Across The Ages: Generational Impact On Spending

Marketing to the Generations - By John Hendrie

Marketing is the world of the wizard, Oz luring you with smoke, mirrors and whistles.

LRA Worldwide There is no “silver bullet” when you pull together your marketing strategy.  You look at history, consider trends you have noted, hopefully utilize survey results, endorse focus group feedback, throw some ideas on the wall, and, for many, choose the ones which ooze trails down that wall the most.  We are highly unscientific, if you are honest.  Marketing is the world of the wizard, Oz luring you with smoke, mirrors and whistles.

But, we must start somewhere to try and better learn about and understand our Consumer.  Whether they are considering the purchase of a car, a honeymoon suite, a roast beef dinner, a cruise to Barbados, a knapsack or Boston Bruin tickets, we know they refer in some fashion to a prior experience.  It may be their own personal experience with a Brand, maybe a family member or friend has made a recommendation or they scour the internet for reviews.  

As the National Retail Federation recently noted, “For a Consumer to eventually choose to shop and spend money – from any generation and at any company – it boils down to past experiences: how they feel about the economy, their money-spending lifestyle and how they place value in items they’re shopping for. Looking at Consumers by when they were born unveils trends retailers can use for understanding who they are selling to and how they should best reach them.”  So, before we ask the almighty OZ to begin the show, we still are intent upon better knowing our audience. 

Fortunately, the NRF Foundation has released a helpful report, Across the Ages: Generational Impact on Spending, with Consumer research by Prosper Insights and Analytics and supported by a contribution from KPMG. The report examines buying triggers and influencers, as well as the impact of economic fluctuations on purchase decisions among multiple generations. And it gives insight into how trending attitudes among the groups can be taken into account when building retail and marketing strategy.  Some of the Marketing gold nuggets we can mine:

  • Less than one in four Consumers in Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) consider the newest trends and styles personally important when it comes to shopping for clothing, for example. A somewhat stronger focus on traditional, conservative looks will be appealing to the largest share in this generation.  
  • Even when the Silent Generation (those born before 1945) was young, their motto was "waste not, want not".  To move them towards a purchase decision, stress practicality and necessity.   
  • More than four in five Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) had a renewed interest in eating at home in the last six months of 2013.  This would reflect more visits to the grocery store and fewer to a restaurant, as well as an emphasis on making smart decisions.        
  • Not all Consumers are attracted by a "low price" strategy.  For example, more than one in five Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1995) do not consider sales or mark downs most important when shopping for clothing.    
Even with some answers to the marketplace, one must wonder at the vulnerabilities of Marketing execs – we pay them an enormous amount of money and yet they have a most precarious job – if a strategy does not work they are gone.  It is difficult being bold in the face of job security.  So, you must invoke all your tools at hand to gain that Consumer insight, in order to have an effective and prosperous Marketing strategy.


LRA LogoJohn Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.

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