Age Matters – Generational Marketing from Baby Boomers to GenZ


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Every year we see countless studies pinning generation against generation as researchers and retailers alike try to uncover the cultural differences among age groups. Retailers especially need to move at the speed of the changing environment around them, paying attention to these cultural divides as they look to generate sales across age groups. To move beyond simply marketing different products to different generations, retail marketers also need to consider the varying shopping habits of each.

From Boomers to the elusive GenZ-ers, below are some insights from recent cross-generational shopping trends research that can help retailers better understand who they’re marketing to – and create more insightful and personalized email marketing campaigns that target each generation appropriately.

Baby Boomers: New Tactics, New Products
The oldest of the group, Baby Boomers have been under the microscope for some time in terms of their shopping habits. While they may stick to traditional shopping methods, such as shopping in-store or from a physical catalog, retail marketers should incorporate new engagement tactics, especially when it comes to email.

For example, Colloquy found that just 37 percent of baby boomers said they’re likely to look around a store for new products. If this discovery behavior carries over to the online store, marketers need to get creative about how they expose more products to this generation. One way to do this is through strategic email marketing that takes each customer on a journey to show them products they are interested in today while conditioning them for future purchases in different categories.

GenX: Customer Experience Matters
Generation X is an interesting age group since it is sandwiched between two major and very distinct generations, Baby Boomers and Millennials. While they may not be as tech-savvy as Generation Y and Z, GenX represents a huge presence that retail marketers need to consider. And for this generation, customer experience is a huge priority, according to a study from the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC). In fact, the research found that 86 percent of Generation X-ers would switch to a competitor due to poor service. Essentially, brand loyalty hinges on the customer experience when it comes to this generation.

Customer experience encompasses many different facets of a retailer’s operations, but when it comes to email marketing this is especially important. Rather than sending one-size-fits-all email blasts, retailers should make their communications personalized and relevant, or risk losing the attention of this key audience.

Generation Y: Mobile Mindset
Although they’re usually tied closely with GenZ, Generation Y still has its own distinctions when it comes to shopping habits. According to survey from Savvy, 80 percent of Generation Y consumers say they look at their phones multiple times an hour. Additionally, 66 percent of Generation Y shoppers say they regularly use their smartphone to buy products.

To reach this audience, marketers need to make sure they’re not only sending mobile-optimized emails, but that their email cadence is frequent and relevant. If these shoppers are checking their phones constantly, retailers need to stay top of mind through personalized messages that recommend new and different products – not just based on items they’ve already purchased.

GenZ: In-Store Shoppers
GenZ secures the spot as the most technology-driven of all other age groups—and also the one group that has yet to be totally figured out. From what we do know, these shoppers had access to endless amounts of information very early on. Yet, according to a study from IBM and the National Retail Federation (NRF), when shopping, 98 percent of Generation Z will head to brick-and-mortar locations to find what they’re looking for, rather than shopping online.

That doesn’t mean all is lost when it comes to email marketing, though. GenZ is constantly connected to the online world, so a good practice is to offer personalized and relevant content that drives them into the nearest store location. They’ll still be engaging with brands online, as this generation turns to digital outlets as their main source of information.

You know it’s important not to alienate one segment of your audience by focusing all of your messaging toward the interests or preferences of another, and this remains true when it comes to age. Generational gaps will always exist, and retail marketers need to stay ahead of cultural and demographic trends and shape their message to each audience segment. Because when it comes to email marketing, age matters.

James Glover
James Glover is President and CEO of Coherent Path, where he helps retailers transform their email program into a modern data-driven channel focused on revenue. Prior to Coherent Path, James was VP of Sales at Desktone where he was responsible for accelerating customer adoption and revenue growth from zero to over 100 customers to whom he sold through world class partners like Dell and Time Warner Cable. He earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto.


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