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Differentiating Buying Behaviour Based on Target Groups

Understanding customers’ buying behaviour is crucial – but much do different target groups vary?

4 minutes

Differentiating relevant target groups based on their specific buying behaviour may not initially sound all that difficult. In reality, however, this is a science in itself - not least since the goal posts are also constantly shifting with new trends and demographic changes. Factors such as the age of consumers and the type of product are useful when analysing the buying behaviour of target groups.

However, there are also various factors that define, and thereby differentiate, the buying behaviour of customers. Among others, these include a person's age group, gender, income and career. These 'hard facts' are then flanked by 'soft facts', which are not as easy to define in simple terms and include: personal buying motives, interests in product types, frequency of purchases, timing of purchases and also the type of purchase (online or in a physical shop). It is important to differentiate between the terms 'buying behaviour' and 'consumer behaviour' here – whereby the latter encompasses the use or consumption of all services or goods, regardless of whether this involves something purchased, a gift or something home-made. Among other things, buying behaviour includes the obligation to pay a purchase price. However, defining a target audience and then determining their buying behaviour are no easy tasks. As such, it is a good idea to be familiar with the associated developments and characteristics, so that you can align your sales strategies accordingly. Buying behaviour can be broken down by type, yet also by age group.

Types of Buying Behaviour Across All Age Groups

If we exclude age-based preferences, buying behaviour can generally be categorised on the basis of five types: 

1. Impulsive buying behaviour

Impulsive buying behaviour describes purely spontaneous purchases. These are generally made within seconds and strongly visual in nature. This might involve a customer buying a magazine they notice while waiting to pay for another item at the checkout or spontaneously deciding to buy something they previously saw in the display window. However, impulse purchases are not limited only to physical shops. Online shops can also benefit, particularly when using attractive advertising. Impulse purchases are not planned. 

2. Habitual buying behaviour

This buying behaviour primarily applies to day-to-day items that are bought regularly, such as toiletries or groceries. Customers are typically not interested in trying out new things here.

3. Limited decision-making

Here, consumers spend time researching a product they are interested in. However, they do not focus on all the facts and alternatives, but rather reach a decision at a certain point. One example of this is when customers become aware of the features that a product should have, but then choose to buy a product from a familiar brand rather than checking out what other sellers have to offer.

4. Extended decision-making

This describes a process in which customers examine the product in question and all the options before deciding what to buy. These are often articles with a long useful life that offer real benefits for everyday life and are expensive.

5. Variety-seeking buying behaviour

A person displaying this kind of buying behaviour is not focused on just one specific product and instead prefers to mix things up in terms of the items they buy. In many cases, customers have already learned all about the respective product in advance, even if the motivation for this is impulsive. This often involves comparing brands with one another.

It is important to note that not every purchase of a special product segment can be classified as a buying behaviour type. When purchasing the same product, customers can display various motivations and thereby also different buying behaviour in some cases.

Diffentiating Buying Behaviour by Age

Alongside the five types of buying behaviour described, age also plays a part in terms of specific buying behaviour. While it is not possible to state accurately which age groups and which ranges consumers should be assigned to, it is clear is that teenagers and young adults for example represent target groups with special buying behaviour.

Young People Influenced by Bloggers

The youth target audience is generally considered volatile. In other words, they are rather erratic in terms of their usage and buying behaviour. Groceries and clothing are the two product categories in which young people spend most money. In addition to this, girls tend to spend a lot on beauty and grooming products, while boys are generally more interested in video games. Music and movies also rank among the most popular cost items. With regard to the type of shopping (online or in-shop), the coronavirus pandemic has led to situation in which one in three young people in Germany are doing more of their shopping online than before.¹ Social media bloggers on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have a particular influence on the shopping behaviour of young people. Traditional advertising, on the other hand, has less influence here. Bloggers communicate with young people, explaining what they should be using. According to the Postbank Digital Youth Survey 2019, over 50 percent of young people aged between 16 and 18 bought at least one product based on influencer advertising within a six-month period. Bloggers thereby influence the purchasing decisions of young customers. On average, young people spend €54 per month on online shopping platforms.

Discerning Millennials

Today's young adults – the so-called millennials – were the first generation to grow with digital media. For this group, online shopping is completely natural and impulse purchases are also nothing unusual. Fast delivery is considered particularly important here. Influencers can also have a major impact on this generation in terms of opinion forming when it comes to consumer products. However, millennials are not fully fixated on digital channels, as they also enjoy strolling around brick and mortar retail shops - although they often still take a closer look at products online before making their way to the shop. New products and innovations are very popular among this target group, but even these can be topped by personalisation of products. In terms of shopping, millennials can best be described as discerning. However, they are also keen to make the whole shopping process as uncomplicated as possible and ideally also like to be entertained during the process.

An Ageing Population

In comparison with youngsters and young adults, differentiating the shopping behaviour of older citizens is far less selective, as the various lifestyles and life journeys influence shopping behaviour here. In addition, the population in Germany is getting older – partly due to increased life expectancy and partly due to the low birth rate. Accordingly, almost half of all German citizens will be aged 50 or older by 2035, so older consumers are becoming increasingly important. However, these age groups are not only relevant due to their increasing numbers, but also due to their impressive purchasing power. Indeed, people in this older audience often enjoy greater wealth than their young counterparts. This target group is also becoming increasingly open to new concepts and innovation, while aspiring to live an active, self-determined way of life. At the same time, they are generally in gainful employment but vary quite markedly as a result of different life courses, values and experience. The values they have developed over the years play a particularly important part in terms of their buying behaviour.

The Golden Age Feels Young at Heart

In the target audience of senior citizens, perceived age is one of the key factors in terms of consumer behaviour.² As such, it is well worth examining not just the actual age of these citizens when seeking to differentiate consumer behaviour. For example, the younger they feel, the more positively senior citizens react to the marketing activities aimed at them. Their perceived age is dependent on their physical circumstances, as well as social contexts. Those aged between 60 and 70 typically feel up to 9 years younger. This generation is also spending-savvy and often has a keen thirst for information. Alongside an appealing presentation, detailed descriptions of the products in question should therefore also be available. Above all, this audience appreciates professional consultation at eye level. They also reach their purchase decisions on the basis of direct benefits associated with the product or services, such as delivery or installation. However, older people are typically more distrustful than young people when it comes to online shopping, although they are now making increased use of online opportunities. The main factor holding this target group back from being more active in terms of online shopping is the risk of falling for a scam. The 60-plus generation places great emphasis on data protection. When it comes to online shopping, most senior citizens prefer the payment on account option, despite the fact that more and more shops now accept PayPal. The older target groups include both price-conscious shoppers, who are less interested in specific brands and prefer to focus on durability, and convenience-focused individualists with a healthy appetite for consumption, whose primary concerns are quality, design and brand names but do not focus as much on prices.

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Source ¹: ; Source ²: study conducted by ARD