Generational Data: Stay in Tune with the Tech-Generations

If there’s anything the data age has taught modern businesses, it’s that each generation has a mind of its own. With each wave of the generational wand, trends, opinions, and expectations change like magic. This can leave marketers feeling perplexed and unsure of what strategy will engage the right audience at the right time. But with a growth mindset and the right data in place, sales and marketing to each demographic don’t have to be difficult. In fact, research shows that tapping into generational data is an increasingly easy strategy with the proper analytics tools. In an age where each unique consumer expects personalization and tailored content, brands now have the capacity to deliver.

What is generational data collection?

It’s as simple as it sounds: Generation data collection is the process of gathering key information about each age group in your audience. Just as brands create personas to define their target audience, they can discover how each generation in their audience operates. Depending on the business, it may be about honing in on one group and learning how to market to them better. Or it may be about learning how each generation interacts differently with your brand. When brands employ generational data, they often find that different generations value their brand for different reasons. They might also make purchases through different avenues or give different feedback.

It is often said that the most dangerous thing is “what you don’t know, you don’t know.” In other words, blind faith and assumptions don’t drive good business. In the worse case scenarios, we’ve even seen them run brands into the ground when non-data-driven decisions are made on a whim. As with any other data-driven strategy, collecting generational data is a way to avoid assumptions and one-size-fits-all marketing so you can instead know for sure what works. And as far as generational marketing goes, data shows some interesting things about what works.

How Gen Z Uses Technology

Those born between 1996 and 2010 have slowly entered the workforce in recent years, making them a new interest for marketers. Dominating social platforms like Tiktok and Snapchat, Gen Zers are clear examples of how the quickening pace of digital content has shaped a generation. They’re often called the instant gratification generation and, through no fault of their own, may be less patient than older folks who remember waiting weeks for a package to arrive.

Research has shown that brand loyalties are already established as consumers reach their early 20s, and Gen Z already accounts for a whopping 40% of US consumers. Having technology baked into their daily life at such an early age, this generation is especially attached to their smartphones and highly comfortable making digital purchases – especially from brands that use creativity and humor in their ads. They’re also very comfortable with subscription-based services. Perhaps even more so than millennials, Gen Zers expect personalized content and are quick to bat away anything that hints at a marketing gimmick. 

How Millennials Use Technology

Millennials have long been the generation making headlines without even meaning to. There are plenty of reasons for this. Millennials were the first generation to grow up with the internet. They also entered adulthood at the height of an unexpected economic recession. They became known as the first generation that wouldn’t be financially better off than their parents. According to Pew Research, this generation continues to lead the pack with its technology adoption rates. The vast majority of millennials use smartphones and social media, and they are much more confident diving into new technologies than older generations.  

For brands with a significant millennial audience, it’s all about building connections through platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Having grown up during a time when digital marketing was evolving quickly, millennials have seen it all. They are sensitive to spammy advertising, quick to unsubscribe, and eager to connect with brands that align with their values. 

How Baby Boomers Use Technology

Notorious for being a bit less tech-savvy on average, many baby boomers have transcended this label with high levels of digital engagement. The majority of those that have smartphones use them for GPS , and 70% reported using a laptop daily. When it comes to social platforms, Facebook reigns supreme for this generation. Perhaps an even more reliable way to build connections with this generation is through email. One report showed that nearly 90% of those over 60 used email on a daily basis.  

As the generation that was least likely to make digital purchases, this has begun to change in the wake of COVID. Various studies show that the pandemic may have given boomers a confident boost in the digital realm. They spent more time streaming shows and music, video chatting, and trying out smart products like health wristbands. With the pandemic largely in hindsight, these patterns haven’t changed, revealing that boomers’ new tech interest is here to stay.  

How Gen X Uses Technology

Often forgotten in the frantic shuffle to appeal to other generations, Gen X is who businesses should be working to impress. Interestingly, Gen X is the age group with the highest brand loyalty rates. In a research study, they expressed much less interest in trying out new brands than other generations. Gen X is less swayed by influencers than millennials, yet more tech-savvy than the average baby boomer. However, like boomers, email is a great place to reach this generation. They have a practical approach to technology and appreciate convenience.  

Using technology to get the information they need is a favored strategy for Gen Xers, who often make more strategic digital purchases. While marketers often assume that younger generations dominate social media and app usage, research suggests otherwise. Gen X ranked as the group most likely to use social media and most likely to get its news from websites and apps. While helpful to know that Gen X are loyalists, it’s even better to take a look at your own customer loyalty analytics and compare by age.

Using Generational Data to Go Beyond Stereotypes

Businesses have more opportunities than ever to capitalize on specific markets. The question is: How is age range relevant to your brand? This isn’t always an easy question to answer. One common pitfall of generational marketing is stereotyping. Stereotyping often happens when brands don’t have enough real information to make data-driven decisions. To avoid making assumptions about its users, brands need to gather and interpret high-quality data. Learning about your audience and tweaking your marketing accordingly is an ongoing cycle. When teams engage with this process, there’s no need for digital attention grabs that often annoy or confuse potential customers. 

Another common faux pas is when brands try to appeal to certain generations with surface gestures. For example, marketing quick, eye-catching content to Gen Z, who is often stereotyped as having a short attention span—or pushing a product as simple and user-friendly to boomers, who are often considered tech-challenged. As every good marketer knows, this will only backfire, especially if the content doesn’t align with the brand’s identity. Instead, generational marketing needs to be smart, authentic, and relevant to the target group. While broad generational trends can point you in the right direction, your specific data is the real key. 

Of course, you need to be able to use your warehouse data when and where it counts. One way to do this is with Reverse ETL, which allows you to take relevant data and transfer it to the appropriate third-party platform. By segmenting your data by age, you can have the right information at your fingertips before sending a marketing campaign. Once you identify what a particular audience segment prefers, you can give them more of what they’re looking for. This process can not only raise ROI, but reduces churn and increases the lifetime value of each customer.  

Start Collecting Generational Data

Fortunately, every generation is sharing vast amounts of data in the digital sphere. Getting started isn’t difficult. You just need a system and an analytics platform to keep you in the know. Internet users are sharing rich data like:

  • locations
  • opinions
  • reviews
  • ‘faceprints’ and ‘voiceprints’
  • behaviors (e.g. where they’ve checked in)

To leverage generational data, brands need to do a few things:

  1. Escape the silos – Discover where user input can better shape your product or service. What groups do you need to hear more from? Who on your team is cut off from the information they need to better engage certain groups?
  2. Identify data sources – What information do you need? How can you gather the data? You can assess things like transaction data, social media data, website data, and other touchpoints to glean generational insights. 
  3. Develop a data analysis strategy – Many marketers feel like they have plenty of data, but they don’t know how to leverage it. This is the step where generational data finally becomes actionable. The right data analytics tools can do the heavy lifting for you. This way, your team doesn’t need to spend endless amounts of time interpreting data. The right pivots and marketing decisions become clear.

It’s also important to note that generations view data collection itself differently. While younger people are accustomed to sharing personal information online, older generations may be more hesitant. Working with these sensitivities and building trust with your audience is even more crucial as data security concerns rise. Similarly, each generation is motivated to participate in data collection for different reasons. Millennials are known for being more intrinsically motivated, so traditional incentives like giveaways and discounts may fall flat. Thus getting to know what drives your customers is at the heart of generational data collection.

What’s Next?

Businesses that ignored the digital revolution of the past decade are now playing catch up. What trends are coming next? For one, personalization will continue to be an evolving theme as tech advances allow for more nuanced customer interactions. With Gen Z committed to working with cutting-edge technology, this generation will likely continue to see tech as an extension of life itself. Meanwhile, Boomers are retiring and learning how to care for their finances and health with new technology. At each stage of your customer’s life, there’s a pivotal role you can play.  

Every generation is influenced uniquely by the current digital culture. For marketers, this means the waves of change never stop or slow down. Each generation matures uniquely, and each new generation emerges into adulthood with a unique perspective. Staying relevant as a brand means keeping pace with what your audience needs from moment to moment. With access to real-time analytics, marketers can do just that.    Ready to tune your data strategy to upcoming generational trends? Learn more about how Iron Focus can help. 


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