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how to use generational marketing

Staying relevant in today’s hyper-connected world is growing increasingly difficult as users become more segmented and niche: 

  • How do you stay abreast of changing attitudes and shopping preferences, especially against a backdrop of shifting demographics?
  • How can you reach the most people (at the lowest cost) while still addressing their needs and lifestyles?

The answer lies in generational marketing — a powerful approach that factors demographic segmentation into all of your outreach efforts.

In effect, generational marketing allows you to target messages so they appeal to the needs, wants, and desires of specific age groups.

How to Use Generational Marketing Across the Top 3 Demographic Groups

This article explores how generational marketing can be used to attract and retain customers across three of the largest demographic groups — millennials, Generation X, and baby boomers.[KQ1]

Marketing with Millennials

Born between 1981 and 1999, millennials are officially the largest demographic group in the United States — with an estimated $200 billion [WU2] in annual purchasing power.

The question is: How do you reach (and retain) these younger shoppers?

It helps to keep in mind that most millennials can’t remember when the Internet didn’t exist. In fact, they’re arguably the most tech-savvy, phone-obsessed, on-demand generation of all time.

Here are some best practices for attracting millennial consumers:

  • They value experiences over ownership. If you sell physical items only, consider adding experiential components such as rental options or free workshops.
  • They value social justice over economics. Therefore, don’t be afraid to highlight charitable causes or activism your company supports.
  • They value authenticity over salesmanship. Remember, millennials were born into the Internet and can spot scams from a mile away. You’re better off improving your Yelp reviews than hiring a slick copywriter.

To keep millennials coming back, consider using rewards. This age group was entering the workforce around the 2008 recession. As such, they’re understandably money-conscious, responding well to discounts and promotions.

But to make this work, all of the above must be delivered seamlessly through smart devices. Millennials are the most phone-dependent of any age group on this list.

Marketing with Generation X

Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation Xers feel equally at home in the analog and digital worlds:

  • They still remember the days of paper checks, encyclopedias, and rotary phones.
  • They grew into the Internet and are often early adapters when new technologies are introduced.

Here are some useful tips when marketing to Gen X:

  • Generation Xers are in their 40s and 50s — many with kids, mortgages, and careers to juggle. Anything you can do to make their lives easier will yield positive results, such as offering free shipping.
  • Email remains the dominant communication medium for this age group, with 87% preferring [WU3] it over any other technology (including Facebook). As such, Generation Xers are ideally suited for traditional email marketing.
  • Since Generation X includes some of the most environmentally conscious users, highlighting your support of eco-friendly causes can help. Above all, avoid direct mail or marketing approaches that rely heavily on material inputs (such as paper).

Retaining Gen X shoppers is easy, provided you continue to add customers to your ever-growing email list. As long as you offer well-timed discounts and rewards, many of those users will keep coming back.

Marketing with Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomer population is no longer the largest age group. However, this demographic segment wields the greatest purchasing power — spending more than $3 trillion [WU4] annually. In fact, those older than 50 account for nearly half [WU5] of all consumer sales in the U.S.

The really good news is that baby boomers still respond favorably to traditional forms of outreach such as:

  • Direct marketing (i.e., mailed offers)
  • Face-to-face or phone-based sales

The key is to cultivate personal relationships around loyalty, rewards and excellent service. Most baby boomers would rather hear from a human being than interface with a machine.

Despite their reputation for being “technophobic,” nearly 90% [WU6] of baby boomers prefer email over any other form of communication. This means email marketing is a great way to stay connected with folks in this age group.

In Summary

Just because someone is born in a certain year doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will automatically respond to your marketing messages. This is true even if your outreach comes with a well-crafted, well-intentioned demographic slant.

But using these broad overviews that tap consumer psychology can help guide your marketing efforts in today’s increasingly segmented business landscape.

You won’t convert everyone, but generational marketing allows you to reach the widest audience possible — using language, channels, and incentives that speak to their individual needs.

kristen-gramigna-first-data200Kristen Gramigna is a Senior VP on the Digital Marketing Team for First Data Merchant Services, a global leader in payment technology and commerce solutions. She brings 25 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing.

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