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In Print: Surprising Realities in Generational Buying Behavior

1 Aug, 2011 By: Kathy Calta Response


Kathy Calta
By Kathy Calta

Remember the old adage about using the term “assume”? Well, in life, it can definitely have unfortunate consequences, while in business it can mean the difference between expensive failures and outrageous successes.

When it comes to marketing, it can be easy to draw conclusions based on demographics. It can also be easy to presume that the best way to engage with Gen X and Gen Y is through mobile apps and other “of-the-moment” technology, while the most effective way to reach Baby Boomers is through print advertising and 800 numbers. Recent research, however, shows that those notions are nothing but misconceptions that, when fully understood, can lead to stronger and more effective marketing strategies.

In PrintWhile Internet and mobile technology have armed consumers with the knowledge and insight to make more informed purchasing decisions, recent research indicates that, when it comes to buying behavior, shoppers of all generations are highly influenced by direct marketing and print advertising, with newspaper inserts topping the chart. Even more noteworthy might be the unexpected findings around the most influential platforms within individual generations.

Gen Y, which is made up of consumers between 16 and 33 years of age, is the most connected and tech-savvy of all generations. Similarly, Gen X, consisting of consumers between 34 and 45 years, was the first age group to grow up with computers and is, as a whole, considered technologically proficient. Given their familiarity with evolving technology and the amount of time both of these groups spend online, it might be easy for marketers to assume that online campaigns are the key to success among these age groups.

Recent research, however, turns these assumptions upside-down, revealing that roughly 47 percent of Gen Y and 61 percent of Gen X consumers turn to print circulars for shopping research. When asked which form of shopping tool they use to assist with purchases, website printouts surprisingly came in third for Gen Y, behind coupons and circulars, and was tied with direct mail for fourth for Gen X, behind coupons, circulars and newspaper ads.

Older generations are also defying marketers’ expectations according to the same research. The “young/olds” generation (consumers between 65 to 80 years old) and seniors (age 81 and up) are widely assumed to be less tech-savvy and — in some cases — maybe even technologically illiterate. Surprisingly, the same research shows that 38 percent of “young/olds” and 16 percent of seniors actually do their research online before making a purchase.

Falling somewhere in the middle, Baby Boomers, ages 46 to 64, bridge the gap between tech-savvy and less technologically advanced. This generation has had to decide whether to adopt or ignore new technology. Research findings indicate that circulars, the Internet and catalogs all play influencing roles in this group’s purchasing decisions, with the Internet and circulars tied as the most influential.

Gone are the days of the “one-size-fits-all” marketing approach that utilizes a single platform to reach a brand’s audience. As consumers across all generations continue to surprise us with their shopping research habits, it is important that marketers take the time to truly understand their audiences and consider the differences among generations.

The most effective marketing campaigns are those that leverage highly relevant messages with a multichannel approach. Using tools like QR codes and pURLs, brands can create a bridge between platforms, giving consumers the power to choose how to engage and respond to communications, which ultimately builds better relationships and drives marketing and sales results.

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