Digital World

Marketing Across Generations – Customer Preferences of Digital Channels

Consumers are Digital First – Brands Need to Follow

Digital, through a number of technology touchpoints is redefining how different generations interact with Brands. Consider that of a global population of 7.68 billion people, there are 5.11 billion unique mobile users, 4.39 billion internet users and 3.48 billion active social media users! In 2018, there were 1.79 billion digital buyers, representing 23.3% of the world’s population. We live in world where customers are always connected. However, effective marketing across Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, and Baby Boomers requires understanding their digital customer preferences.

Internet, Mobile, Social Media and Smartphone Penetration

Consumers are Digital First

The Connected Customer – Digital Customer Preferences

People are no longer constrained to the telephone, mail or the internet as they can now engage with a brand in many other ways including: mobile web, mobile or tablet applications, smartwatch apps, live chat, kiosks, instant messaging, social media and mobile apps. As such, digital enables customers to be constantly connected, allowing them to get what they want when they need it.

A Salesforce study of marketing touchpoints found the average consumer uses 10 channels to communicate with companies, and lists 6 of those channels as preferred.  

Digital Channel Usage

How each Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z and Baby Boomers use Digital Channels

As an anchor of customer experience, digital is driving outcomes and influencing purchasing. Consumers of all generations are turning to digital – from comparison shopping and receiving price alerts to receiving medication reminders. Consumers gather facts, opinions and bits of inspiration into their winding purchasing journey. While each generation has some traces of similarity to the next, digital preferences and purchase journey are really quite separate across the board. Consider the following nuances and their implications on how to approach each of the generations.

Key Digital Marketing Statistics and Purchasing Behaviour by Generation

Gen Z Gen Y (i.e. Millennials) Gen X Baby Boomers
1996 - TBD
60% prefers to shop at retailers that engage with them via social media.
38% follow for entertainment value.
58% follow for deals and promotions.
60% follow for mix of deals and promos, 53% follow brands for information.
73% would make a purchase based on a social media recommendation.
82% say word-of-mouth is a key influencer of their purchase decisions.
45% of Gen X use their phones to look for a better price or other options while shopping at a retail store.
12% look to friends and family for advice on their purchases.
Gen Z prefers in-store shopping for the atmosphere and store experience.
Gen Y generally browse in-store, but buy online.
Gen X makes extensive use of search engines, online reviews, and social media networks before making a purchase.
Older generations prefer in-store shopping to experience products and is tied ot their high expectations of customer service.
An established social media presence should complement touchscreens in brick and mortar stores if retailers want to keep tech-savvy Gen Zers eager to interact with their brand. Offline, stores should promote a chic, tech-savvy, communal atmosphere.
Social media is extremely important to Millennials in their purchasing journey because even though they value the opinions of family and friends, they seek out the experiences of other consumers above all.
Make products and services especially visible and accessible online by using SEO strategies to optimize their research and an active social media presence to demonstrate a personable and authentic brand image.
Boomers place immense value in brands based on their interactions with sales associates, and retailers can capitalize on this by incentivising physical visits through digital channels.

Digital is creating an increasing number of ways for consumers to connect with companies and they have been conditioned to expect newer and better experiences. As such, they are harder to impress. Today’s connected consumer requires brands to account for all digital channels in the shopper’s purchasing process. If this is not embraced, brands will have difficulty to win customers – let alone their loyalty.