Generational Marketing: Age Appropriate
While at work, you take a small break to check out your favorite website — or maybe just your Facebook News Feed — but you see an advertisement for that new olive oil mayonnaise that you’ve been wanting to try. Do you make a mental note to look for it the next time you’re grocery shopping, or do you seek a way to buy it online right away? How you answer that question is likely to vary based on your age. If you’re older, you may write it down, while younger consumers are more likely to add it to their online shopping carts to hold and purchase later.
Marketers know that messages resonate with target segments differently depending on demographics and psychographics. However, in our omnichannel retail world, the message, channel and shopping journey are also significant considerations for marketers everywhere. These are aligned rather distinctly along generational lines, each demanding different strategies to maximize efficacy.
Static on Channel Z
The biggest mystery and challenge to retailers today is Generation Z, loosely defined as consumers born after 2000. This group lacks large disposable income, but they have more influence with parents and other purse string holders than any other generation before them. They also have more actual money to spend. The average monthly allowance for this group is $70 a month, which aggregates to a $44 billion annual market.
Unlike millennials before them who spend most of their money on clothing, Generation Z spends most of its cash on food and beverages. Our research shows that this generation shops for consumer packaged goods online for convenience and speed, so marketers would be wise to keep pace with Generation Z.
Social media isn’t the best way to reach Generation Z … it’s the only way. Making sure that social media mentions are “cart enabled” is important to reaching these shoppers. Rather impervious to ads, sharing information like recipes, tips and relevant articles mentioning brands are most effective when marketing to Generation Z.
Dawn of a New Millennial
It’s official: Numbering 92 million, millennials are the largest generation of consumers. These digital natives are extremely comfortable making purchases online — and generally prefer to do so. They’re more aligned with brands than retailers, and are skilled researchers keen on buying products for the best price and highest service levels. Retailers interested in capturing this burgeoning generation can use brands as bridges to them. Constantly armed with their smartphones, millennials are expert multitaskers that rely on mobile websites and apps for information and purchasing.
Millennials are also highly concerned with social issues. Case in point: 90 percent of them indicate they would switch their usual brand to one associated with a cause they believe in. Content marketing is highly effective with this generation, especially when it feeds their desire to be part of changing the world and aligns them with values that they believe in. Millennials actively share content between both traditional and new social media channels, with a preference toward images that they can easily share on Instagram and Pinterest.
Millennials represent the first generation that’s willing to buy virtually anything online. Eyeglasses, shoes, consumer packaged goods and other products that once seemed firmly tied to the offline world now have a huge opportunity to increase market share among millennials by growing online availability.
X Marks the Spot
Generation X is a hybrid group that sits squarely on the divide between digital and traditional commerce and marketing. It’s the only generation that regularly consumes advertising from social media, mobile channels and cable television. There are multiple ways to reach Gen Xers, and they’re worth the effort. Generation X accounts for only 25 percent of the U.S. population, but 31 percent of its income.
This generation is also at the height of its necessity to spend. They own homes, have children and take vacations — all while saving diligently for retirement and college for their kids. Generation X may not have been born digital, but they were early internet adopters and their mobile usage is identical to that of millennials. Since they often buy high-cost consumer durables like cars and appliances, Gen Xers are excellent researchers. Heavy consumers of online video, Gen Xers are receptive to messaging on channels like YouTube, Facebook and email. They love to hunt for discounts, and promotional codes work well with them.
Generation X tends to rely on review sites like Yelp more than social media channels for reviews. Our research shows that Gen Xers cite coupons and promotions as the reason they visit brand websites more than any other generation, though where to buy and selection was most important to all generations. Once they discover a brand they like, Gen X shoppers tend to remain loyal. The best way to hook them is with authenticity and an honest value proposition. Gen Xers can smell a gimmick or trick a mile away.
Here Comes the Boom
Baby boomers are continuing their journeys into retirement, resulting in increased changes to their spending habits. One thing they’re not doing is handing over the reins to caregivers like previous generations did upon entering their senior years. Boomers are healthy, active and sharp — and online. In fact, they spend more time on the internet than they do watching TV.
What’s different about boomers is that the majority of their internet time is spent with computers, not mobile devices. Much of that behavior is driven by what they see on other channels or discover on their own. For example, a boomer might turn to the computer to research something seen on TV, or just to search for products they’re interested in. Paid search is a great way to reach this audience. Once you have them, don’t be afraid of providing too much information. Boomers love to read and want to feel like they fully understand a product before purchasing it.
One important thing to realize about boomers is they must feel safe when providing credit card information and making purchases online — be sure to highlight your brand’s trustworthiness. Accounting for 70 percent of the country’s disposable income and spending $230 billion each year on consumer packaged goods, boomers are the most lucrative market for many companies. This generation is also set to inherit $13 trillion over the next 20 years.
Stratifying generations and applying unique tactics to each one does have its challenges, but there are also a few trends that are affecting the entire market as a whole. All generations visit brand websites for products they’re interested in and seek information on where to buy those products. More than ever before, partnerships between brands and retailers are key to driving sales.
This is especially true online, where all consumers are making purchases more frequently. Younger generations are quick to buy online to save time, while older generations can be brought on board through brands that they trust to refer them to quality online retailers.
Jennifer Silverberg is the CEO of SmartCommerce, an online consumer product goods marketing platform.
Related story: Generation Z: Seeking Engagement at All Levels
Jennifer Silverberg is the CEO of SmartCommerce, the international solution helping leading CPG brands like P&G, Unilever and Nestle own and drive their customers’ online buying experiences. SmartCommerce provides unique, brand-focused solutions that help build brand-customer connections in the rapidly changing CPG marketplace.