Marketers today are faced with the challenge of appealing to active consumer groups that represent four generations spanning from legacy traditionalists to elusive millennials. The unique experiences of each generation have played a large role in the development of distinct predilections in what they value and how they spend their money.
As a result of these categorical generational preferences, it’s critical for marketers to acknowledge the fact that specific marketing strategies resonate differently with each generational group. Recognizing and tailoring campaigns to meet these distinct needs and behavioral differences will not only allow businesses to find the fitting medium and appropriate message for each generation, but will also assist in maximizing gains from marketing spends and successfully creating a multigenerational brand.
Related: How Can Brands Appeal to Millennials?
The Millennial misconception
Poised at the peak of consumerism and yielding nearly $200 billion in buying power, millennials are a key target audience for marketers. However, have marketers been targeting them incorrectly all along? We’ve heard it time and time again — the recurrent conjecture that millennials now resort to social media for virtually everything. The dominant narrative circulating among many marketing communities seems to be “if you want to reach millennials, start with social media.” However, a recent survey on consumer shopping habits by Campaigner reveals that the concrete assumptions many marketers hold on millennial’s purchasing habits are actually a bit more nuanced than one would think.
Despite social media’s large and growing presence in many consumers’ lives, millennials are the most likely generation to engage with marketing emails. In fact, 51 percent of millennials surveyed indicate email as the preferred method of interaction with brands. Additionally, less than a quarter (24 percent) of all participants surveyed across all four generations name social media as their preferred channel for brand interaction. Rather than blasting promotions via multiple social channels, marketers will have more luck crafting campaigns designed to engage consumers instead of strictly “selling to” them.
Related: Bashing the Stereotypes: What You Need to Know About Gen Z
The enduring power of email
Marketers have consistently implemented email marketing as a pillar of their campaigns because it’s fast, cost-effective and non-invasive. However, the rise in social media has begged a few questions on the state of email as a medium, the most prevailing being, is it still the most successful tool in our marketing arsenal?
In sharp contrast to the shelf-life of some social media platforms, email has proven to be the most enduring marketing channel for brands. Email ranks as the most preferred digital marketing platform for brand interaction (44 percent), and 85 percent of online shoppers are either somewhat or very likely to open email from brands.
However, contrary to the old adage “you can never have too much of a good thing,” online shoppers’ top complaint (49 percent) about marketing messages is that they simply receive too many of them. When planning campaigns, marketers must determine what cadence of email is most effective for their various audiences. For example, Generation X appears to be more receptive to a higher frequency of email than the rest. On the other hand, when it comes to serving millennials and Baby Boomers, sometimes less contact is more impactful. Most (27 percent) think receiving emails from brands once a week is ideal. In efforts to appeal to each of these generations, audience segmentation is a great way to ensure each group is being met with the appropriate and desired email frequency.
Related: Close the Generation Gap With a Smarter Social Content Strategy
Brick and mortar for boomers, tips for traditionalists
In the effort to attract Generation Z and millennials, baby boomers and traditionalists cannot be overlooked. With their sheer size, disposable income, and spending power, these two generations still control a large part of our country’s spending power and have unique preferences about how they would like to interact with brands.
For those born in the traditionalist and baby boomer eras, the survey indicates that they want to interact with brands in physical stores. In fact, 73 percent of traditionalists and 67 percent of baby boomers say they prefer to interact with brands in-store, compared to 65 percent of the group overall.
Digital marketers targeting baby boomers and traditionalists should use online deals that further entice foot traffic to stores. Additionally, traditionalists appreciate helpful tips and short reads more than the average online consumer, at 28 percent versus 13 percent overall, so content marketing may be most impactful for this group.
With every generation expecting marketers to engage when, where and how they choose, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Rather than attempting to bridge the generational divide with blanket content and campaigns, brands must devote time to understanding generational preferences and learning to market across demographics. The insights from this report further detail commerce consumption preferences and how to most effectively market to different consumer generations.