Whatever the cultural differences are that separate baby boomers from their millennial counterparts, the Internet is the great equalizer.
Certainly Generation Y has adopted the Internet as their own if for no other reason than they were born at a time when the technology first blossomed and became ubiquitous, and it has continued unabated since then.
That their parents and grandparents have taken to it with equal aplomb may be the more curious development, yet when it comes to their shopping habits, both age groups are more alike than different.
Because of its breadth and depth, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is the preferred online shopping site for those born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s as well as those born between 1980 and 2000. According to the market analysts at Prosper Insight & Analytics, which conducted a survey of 6,246 adult consumers, millennials embraced the e-commerce giant by a wide margin, with 62.2% of them choosing it as their favorite destination to shop while somewhat fewer baby boomers, or 52.9%, also chose Amazon as their preferred place to buy online.
No doubt that helps explain why net product sales at Amazon surged almost 22% in 2013, hitting $60.9 billion, and is up another 23% over the first six months of this year. As we head into the all-important Christmas shopping season, it's easy to wonder at what sales record Amazon will break next.
Both cohorts also picked Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) as their second favorite place to shop, with just over 14% of millennials picking it compared to 13% of baby boomers.
In fact, four of the top five favorite online retailers were the same regardless of age group, with Best Buy and eBay landing on both lists, though boomers preferred the electronics superstore more more than millennials did. All in all, though, the differences were negligible.
The real difference between the age groups was in their third favorite place to visit.
Can you guess who they are? They might not be for the reasons you think.
Millennials are supposed to be tech savvy and highly attuned to social media. Yet it's the baby boomer's third most popular online destination that has over 23 million "likes" on Facebook, has 1.38 million people following it on Twitter, and is the 77th most visited website in the U.S. according to Web analytics firm Alexa.
The millennials choice, in comparison, has half the number of Facebook likes, a quarter of the Twitter followers, and ranks 195th among U.S. web traffic, according to Aleza.
It would seem whatever the reasons are behind their respective choices, it's not because of how tied in they are to the Internet.
With those hints, do you have your guess?
Those two companies represented their respective third favorite online retailers behind Amazon and Wal-Mart, with both age groups choosing their companies by an amazingly equal percentage: 7.2% of millennials preferred Kohl's; 7.3% of boomers chose Target.
Could the difference be that Kohl's is simply seen as more fashionable than Target?
Retail loyalty program provider PunchTab says fashion-related loyalty programs ranks high in preferences for millennials, with 74% of Gen Y women being members of one and 52% of men.
Although Target's REDcard loyalty program with its 5% cashback bonus is very popular (or it was until its accounts were hacked last year), more than half of millennial women (51%) look for "exclusive access to events and products as the most desirable type of experience rewards." They also want perks like personal shoppers, and they want to earn their rewards fast.
Yet the real key seems to be men. Millennial women like the loyalty programs, in order, from Victoria's Secret, Kohl's, and Target, while males chose Kohl's, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Target. But millennial men spend twice as much on fashion as their elder counterparts.
So even though Target is ranking high on everyone's lists, it's Kohl's appeal to men that puts it over the top with millennials.
With millennials having some $600 billion in annual spending power and relying more upon brand names when seeking product information and recommendationsKohl's may be a surprise turnaround prospect that beats Wall Street's expectations as we head into the holiday season -- despite its rather high-profile stumbles in recent quarters,
It may also define whether you are a millennial or a baby boomer.
Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, eBay, Facebook, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, eBay, Facebook, and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.