Each Generation Sees It Differently

According to a Yes Lifecycle Marketing survey of more than 1,000 consumers to outline the distinct shopper personas for Centennials, Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers over the last decade, marketers have adapted to the boom of technology and the introduction of various new marketing channels, while considering how different generations of consumers are responding to these changes. 

Popular views of each generation used to be broadly generalized as: The habits of Baby Boomers and Gen X were considered “the norm,” while Millennials were deemed “digitally savvy,” and Centennials were not yet on the radar. The report shows the current factors that influence their purchase decisions and get actionable strategies on ways to engaging shoppers from each generation. Key findings include:

  • 36% of consumers have opened separate email accounts solely for brand communication. This number jumps to 58% for Millennials but drops to 26% for Baby Boomers
  • 79% of Millennials are more likely than any generation to have made a purchase on Amazon in the past month, followed by Generation X at 69%. 
  • More than 80% of Centennials and 74% of Millennials say social media influences their shopping, compared to only 58% of Generation X and 41% of Baby Boomers.

Considering 2017, the tides have changed. Baby Boomers are spending less as they retire, Generation X is more financially powerful than ever, and Millennials are now building careers and families and hold much higher spending power than they did just a few years ago. And as Centennials enter the mix, shopping behavior has become more differentiated.

The problem that marketers face in effectively communicating with shoppers in every age group is that each generation’s buying habits, from research to purchase, vary significantly due to the evolution of technology over the last decade. Along with that, each generation holds a different set of expectations for what marketers should deliver. Further complicating matters, these expectations vary by channel as well, says the report.

CENTENNIALS: The Experience Generation

This youngest group of shoppers wants authentic brand experiences across all channels, and values quality over price or convenience. As digital natives, Centennials (consumers under the age of 21) don’t engage in the traditional customer service channels (such as phone or email), but they still expect personalized interactions with brands that understand their needs.

  • 57% of Centennials say quality drives their loyalty to a brand more than any other factor, even more so than price (55%), nearly 10% higher than any other generation. All other generations value price the most
  • 50% of Centennials based their last purchase decision on product quality, more than any other generation. This age group was also influenced more than other generations by free shipping (59%), brand prestige (11%) and special experiences like in-store events (4%)
  • Centennials prefer to find customized gifts for everyone they know (35%) rather than hunt for bargains or make decisions based on convenience

MILLENNIALS: Brand Loyalists

Millennials (ages 22 to 37) stick with the companies they know and trust, demonstrating the most brand loyalty of all the generations. This means they are most open to marketing messages – assuming their interactions are personalized, brands stay true to their promises and their customer loyalty is rewarded.

  • Millennials are more likely than other generations to remain loyal to a brand because of its loyalty rewards (22%) and its company reputation or philosophy (15%)
  • Millennials care about loyalty rewards more than other generations, with 15% saying points influenced their most recent purchase
  • A third of Millennials describe themselves as quality-first shoppers (34%) – on par with those who say they consider price first (34%)
  • Millennials consider themselves thoughtful gift-givers, with 38% spending the time to find unique presents for family and friends
  • Millennials are more likely than any generation to find email (67%) and mobile apps (61%) important when making a purchase decision

GENERATION X: Bargain Hunters

Often considered the forgotten generation, Generation X (ages 38 to 52) is full of deal seekers. They want good buys on quality products, and they expect a convenient path to purchase. This group of consumers is most likely to be influenced by price and cares less about brand loyalty than other generations.

Gen Xers are a mix of younger and older generations. They place highest value on price (55%), followed by quality (45%) and convenience (23%)

  • 85% of Generation X consumers report that discounts influenced their last purchase. But a little less than half recently made a purchase based on product quality (45%)
  • Generation X consumers are the most likely to be bargain hunters (36%) when shopping for others, although a quarter (25%) say they seek out unique gifts for loved ones
  • Generation X values email (59%), and is less interested in other digital channels like social or display

BABY BOOMERS: Price-Savvy Shoppers

Prefer brands that offer wide selections at discounted prices. Not motivated by loyalty programs or unique brand experiences, this generation wants to see a variety of well-priced products that meet their immediate needs.

  • When it comes to factors that drive brand loyalty, Boomers led the generations: price (62%), convenience (30%) and product variety (21%)
  • Convenience influenced Baby Boomers the most for recent purchases (36%), and care less about quality than any other generation
  • Half of Baby Boomers call themselves price-savvy shoppers (50%), far more than younger generations
  • Baby Boomers are the least likely to buy gifts for others around the holidays (12%); when they do, this generation of shoppers mainly looks for bargains (33%)
  • Baby Boomers rank direct mail higher than any other generation (59%), while 59% also say they value email. Only 19% say they value social

The report concludes by noting that, with four generations wielding significant spending power yet vastly different shopping habits, marketers need to target each age group with distinct messaging through different channels. While older generations tend to put price, selection and convenience above all else, younger shoppers want personalized, cross-channel experiences. What’s more, go-to market strategies are often driven by stereotypes for each generation, but as it turns out, many of these stereotypes might be misleading, says the report.

To access the full report with more observations and selections, please visit here.



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