The 'Search Engine' Generation


Generations that shop

Physical retail will long be gone by 2050. That’s in our lifetime!

Legacy institutions such as high retail rents and the operational cost of running stores will certainly play their part in this demise, but the instrumental blow will be the future generations’ interest in real shops and shopping. It is very possible that the next two generations, Alpha and Beta, will be the last of their kind before an explosion in artificial intelligence and virtual experience that rapidly reduce interest in physical stores and products. But just as profoundly, Boomers, Gen X, Y and Z might well be the last consumer generations to place any value on real shops and stores.

Generations that shop is a series of six short articles that aim to explore and consider what opportunities remain for brands and retailers to maximise the shopping landscape now and for the relatively short-term future.

The ‘search engine’ generation.

Squeezed between their larger generational cohorts, Boomers and Millennials, Xers place a smaller footprint on the planet. But they still pack an enormous punch on consumer spending, making up almost 30% of total sales and just above 20% of the population.

Boomers enjoyed unprecedented optimism following the war with industrialised prosperity, a revitalised economy and elated liberalism. Xers, despite unparalleled technological advancements in personal computing, blockbuster home movies and MTV, witnessed political diversification and one of the biggest stock market crashes for decades. Xers certainly grew up in complex times, as the guinea pigs to early computer technology and victims of financial uncertainly they are todays pioneering ‘omnichannel’ shopper.

Xers established their white collar careers as we moved from the manufacturing economy of the boomers to the service economy. Now, almost 45% hold senior management and C-suite roles in companies that have seen unprecedented changes in consumer demands.

As a result, Xers remain conservative and direct in their own shopping behaviours.

Xers still engage the highest in traditional channels such as TV and tabloids, they react strongly to coupons and promotions, but as media has evolved, they are the first to evolve with it. In a similar way to boomers, 85% own a smartphone, but are much more likely to actively use it for product search and shopping. In fact, for Xers, the smartphone outplays their reliance on PC’s and laptops.

Without question, Xers most identifiable shopping behaviour is information. Xers are twice as likely to use search engines that Boomers and Millennials, this persistence is evident in their approach to identifying and believing in new services and products. Xers spend a huge amount of time researching online before they buy, seeking confidence and reassurance from trusted sources. Xers also peak in purchases that they somehow feel benefits society, so brands with strong altruistic tendencies are favoured by Xers.

Both in-store and online, Xers are looking for clear, direct and believable information.

They are twice as likely as boomers to be turned off by ‘flashy’ marketing techniques and alternatively respond better to more functional, bitesize communications that deliver direct facts about the benefits and price of an item. In fact, Xers are 3 times more likely to abandon an online search if the price is not visible when they land on a product page.

88% of Xers respond positively to personalisation. Maturing through an age of digital direct email they respond to marketing that appears crafted specifically to them and their values. In contrast, well over 50% of our Xers in the panel felt ignored by the brands that they favour, remarking on messaging that appeared to represent a much younger audience, leaving them feeling alienated and often out of touch with brands.

Marketeers might often overlook Xers, as they are a much smaller audience than their previous Boomers and post Millennials, but they are incredibly tech friendly, commercially astute and impressively loyal. Attributions that build brand health and wealth.

Ok, so they’re the original yuppy’s, LSD experimenters and cash conscious savers, but they gave birth to millennials and Gen Zers, so they’re cautious and confident, but above all, they’re the original ‘omnichannel’ shoppers.

Perhaps, in the context of shopping, we will remember them as the ‘click’ generation. They were the first to experiment with online marketing, the first to explore mobile freedom and above all, the first to demand and trust the capabilities of search.

By Martin Fawcett, Managing Director, The Shopper Agency

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