3 myths to avoid when marketing to boomers+ and millennials

Truly reaching your audience requires an ability to identify consumer insights that enable you to communicate to your customers as individuals. But perhaps you’re starting by focusing on the wrong generation or putting too much emphasis on emerging generations like millennials. That’s why we’re paying attention to the 50+ group (boomers+), how they buy, where they spend and what motivates their spending power.

Millennials are perhaps the most talked about consumers right now as brands try to determine  how to reach them, how to interact with them and how to gain share of their increasing spending power. The first inherently digital generation has higher expectations for brands and how they’re engaged by them, according to findings from our report: #marketingtomillennials: A guide to understanding today’s millennials. And it’s no surprise that brands are constantly looking for ways to engage this increasingly influential group.

While there are 83 million millennials in the US, there are currently around 103 million people in the US over the age of 50. Nielsen estimates that baby boomers (50-69) alone make up 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income. Are you missing opportunities by assuming they aren’t spending, assuming they aren’t online, focusing on emerging consumers or making other assumptions?

Recent findings from our report, Age is an attitude: marketing to the boomers+ population, breaks down the baby boomer generation (those 50-69) as well as the silent generation (those 70+), what they prefer and how to reach them as individuals.

Let’s look at three common myths about marketing to millennials and boomers+ – two generations that often seem worlds apart – to better understand how to reach them with personalized marketing:

Myth 1: Boomers+ are technologically challenged but millennials are all digital all the time
Contrary to many assumptions, baby boomers were in the workforce during the evolution of computers, email and the internet and were the first to understand the value of technology. Some 82 percent of baby boomers use the internet according to AARP. And findings from our report indicate that nearly half of all boomers+ have computers. Further, 34 percent of baby boomers’ annual wallet spend happens in the online channel compared to 39 percent of spend for millennials.

While nobody argues with the fact that millennials are digital natives, that doesn’t mean they live on planet web. In fact, 53 percent of millennials’ wallet is spent in retail stores, comparable to 49 percent of baby boomers’, meaning both groups have a presence in brick-and-mortar and online.

Further findings from our analysis show that boomers+ use Facebook on par with the average population and it’s their overwhelmingly preferred social channel. This group is using Facebook to connect with children and grandchildren, share photos and even find old friends from their youth. Additional findings show that 31 percent of millennials have had recent Facebook activity in the last seven days. And millennials with kids are using Facebook to share photos with other (older) family members while millennials without kids prefer Instagram.

To put this into action, let go of the assumption that boomers aren’t comfortable leveraging technology, while also realizing that digital isn’t the only place for millennials. What’s most important is having a comprehensive cross-channel engagement strategy that is fueled by rich customer profiles that enable you to better recognize and reach your customers.

Myth 2: Boomers+ make purchase decisions offline and millennials ignore direct mail

While there is a difference in being online and buying online, the findings above help to prove that the online channel shouldn’t be dismissed when trying to reach boomers+.

Our research shows that high income/high net worth individuals aged 50-69 are more likely to have a higher percent of spend in the retail and online channel when compared to the average 50-69 population – a sign that this group is moving into digital channels.  And the greater financial stability, the greater the likelihood that the 70+ segments will shop via retail or online, dependent on mobility. Further, email use is strong for boomers+ as a way to receive news and discounts and stay in touch with family and friends.

These findings show that boomers+ are using the online channel to inform their purchase decisions. Even though they aren’t necessarily transacting online, you can reach these audiences with omnichannel touchpoints throughout the purchase lifecycle.

Millennials exhibit cross-channel behaviors too – perhaps as expected, they leverage the web to research, review and comment, complain or praise. But a good part of their decision-making process leverages offline tactics. For example, 42 percent of millennials use “old-school” printable coupons and millennials have shown strong responsiveness to the direct mail channel.

Simply put, no matter your audience, don’t eliminate critical opportunities to reach your customers because you think they’re not paying attention to or transacting in a certain channel. Consider taking a multichannel approach to attribution to maximize your marketing efforts.

Myth 3: Boomers+ don’t spend or influence spending and millennials spend outside of their means 

As today’s mature population moves into retirement, many often assume this means they stop spending. Yet findings show that the average spend per baby boomer household is $765 compared to millennials who spend $508 per household per month. (Even those 70+ spend on average $675 per month).

Even if you don’t consider someone 50+ to be part of your target audience, they can still be influencers to purchase. They are moms and dads and maybe grandparents. They may live with their children and influence purchases for the home.

While millennials have lower average income and net worth than older generations, it doesn’t mean they’re spending outside of their means by leveraging credit cards. Only 17 percent of millennials age 18-24 and 34 percent of millennials 25-33 use credit cards. This compared to 68 percent of baby boomers who leverage credit cards. Further, there’s a sub-group of millennials who still live with their parents. This group spends less of their share of wallet on rent and household expenses, meaning they have more to spend on themselves and others. It’s important to note that as millennials progress through life stages, their disposable income decreases and their spending changes to be more in line with their life stage.

All consumers age and as they progress through life stages they behave differently. If you’re trying to increase customer lifetime value, it’s important you don’t alienate an audience because of where they are now (or will be in the future). Focusing on data and insights will help you deliver more personalized marketing.

For more insights on marketing to the 50+ population, see the report.

See the research