y (aka Millennials) – those born between 1981 – 1996
  • Generation X – those born between 1965 – 1980
  • Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 – 1964

Every generation is influenced by the world they grew up in and therefore differ in what makes them tick. One similarity is their preference for convenience – particularly when it comes to digital commerce.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way each age group buys fashion and apparel through digital channels. With worldwide apparel sales expected to shoot from $481 billion in 2018 to $713 billion by 2022, fashion is by far the most popular eCommerce category across the digital landscape and in every age group.

However, the category has some obstacles to overcome in the eCommerce universe. Some buyers are hesitant to buy online since they can’t try the clothes on, or feel the materials for themselves – or even simply get that social, in-store shopping experience. Even more interesting, those who shop online are typically younger, and they use different devices than their older counterparts. According to an AARP eCommerce survey,

over 75 percent of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers agree that online fashion serves younger consumers better

In general, 84 percent of Baby Boomers prefer an in-store experience, and when it comes to buying clothes, the hassle of returning items that don’t fit is cited as the number one roadblock to shopping online.

Yearly, Millennials make twice as many fashion purchases online than Boomers, but they spend less per transaction. In fact, the amount spent per transaction rises with age – $101 for Millennials, $160 for Gen X, and $173 for Boomers. Gen X comes out on top when it comes to annual spend, spending over $2,300 on fashion. Millennials are in the middle of the pack ($1,950), with Boomers spending the least at $1,390.

Social media: The not so secret weapon of fashion and apparel

And now for the digital fashion shopping match made in heaven – social media. Social media ads are the second most powerful traffic magnet for fashion, prompting about 50 percent of viewers to visit a brand’s shopping site.

With more than 2 billion active monthly users, Facebook is most popular with Millennials (88 percent of them have a profile), Gen Xers (84 percent), and Boomers (72 percent). According to Cowen and Company, nearly 30 percent of Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest users in the US said they had purchased a product from a brand they discovered on the platforms.

Instagram’s one billion active monthly users are mostly Gen Z and Millennials, with over 50 percent of Gen Zers pointing towards Instagram as the best media to find out about new products, and 53 percent of them actively following brand accounts. When it comes to fashion, retailers like NIKE, ASOS, and Chanel and more have used celebrities as photo and video branding opportunities, as well as promoting user-generated content to create more brand ambassadors online. YouTube has over 1 billion monthly users, reaching more Millennials and Gen Xers a year than any cable network in the US.

Approximately 60 percent of Snapchat users are Gen Zers, with active users opening the app 25+ times a day, amassing more than 10 billion video views per day. Their daily news section of the app is a great space to build brand awareness and create buzz around real-time events or fashion sales, including new fashion lines that would appeal to younger audiences. For example, Adidas recently advertised the release of a new sneaker on a Snapchat show called Fashion 5 Ways – it garnered millions of views and the shoes were sold out within 24 hours. Watchers could swipe up during the video and were redirected straight to the product page, allowing quick checkout directly from the app.

Think differently

If retailers want to lead the way in fashion and apparel, they need to think about how they sell to each generation. New technologies have brought all manner of new opportunities, but it is no longer enough to have an individual buyer journey. Instead, convenience should be at the forefront – after all, the majority of shoppers are looking for a stress-free and convenient experience.


Image credits: Unsplash