Shopping Habits and Consumer Behavior in E-Commerce

Essay details

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Rationale of Research on Shopping Habits
  • Aim
  • Objectives
  • Literature Review
  • E-Commerce
  • Generation Cohort 
  • Generational Shopping Habits
  • Shopping Habits of Gen X
    Shopping Habits of Gen Y
    Shopping Habits of Gen Z
  • Consumer Behaviour in Shopping
  • Need for Recognition
    Information Research
    Evaluation of Alternatives
    Purchase Decision
    Post Purchase Evaluation
  • Methodology
  • Inductive or Deductive Approach
  • Primary Research
  • Questionnaire / Surveys
  • Focus Group
    Secondary Data
  • Plan of Work
  • Resource Requirements
    Time Plan
    Ethical Considerations
  • Conclusion


Over the past 20 years the fashion industry has unfolded considerably thus generating a fragmented and highly competitive market (Bhardwaj & Fairhurst, 2010). During this time, a variety of generations have become an integrated part of this pathway, with buying behaviour and shopping habits changing according to a range of demographics. Around 10% of the world population have shopped online at least once. (Jhe, 2014)

Rationale of Research on Shopping Habits

This research will be focused on the online retail sector, and providing a comparison of buying behaviour across the 3 mid-range generations; Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z. Online shopping has increased by 12.7% from 2017-2018 (Williams, 2019) due to the technology era, therefore the author is conducting this research to pinpoint who is contributing to these figures and to explore how different age groups use e-commerce diversely.

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The researcher identified a gap in the literature thus deciding to pursue this research project. Prior research has thoroughly investigated Gen X and Gen Y shopping habits with a small amount scrutinising e-commerce specifically. However little to no research has been undertaken on Gen Z shopping habits, mainly because those who fall into this category only began independently shopping in the past 5-7 years.

In order to develop a deeper understanding of this subject, the proposed research will focus solely on the online shopping aspect rather than retailing as a whole. Findings will be based on primary research conducted by the author, using focus groups and questionnaires. Conclusions drawn from this research can be utilised to adapt and comprehend consumer buying behaviours across all 3 generations and provide current up-to-date information on buyer attitudes.


The aim of this research is to compare and investigate the disparities in consumer buying behaviour of Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z in regard to online shopping.


The objectives required to meet this aim are:

  1. Evaluate and explore the relationship between generations and online shoppers
  2. Apply the cognitive decision-making process and pinpoint the discrepancies between generations and how they undertake each stage
  3. Examine the challenges of online shopping for the cohorts
  4. Conduct a primary research investigation using surveys and focus groups to discover psychology behind purchasing behaviour

Literature Review

A detailed analysis of current literature and previous research on E-Commerce, buying behaviour and consumer perceptions of online shopping will be reviewed here. The author is also going to dissect the different generations being looked at for the aim along with the relevant theory.


E-Commerce is an abbreviation for Electronic Commerce and is single-handedly shifting the business market by offering consumers a faster and simplified way to shop. (Golletz & Ogheden, 2010). E-Commerce is the act of purchasing and selling goods or services on the internet. Aside from this, the internet is also a useful tool to find information on products giving the buyer the opportunity to compare prices and ensure they are receiving the best deal. (Khan, 2016).

The world has endured an electronic change that now alters the way individuals connect with one another, and in turn is affecting the complete value chain. This includes manufacturers, retailers and consumers relationships with one another. (Donathu & Garcia, 1999)

Generation Cohort 

As per the Independent (2019), Generation X is classified as anyone born between 1964-1980, Generation Y or “Millennials” are born between 1981-1996 and Generation Z are from 1997 until now. Inglehart (1977) was the primary instigator of the Generational Cohort Theory, believing that it is important to recognise the correlation of defined attributes and characteristics of every individual generation group as they mostly share unchanged values, beliefs and attitudes for their lifetime. (Chung & Chen, 2019) A generation cohort is organised by the years of birth, usually spanning 10-20 years or equally, the duration of the initial birth group to be born and reproduce. (Lissita & Kol, 2016)

Those who grew up in Generation X are considered to be resourceful (Borges et al, 2006) self-sufficient (Lyons, Duxbury and Higgins, 2007) and the beginning of the technologically adapt (Linnes & Metcalf, 2017). The bulk of those from this generation lives through hard-hitting economic periods like the 1980 recession, hence a committed focused work ethic. (Kraus, 2017)

Generation Y are also classified as millennials and were the first generation where university and higher education was a both popular and favoured route to employment. (Broadbridge, Maxwell & Ogden, 2007) This generation has been regarded as technological savvy (Lissitsa & Kol, 2016) with Howe (2006) identifying they possess 7 core characteristics; special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured and achieving. (Leask, Barron & Fyall, 2013)

Generation Z are the most diverse and technologically minded generation with a large proportion still in education or early employment. (Erwin & Shatto, 2016) Social media has propelled to the forefront of this generation with 2.5 million shares on Facebook, 100 000 tweets and 48 hours of YouTube being created every 60 seconds. (Daugherty & Hoffman, 2014)

Generational Shopping Habits

Shopping Habits of Gen X

This cohort was found to place more importance on wearing fashionable attire than those that came before for example, the Baby Boomers (Pentecost and Andrews, 2010). It has been stated that this cohort is also not enticed by elaborate generalized advertisements, but they would rather prefer simple convenient shopping experience (Himmel, 2008). This generation heavily relies on recommendations from their friends, family and acquaintance’s therefore customer service is important. Generation X look to be informed of all the features and advantages of the product as well why they are required. (Brosdahl & Carpenter, 2011)

Shopping Habits of Gen Y

Generation Y has been pinpointed for having a fondness towards purchasing and shopping, and predominantly impulse buying. This age group who are made up of, for the most part, the full-time workforce, are regarded as “highly attuned and receptive to fashion and shopping environment”. (Pentecost and Andrews, 2010). Social networks are a highly influential aspect of Generation Y shopping habits, with the group being socialized in materialism and obsessed by status seeking consumption (Lissita & Kol, 2016).

Shopping Habits of Gen Z

Gen Z are adequately web-adapt having been brought up with the uprising on technology, thus consumers from this group will educate themselves on the alternatives of their product before purchasing to look for the best possible product to conform to their needs. (Goldberg, 2016)

This age bracket heeds less caution toward price, which is presumably because these consumers did not experience the economic recession the way the others did. 46% of Gen Z buyers indicated that they would look for discounts or coupons online. Generation Z are also unique in the fact that although it is assumed, they prefer online experiences, they have a keen attraction for tangible occurrence’s consequently having admirable opportunities to upload on social media. (Kapusy, 2017)

Consumer Behaviour in Shopping

Kotler and Armstrong (2010) developed the buyers decision making process model that is made up from 5 steps to distinguish consumer behaviour. (Karlberg, 2018) Kotler also highlights that all 5 steps aren’t always considered, especially when partaking in the purchase of a regular product, however when considering a new product or a high value spend all 5 are executed. (Kotler, Wong and Armstrong, 2005)

The 5 steps are as follows:

Need for Recognition

This stage is where the individual recognises there is an issue or problem that they need to rectify. The consumer cultivates a want or need that they need to be fulfilled in order to achieve ultimate satisfaction. (Karlberg, 2018)

Information Research

After identifying the issue, the next step is researching information surrounding your potential purchase. If there is a strong urge to purchase the product this stage is sometimes missed out. The amount of information gathered depends on the force of the consumers drive. (Fahy and Jobber 2012). Kotler considers personal sources have the most powerful influence over consumers as these are trustworthy and dependable. “A survey showed that 78% of consumers found recommendations from others to be the most credible form of endorsement”. (Kotler and Armstrong 2010)

Evaluation of Alternatives

This stage involves identifying what the specific attributes you need your product to have and investigate possible alternatives. It is important to take into consideration that this stage is down to personal preference and the consumers individual desires.

Purchase Decision

During this phase the consumer actually participates in the act of purchasing the product after careful consideration of the alternatives (Kotler & Armstrong, 2010). They are left to look into when and where to purchase from, and as aforementioned influence from family and friends can encourage this decision.

Post Purchase Evaluation

The main aim of this stage is to examine how satisfied a consumer is with the service and/or product received. If the consumer had a positive experience, there is a higher chance they will consider the brand when a related situation occurs thus producing a brand loyalty.


“Research is cumulative in the sense that researchers attempt to build on and improve upon previous work” (Johnson 1992). Research endeavours to gather a current and a modern perspective on an issue and contribute to development of earlier work. From the literature review the author highlighted a gap in the research of online shopping habits across Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z. Generation Z suffers the least amount of research as it is the most modern. To investigate this, statistics from online will be used to support the authors findings from both qualitative and quantitative data.

Inductive or Deductive Approach

The student will adopt a deductive approach rather than an inductive approach to the proposed research. This approach is typically used to test an existing theory and is generally correlated with undertaking qualitative research. (Gabriel, 2013).

Deductive research approach is defined as “developing a hypothesis based on an existing theory, then designing a research strategy to test the hypothesis.” (Wilson, 2010) The researchers chose this as the most appropriate research approach as it avoids any risk of no theory being formulated and can utilise a number of literature sources.

Primary Research

Primary Research occurs when the researcher undertakes the investigation personally. The researcher can gain an up-to-date insight into the area of study, with the advantage of being able to manipulate the questions to gain access to the exact information required for the research. This makes the data more accurate towards the proposed research thus giving the most credible piece of work. This can be done through surveys, questionnaires, interviews and focus groups.

For the research project the author is going to utilise a mixed method primary research investigation to produce surveys which will be sent out to both males and females across the 3 generations. Focus groups will also be used to gain some qualitative data on online shopping behaviours of the 3 generations to analyse in the final thesis.

Quantitative research gathers numerical data that is analysed using mathematical techniques like providing statistics (Apuke, 2017). Qualitative data is concerned with understanding consumer behaviour by collecting data through interviews and focus groups. Qualitative data cannot be measured and is used as a description rather than a statistic. (The Business Dictionary, 2019)

Questionnaire / Surveys

A questionnaire is the most commonly used method of collecting primary research and is usually a sequence of written questions in which the participants provide either yes/no answers or detailed responses. (Bell 1999)

The survey will be mixed method, consisting of both quantative and qualitative questions. This will comprise of yes/no questions, questions with a variety of answers along with the option of an “other” description box and solely description questions. The questionnaire is going to be distributed on social media platforms to grant access to the maximum volume of the target audience.

Focus Group

Focus groups are a qualitative research practice which involves engaging with a predetermined group to ask questions about a particular topic and discover their perceptions on the idea or situation. Focus groups allow multiple opinions from a vast range of social and demographic backgrounds.

The student is planning on conducting focus groups with participants of both genders across the 3 identified generations. This gives the researcher the opportunity to gain an insight first-hand into online shopping differences for all ages and genders as well as highlighting similarities.

Secondary Data

Secondary data is the most commonly used research method as it involves using research already gathered by someone else previously. This can shorten the research time as it is a predominantly faster process, however the information acquired may not be specific to the researcher’s requirements. This method of research is also a valuable source to aid supporting the primary research. Secondary data can come in the form of government publications, websites, books, journals, internal company records and previous thesis or dissertations.

For this project the author is going to use Secondary Research as a foundation to base the Primary Research questions. After identifying the gap in literature, the researcher is planning on founding the questions around mostly unanswered areas.

Plan of Work

Resource Requirements

The research project will not sustain any high costs or require many resources for the student. The majority of literature, journals and books will be sourced in the RGU Library along with any printing. The focus groups will be conducted locally, with the surveys being distributed on social media to avoid printing costs.

Time Plan

To ensure the project was completed within the allocated deadline, a Gantt chart was created which shows timescales for each part of the project and proposed time schedules for future tasks that will contribute to the final thesis. Frequent check-ins with the Thesis Supervisor will also be a priority to ensure that the student remains on schedule. 

Ethical Considerations

As per Robert Gordon University conditions when undertaking any kind of research project, a student project ethical review (SPER) was initiated. The information gathered for the form looks into the requirements whe n handling external opinions and the widespread ethical considerations to consider.


In summation, the key focus of the authors research is to investigate the differences in purchasing behaviours online of those across Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z. The anticipated research is set to achieve both the aim and objectives at the beginning of this paper.

The reviewed literature gives a greater understanding of e-commerce, the 3 generations and their habits, before transcending into specifically their shopping habits. As this a relatively niche subject, there isn’t an abundance of specific literature specifically on the topic, moreover, supporting the authors claim of a gap in literature.

After examining similar studies, the author will have a strong basis to conduct both focus groups and qualitative surveys with individuals across the 3 generational cohorts and of both genders and receive the best possible opportunity to gain insight and achieve the aim of the project.                

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