Bridging the generational divide – how to sell to Boomers and Gen Z

Category: News
Bridging the generational divide - how to sell to Boomers and Gen Z

Generational divides are nothing new, however, the gap between younger and older shoppers has expanded to the stage where brands need significantly different strategies to target each group. Philip Hall, MD for EMEA at Rithum, discusses how to attract consumers from both ends of the spectrum.

The starkest contrast between generations is the difference between Boomers and Gen Z. A recent workplace study found, Boomers find it frustrating that Gen Z can’t use a pen, and the younger generation is left baffled by the speed at which their older co-workers operate.  

With differing political leanings and life experiences, those that are trying to sell to both generations need to first understand them. This piece will explore the behavioural differences that exist between generational groups and how you can understand, engage and successfully sell to each audience.

Discounts drive sales for younger generation

The first area to be aware of when considering how to approach selling to Gen Z and Boomers is discounts. Understandably the younger generation are more price conscious and always looking for a bargain. We recently conducted a global survey of consumer behaviour which found UK-based Gen Z shoppers are three times more likely than Boomers to wait for sales events such as Prime Day or Black Friday. A third (35%) of Gen Z are willing to hold off purchasing a product in the run up to sales events, compared to just 9% of Boomers. 

For brands targeting younger generations, the increased price sensitivity should be a consideration. In addition to tailoring marketing strategies around sales events targeted at younger shoppers, offering discount codes and highlighting sales  will be a much more effective strategy for those under 30. 

Tenacious returners 

Our consumer research didn’t just look at purchasing trends, it also delved into the post-purchase behaviour. 

Globally, free returns are an important factor in purchase decisions. A significant majority (71%) of consumers admitted they only buy from sites that offer free returns.

Two fifths of the younger generation are more likely to order multiple sizes of an item with the intention to return those that don’t fit. Compared with just 11% of Boomers who will do the same”.

Returns are a crucial aspect of retail, so capturing demographic data at the point of sale will help the inventory team understand how many items are likely to be returned.

Despite their intention to return items after ordering, complexity of returns can deter Gen Z from completing the process. Seven out of ten (71%) Gen Z consumers admitted to abandoning the returns process due to the difficulty involved. Boomers are much more tenacious when they do decide to return an item, with just 34% of them giving up on a return. 

Loyalty is a big incentive for Gen Z

Data capture through newsletters or loyalty schemes is a useful way for brands and retailers to incentivise repeat business. Those looking to attract subscribers should focus their efforts on Gen Z as they are twice as likely (47% compared to 24%) to sign up to a loyalty programme. 

When asked about the significance of loyalty schemes when shopping online, a third of Gen Z believed them to be ‘very important’ compared to just 10% of Boomers.

Discovering products 

Knowing where consumers find products is a crucial part of e-commerce and there are some key differences between Gen Z and Boomers in terms of their discovery journeys. 

The starkest contrast is perhaps predictably, social media. Nearly half (47%) of Gen Z respondents have found a product that they went on to buy on social media, compared to just 7% of Boomers. Brand or retailer websites are the primary method for product discovery for Boomers, so those that are targeting older generations should ensure their content is tailored accordingly. 

Being social 

For younger consumers, social media has replaced media as the go-to for news and entertainment. As engagement with traditional forms of media like TV and periodicals plummets, social media usage continues climbing.

A recent survey from Nfinite shows 84% of Gen Z consumers have made multiple purchases through social media ads and content, and a recent Adobe Express survey reveals 98% of Gen Z respondents and 91% of millennial respondents prefer video for digital marketing content.

While targeting younger generations through social media makes sense, it can’t be ignored when selling to Boomers. Despite not growing up with technology, Boomers are making up for lost time with 74% of this generation active on social media. 

The majority of Boomers use Facebook to keep up with friends and family. They also follow peer influencers, whose opinions they trust and are likely to identify with. Special offers, discounts, and promotions are also popular with Boomers, despite them not waiting for specific sales events like Amazon Prime.

For brands aiming to capture both ends of the spectrum, recognizing these nuances is the first step towards successful targeting. As younger consumers prioritise discounts and convenience, while also valuing loyalty programs, brands must adapt their approaches accordingly. By embracing these generational disparities and tailoring strategies to meet the specific needs and preferences of each demographic, businesses can build stronger connections with their customer base, meeting the customer where they are with information they need to make buying decisions.

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