Gen X vs Y – Factors Shaping Consumer Behavior

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Retailers and marketers tend to segment potential customers according to geography, demographics, psychographics but all that is not enough. They need more insights to understand consumer behavior shaped by the environment and modern technology.

Marketers are trying to gauge unique behavioral patterns of consumers. This will enable them to identify their potential buyers and design marketing practices accordingly. Despite keeping all factors constant, one consumer with the same need might respond differently to a sales or marketing campaign than another. It is also due to the multi-generational sandbox that we have today. Setting age boundaries is no more a defining parameter. For correct analysis marketers need to analyze the behavior of each generation and their contrasts. Can we say with absolute surety that a certain segment of people is shaped by their choices and behaviors? Let’s find out.

Recent research conducted by the University of New Hampshire illustrates that exact point. Nelson Barber, associate professor of hospitality management at the university and the primary researcher, analyzed how Generation X and Generation Y consumers arrived at purchase decisions.

Generation X, born between 1964 and 1977 (44 million consumers), tended to be more independent minded. Meanwhile, Generation Y or millenniums are born between 1978 and 1998 (72 million), rely more on the opinions of others – specifically their parents – before making purchase decisions.

“Generation X is very motivated to search for purchase-related information and is adept at searching. Generation Xers tend to use information not as a point of pride but as assurance that they are not being taken advantage of by marketers and are getting the best deal possible,” Barber explained.

What are the possible reasons for this choice? We will explore the factors responsible for the obvious contrast of consumer choices between these two generations. But before that, check out this infographic to get an idea about the particular traits of the generations living today.

The Living Generations And Their Peculiar Traits-01

Historical influencers

These include the major political events, socio-economic changes and cultural influences that shaped the lifestyle of both these generations. Check out what the different challenges were for generation X and Y and how marketers can respond.[+]

Gen X

This is the first generation of latchkey kids as they say it. Most kids from gen X were either raised in dual income families or single parents owing to increased divorce rate. The key events and occurrences shaping their perceptions were energy crisis, economic crisis, downsizing, activism, end of cold war.

Gen Y

A generation shaped by technology and driven by passion. Millenniums, popularly known as generation Y have an overall positive attitude towards life but they have witnessed and are victims of terror attacks. However, most of their lives and careers are shaped in a period of economic expansion.

How marketers should respond

The inference from historic events have revealed that Generation Y has a stronger buying power than their predecessors. Marketers can leverage this fact and create convincing campaigns.

Core values

The core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong; they can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals; and they create an unwavering and unchanging guide. Despite all the differences we are about to mention, the two generations are uniquely similar. Let’s delve deeper to know how the core values differ among these two generations.[+]

Gen X

Generation Xers are pragmatic and lack organizational loyalty. Most of them tend to be skeptic and suspicious of boomer values. With their efforts, they have raised the bar for job expectations. You will find them highly educated and taking into account the global perspective.

Gen Y

Millenniums are more achievement oriented with optimism, realism and high morals. In contrast to their predecessors, they tend to be more tolerant and attracted to spirituality. They have high morals and great sense of civic duty. The younger millenniums are extremely fun-loving, street smart and social. They are highly competitive and tend to enjoy attention and applause.

genx-vs-geny-imageImage source: C-section Comics

How marketers can respond

Let’s hear it from Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

“As soon as a new social network or platform becomes popular with millennials, it’s important to quickly add it to your marketing strategy. This positions you as an early adopter, while enabling you to target the millennial audience before a network or platform starts to get crowded. Stay on top of new platforms via tech or media blogs, and don’t hesitate to experiment when you join a new site.”

Basically, the idea is to eliminate the disconnect that exists with the audience. It’s effective not just for the millenniums but also for generation Xers.

Work ethics and views

To study the consumer of today, we have to know their behavior in an environment where they spend most of their time. Of course, most of their time in a day is spent at the workplace. Hence their behaviors are shaped by that surrounding. Find out how the views on work-life balance differ for each generation.[+]

Gen X

The key aspect defining their work ethics is balance. While they will work smarter for better productivity, serving for longer hours in not their criteria. They are self-reliant, skeptical but ready to work in a team. Working with direction and structure is their top attribute. The parents of this generation were boomers who were known workaholics, but this generation will strive to keep a balance between work and family. It does not matter to them even if they lose their position as a corporate team member.

Gen Y

Basically, millennials have proven to have an entrepreneurial mindset time again. The average time they stay in a job is less than 2 years and eventually they are motivated to have a startup. The people from generation Y are usually multitaskers and ambitious but they get easily bored or become impatient. They have more like “what’s next” attitude. They work to keep a balance between work, family and community involvement. Also this generation focuses more on self-grooming. They demand flexi timings, job switching and sabbaticals.

How marketers should respond

The two generations are interested in spending time with their family and friends which makes them excellent prospects for travel, tourism and leisure activities or sports.

Brand loyalty

A consumer’s loyalty towards a brand is affected by his preferences. A loyal customer who trusts a brand’s credibility and would like to purchase products only from their preferred set of brands, regardless of any convenience or price modification. Check out how the aspect of brand loyalty differs in the two generations.[+]

Generation X

Majority of the population from Generation X are patriots and would like to show firm allegiance through their personality and actions. It is difficult to change their opinion and hence their loyalty towards certain brands. They will not risk their money to try out a new brand.

Generation Y

They are less brand loyal due to so many alternatives available to them via internet or social media. Moreover, it’s part of their nature to experiment and try new brands. Also they keep up with the changing trends and are anxious to adapt accordingly. However, they will want their personality to be represented distinctively.

How marketers should respond

Marketers have to strive to make the brand enter the consumer’s active set. Making the consumer take the first leap is the biggest challenge when the target audience are generation X in comparison to Y. however in some categories such as cosmetics, leasing firms, real estate, even the millenniums will be brand loyals and it will take active marketing campaigns at the right time and place to make them change course.

Food choices

It involves food and beverage choices for both generations that are short of time and would not give much thought and consideration to the type of food they pick. Explore how the food choices of millenniums and generation X are shaped and how marketers can respond.[+]

Gen X

Gen X Foods and Beverage choices are ecstasies and delicacies but usually, they will stick with convenient foods that require less processing time. The food and beverage choices of the cohort is usually according to their expectations of fast, convenient, international foods. For wines and beverages, they prefer new drinks, cool labels, and edgy design.

Gen Y

Eating In, Dining Out, take-aways is the new trend for food-loving generation Y. With a developing preference for organic, functional and sustainably farmed produce, Gen Y adults embrace healthy, well-balanced meals. They are not in favor of slow cooking or crockpot recipes, but a healthy and balanced diet is a big yes.

How marketers can respond

Marketers can offer more convenient platforms to latest updates and information of food places and their rates. Design a campaign that sells the same thing but addresses both generations. Let’s hear it from Sathyik Tantry, FormSwift.

Having grown up with on-demand entertainment, millennials crave convenience in any new product offerings. The success of companies such as Uber, Dropbox, and Airbnb have largely been built around convenience and ease of use, as opposed to breakthrough technologies. We are actively working to improve our user experience, cutting out unnecessary steps and friction wherever we can.

Conclusion – what about generation Z?

Well, generation Z comprises of all the people born just before the term of this millennium. They are popularly known as the post-millennials, or Gen Wii. They’ve been through various political and financial turmoil and it seems like they are coming of age before the expected time. We can already witness generation Z maturing and serving in various fronts as entrepreneurs, political/social campaigners as well as celebrities. Technically, they are the “first tribe of true digital natives”, or screenagers.

Though there is much to be discovered about this talented lot, there are something we can say with utmost certainty about this generation. They realize the importance of education and are keen to volunteer. Now the question is, how will they turn up as potential consumers?
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Mehreen is a social media buff and design blogger, who keeps a keen eye on graphic design trends. She has a passion for experimenting with design ideas, and wouldn’t mind if it means going out of her way to find them in Timbuktu. Follow her on twitter for daily inspirations and findings.

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