Not every generation approach spending the same, so when it comes to marketing a growing business, companies can customize their strategies to target different customer demographics. Doing so builds trust with customers through an understanding of not only their shopping habits, but what they desire in a product or service.
Until recently with the rise of the internet, differentiated marketing was something for big companies with large marketing budgets. Now, companies of all sizes can tailor their approaches to marketing and select the most effective advertising channels to create brand awareness and, ultimately, brand loyalty for each generation.
Consumers in the Baby Boomer, post-WWII generation, comprising nearly 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964, grew up in a time of economic growth and self-fulfillment. Initially, Boomers were not cautious about spending and did not fear debt, but with the economic downturn and rising medical and educational costs, they are more careful with their money as they approach retirement.
- What they want: They look for quality and value when they make a purchase. They like to save where they can by bargain hunting and using coupons. They use technology but not as much as younger generations, preferring to communicate through the phone or email.
- The best marketing strategy: They prefer traditional media, looking to television ads and getting their information through direct mail, email and phone. They like discounts and offers, so a great approach is a call to action with coupons or special offers.
Generation X, comprising approximately 60 million people born between 1965 and 1979, grew up in a time when MTV was popular and divorce was common. They witnessed the introduction of the internet and are independent, self-reliant and the best-educated generation.
- What they want: They are savvy consumers who do their research to make informed purchasing decisions. They are skeptical about marketing tactics and have been inundated with advertising, but will become brand loyal when they find a product they like.
- The best marketing strategy: They prefer marketing strategies that outline the benefits of a brand and any savings to be had. They respond to digital promotions, social media advertising and traditional media and like coupons and loyalty/reward programs.
Generation Y, comprising more than 92.7 million people born between 1980 and 1996, came of age in a post-9/11 world and the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression. They grew up around technology and look for instant information and instant gratification.
- What they want: They believe in conscious consumption, avoiding spending money on luxury items. They buy products and services to support causes they believe in, even if they have to pay more. They value speed and on-demand services, but also like personalized products and experiences over material items.
- The best marketing strategy: They respond to companies with a strong online presence and like to interact with the brands they support. They consume from their mobile devices and are not very likely to respond to traditional media. They like Facebook and Instagram and frequently “check-in” to a business to receive coupons and discounts.
Generation Z, comprising 65.2 million people born between 1997 and 2015, is ethnically diverse and globally connected and, in many ways, similar to the millennial generation. They have never lived in a time without the internet and spend more time on their smartphones than any other age group.
- What they want: They are cynical about brands and, like millennials, demand speed and are, of all the generations, the most influenced by social media. They do not look for bargains but want product quality and a social message in what they purchase.
- The best marketing strategy: They prefer quick messages that are snappy, personal and memorable. They love YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram and to have interactive experiences with brands that understand their needs.
While these hints can be helpful, it is important to realize that each generation is comprised of individuals who may not all respond the same. But understanding a few generalities helps target the right consumer to cultivate a relationship and long-lasting brand loyalty. This, in turn, builds trust—and customers like to buy from those they like, know and trust.
Pam King is president/CEO of BBB Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming.