Intent MarketingMarketing Strategies

From Boomers to Millennials – Your Smart Guide to Marketing per Generation

By Ilana Hart
Monday, January 6, 2020

Have you ever had your bank, insurance company or telco provider call you to offer you an upgraded plan or a new service? 

We all have.

Except, they never seem to get it right, do they? 

Like the time you had to sit through a tedious call where the friendly mobile carrier rep went on and on about this amazing feature that would help remind you where you parked your car. 

Only you don’t own a car. 

Totally irrelevant.

We all know that the No. 1 rule of good marketing is: Know your customer. 

You can’t pitch the same offering to everyone, and you can’t use the same marketing channels and content strategy for everyone

This is especially true when it comes to the generational divide. 

Different generations make completely different purchasing decisions, use technology differently, and respond to marketing differently.

Just think about the different processes you and your grandmother go through when buying a new pair of shoes.

How to create a marketing strategy that targets Baby Boomers?

So, how can you leverage the unique traits of each generational group when you’re doing marketing?

Let’s tackle this 1 generation at a time:

How to Market to Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Baby Boomers have more conservative buying habits. 

First, they haven’t fallen as deep into the consumerist culture that pervades today. Second, they tend to think frugally and put a lot of emphasis on prices and savings before purchasing. 

That doesn’t mean that they don’t have money to spend; they actually have a lot of spending power, but they want to make each purchase count.

Don’t fool yourself; most Boomers get how technology works: 

They own a smartphone, use 1 or 2 social media platforms, and most of them own a computer. But they still prefer the in-store buying experience and shy away from self-check-out processes.

Before making a purchase decision, Boomers also do their online research, mostly from a laptop or desktop computer.

According to BRP’s “2019 Consumer Shopping Habits – The Generation Gap report,” this group of traditional consumers in the 55+ age group is focused on finding their desired product at the right price.

While younger generations are driven by online research, Boomers are all about the discounts:

Consumer shopping behavior - motivation Kenshoo
Taken from Marketing Metrics: The Evolution of Consumer Shopping Behavior and the Generation Gap, Kenshoo

So the big question is:

How to Market to Generation X (1965-1980)

Gen X is similar to the Boomers in more ways than one. 

They share the same conservative buying mindset; they research, compare prices, tend to be “married” to specific brands, etc.

But 1 major difference is that Gen Xers have extremely busy lives, juggling family and work, and for them, online purchasing can be a major time saver.

They are professionally well-established, have disposable income, and are willing to spend on services that will make their lives easier, especially if they are parents. 

They’re driven more by practicality and product availability and are less dazzled by marketing personalization tactics.

Gen Xers do extensive research before buying using search engines, online reviews, and social media. In fact, they are big on social media, while also preferring short-form content since there just isn’t enough time in the day to read long-winded articles.

So let’s break it down:

How to Market to Millennials (1981-1996)

Millennials are digital consumers who think and act differently than both of the older generations.

They do most of their research and buying from a smartphone across the various social media channels.

According to Inc.’s “27 Tips for Marketing to Millennials,” Millennials crave an authentic and holistic experience, and more than anything, seek transparency from brands. 

They don’t want to be advertised to but are rather convinced of the true value behind a product or service. They like to feel connected to others, including to the brands they’re buying from.

This is a golden tip when optimizing your marketing strategy for Millennials. Make your company stand for something, your brand meaningful, and your values “on fleek.”

Millennials also want companies to understand their needs, offer a personalized experience, and make the buying experience quick and effective, usually preferring more self-service options.

So it all comes down to this simple question:

How to Market to Generation Z (1997-2010)

Now let’s dive into the uncharted waters of Gen Zers.

These technology-obsessed, social media dwellers, who are responsible for the majority of annual transactions; more than any other generation:

Generational Consumer Spending 2019
Take from Consumer Shopping Trends and Statistics by the Generation, Business 2 Community

Funny stats, considering some of them do not yet own a credit card.

According to a consumer survey by Epsilon, Gen Zers mostly spend their (or their parents’) money on entertainment, retail, and food. They favor brands that put the consumer in control, like Airbnb, Netflix, and Spotify.

They are also big participants in the subscription economy™ Zuora often writes about.

Together, nearly 75% of Gen Z and Millennials use smartphones to shop online, and Gen Z specifically is twice as likely to use an online-only store or brand website than any other generation.

Gen Zers, like Millennials, also seek a highly personalized experience, which is why they prefer to browse online through products that are recommended to them. They also demand an immediate and personal response from service providers, preferably via Instagram messages or Twitter. 

But don’t get it wrong, email and in-person interactions are still highly valued by this insta-everything generation, and they still see shopping as a social activity to do with friends. 

And lastly, they’re not big on blogs. In fact, it is their least preferred channel. 

So if you’re reading this, you’re probably over 23.

Now Mix It Up – Be Pan-Generational

According to BRP’s consumer shopping habits report, the majority of consumers do online research before visiting a store.

In fact, a staggering 90% of traditional consumers and 97% of digital consumers are looking online for information. So, it’s abundantly clear that all types of consumers, no matter which generation they belong to, highly value the wealth of information they can find via search (most likely Google). 

For us marketers, this means that no matter who we’re marketing to, it’s critical to:

  • Set up a strategic search engine marketing strategy
  • Pinpoint our user’s search intent
  • Use this data to create engaging content for each generational group 

It’s the most efficient way to drive them to your website, boost brand visibility, and ensure engagement.

But what happens when different generations reside in the same household? 

Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers—each generation of consumers has its own unique set of buying behaviors, which marketers must address when building their SEO strategy, content plan, and channel marketing mix.

Good question.

Consumer patterns are highly prone to influence. 

Just picture your teenage nephew helping his grandmother shop online for those shoes I mentioned earlier.

“Yes, granny, no need to try it on for size.”

Having kids under 18 (Gen Z) in the home accelerates technology adoption, strengthens brand loyalty, and fuels purchase activity among parents from Gen X and Boomer groups.

So now here is the golden tip:

  • Use multiple channels to target different age groups with the messages that matter most to them.
  • Understand your customers. Are they mostly traditional consumers? Are they more of to the tech-savvy, digital side? Divide your budget accordingly. Offer each type of consumer the right type of content at the right time. Help them make a buying decision whether they are using a mobile device or a laptop.
  • Zoom in on high intent customers. Figure out which keywords they’re searching for, and optimize your website content to increase your visibility in the Google SERP. You can build a side-by-side SEO strategy for each of the different generational groups.

For more tried-and-tested tips from our marketing specialists on how to create a marketing strategy to fit all generations, fill out this short form.

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