Wireless Trends

Inside the Buyer's Mind: 5 Generational Differences Between Cell Phone Users

Stephanie Boyle | Jul 20, 2018
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Targeting different demographic groups with different sales strategies is one of the oldest tactics in the book. Now that so much of retail is integrated with data-driven technologies, however, this tactic is more accessible and more effective than ever. Retailers are empowered to segment customers in very precise ways, and to target those customers with a high degree of personalization.

Mobile devices are indispensable tools, allowing companies to interact directly with buyers in countless ways, whether that’s by providing product information, answering questions, or delivering marketing content tailored specifically to that individual. What’s often overlooked, though, is that the way a user engages with a mobile device differs depending on his or her age. This means retailers can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile. If they do, they run the very real of risk alienating a large number of consumers.

Below we explore how generational differences affect mobile device usage, and how retailers can capitalize on these differences to reach the broadest swath of consumers possible.

How Different Generations Use Mobile Devices

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Generation Z (the generation around college age): This generation prefers apps related to social media, messaging, and music. By contrast, retail apps are low on the list of usage. Connecting with this generation through mobile is certainly possible, but don’t expect to make a lot of sales through a native app. They are far more likely to convert directly through a social channel. Also, this is a generation that won’t be swayed by overt marketing messages. Instead, they’re expecting brands to offer real value and authentic experiences.

Millennials (the generation currently in their mid-20s to mid-30s): Although only a small number of millennials do the bulk of their shopping on a mobile device, many of them engage in digital shopping. They are confident and enthusiastic omnichannel shoppers, often making use of a mobile device while in a physical store, to find customer reviews or learn more about product specs. From the retailer’s perspective, millennials are unique and very important because they are highly tech-savvy and have growing purchasing power as they settle into careers. They are also eager to embrace digital solutions that enhance the overall shopping experience.  

Generation X (the generation in their later 30s to mid-50s): This generation most actively uses mobile devices for text messaging, along with Facebook Messenger. Interestingly, they aren’t nearly as likely to use alternative messaging apps like SnapChat or WhatsApp. They are avid users of Facebook, and although they aren’t digital natives, they are generally comfortable with apps and other mobile-related content. In fact, research suggests that retailers should be paying more attention to Generation X. Less than 40% of the U.S. population falls in the 35-54 age bracket, yet they account for close to 50% of the online shopper population.      

Baby Boomers (the generation currently in their mid-50s to mid-60s): Like Generation X, Baby Boomers are comfortable with researching and shopping online, with one survey suggesting that the majority will do research online prior to a purchase. The majority also own a smartphone, but they aren’t massive users of apps. Less than 5% use a mobile device for shopping. They do their homework online, but still prefer to see and touch an item before buying, making a seamless omnichannel strategy especially critical to close a sale.        

Silent Generation (the oldest living generation, mostly retired): Not surprisingly, this generation uses mobile less than any other, but still in significant numbers. The silent generation is likely to purchase mobile devices, but they are unlikely to be compelled by mobile marketing efforts. This generation uses mobile devices more for simple functions like calling and text messaging, and downloads fewer apps. Although they may do research online before buying, they aren’t particularly likely to purchase an item online.  

Attracting Customers Across Generations

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Understanding generational differences is easy, but capitalizing on them can be much harder. Retailers won’t be able to apply these insights unless they have an overarching system in place that offers key insights and allows them to segment their customer base and adjust their mobile approach accordingly. Retailers now have access to loads of customer data, so this information should be put to good use. Excellent opportunities exist to tailor both channels and messages to meet the needs of customers, and age should be an important consideration when doing this.

Another important takeaway is that physical stores are still incredibly relevant. The in-store experience still matters to consumers of all ages, and things like service, price, and selection remain important—even to the youth of Generation Z. More than ever, buyers are looking to combine the digital and the physical. When asked if they would use a mobile device to check product info while shopping in-store, 95.5% of millennials said yes. In order to connect with all consumers over mobile, retailers need to learn and respect the patterns and preferences of each generation. Meet consumers on their own terms, and utilize patterns to distribute appealing and enticing marketing messages.

iQmetrix is a suite of retail technologies designed to give decision makers insight and oversight. If you’re eager to make the most of mobile, contact our team to explore all that is possible.


Photo Credits: Shutterstock /  View Apart, Shutterstock / Gaudilab, Shutterstock / VGstockstudio

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