Perhaps no feature of contemporary American life more defines and distinguishes generations than technology.
Technology divides the population between digital natives and digital immigrants and influences everything from how these legions of consumers learn about new products and services to what drives their purchasing decisions.
Baby Boomers, members of the post-World War II generation whose first encounter with technology was the Etch A Sketch, might appear as different from GenXers, Millennials and Generation Zers as night and day.
And they are.
But while traditional media naturally appeal to Boomers, digital marketing plays an important role in reaching them, according to a study of marketing and generational differences by the ITA Group, an engagement solutions company that creates and manages events, incentives and recognition programs that align and motivate people.
Understanding these distinct generations and what motivates them to adopt a brand and buy products is critical for marketers today. Here are some valuable traits and stats of the four generations from ITA’s research:
- Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, they prefer print ads and direct mail — and yet spend more than 20 hours a week consuming media content, according to ITA, with the majority of that time spent online. There, they respond best to content that is visual and storytelling that is linear. The wealthiest of the four generations, they represent a prime marketing audience.
- Generation X. Fluent in technology, 74.5 percent of the 65.8 million consumers born between 1965 and 1980 are active on social media on a monthly basis, according to eMarketer, and some 79 percent download or stream video online. Because Gen X has an affinity for branding but a preference for coupons, a marketing mix of old school and new channels that include coupons and promotions works best.
- Millennials. Born between 1981 and 1996, this generation, which is gradually outnumbering Baby Boomers in the workplace, is most receptive to online purchasing. But while highly mobile, they’re also savvy shoppers, so don’t expect fast, direct conversions. Across multiple channels, they read reviews, check ratings and seek recommendations from family and peers before purchasing.
- Generation Z. The majority of Gen Zers are still teenagers, notes ITA. Born from the mid-1990s onward, they’re the most technology-driven generation and, as shoppers, have had access to vast amounts of information from an early age and are highly conscious of their impact on humanity and the planet. Ironically, when shopping, according to a study from IBM and the National Retail Federation, 98 percent prefer brick-and-mortar to e-commerce. Still, they toggle among more screens than any other generation and are most receptive to products that are sustainable and responsibly made.
One-size-fits-all marketing campaigns no longer work, according to ITA. Taking their place is generational marketing, a strategy that allows marketers to penetrate deep into each targeted audience in order to deliver the personalized and tailored content that aligns with their particular interests and preferences.