The NPD Group Inc., Port Washington, N.Y., partnered with Wharton School’s Baker Retailing Center on a study analyzing purchasing behavior of Millennials, Generation Xers and Boomers. The partnership combines insight by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s Baker Retailing Center, Philadelphia, Pa., and NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking data to address retailers' demand for comprehensive profiles of consumer buying behavior.

“One of the interesting findings is about gift cards,” says Denise Dahlhoff, research director at the Wharton School’s Baker Retailing Center. “We found that the share of Millennials’ spending on gift cards at mass merchants, convenience stores and warehouse clubs is higher than that of other age segments. Meanwhile, GenX shoppers spend a greater share of their department store expenses on gift cards compared to other generations.”

Led by Dahlhoff and NPD Checkout Tracking director Sarah Wittenborn, the study uses historical purchasing data submitted by the same consumers over time. The research shows distinct differences in purchasing patterns across age groups.

For example, at mass merchants, younger Millennials, defined as 18- to 24-year-old consumers, have a stronger focus on technology, video games and accessories. Online, they share an affinity for brands such as Apple and GrubHub. When shopping online, older Millennials between the ages of 25-34 spend relatively more through Seamless, a foodservice delivery app, and Asos, among others. The online shopping habits of Boomers, defined as consumers between the ages of 45-64, seem to be influenced by their offline preferences. These consumers spend relatively more of their online expenses with department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Macy’s.

“While we can point to key similarities in purchase behavior by generation, there are also distinct purchasing differences within generations. Generation, life stage and emerging technology all come together to influence buying decisions. Understanding how they work together can help retailers to connect more effectively with their existing customer base and win new customers,” says Andy Mantis, executive vice president, Checkout Tracking for The NPD Group.

Checkout Tracking is said to be the first service that provides detailed information on consumer buying behavior at the market basket level, based on receipts for both online and brick-and-mortar retail purchases from the same individuals over time. The service delivers precise category, brand and item-level purchase detail linked to buyers and their demographics. This allows Checkout Tracking to analyze competitive market baskets and identify patterns by tracking more than 30 million items each month from more than 50,000 consumers from NPD’s receipt-harvesting mobile phone app and the scanning of more than 2 million active in-boxes for e-receipts.