Allen Hammock, Director, Search Strategy @ Kenshoo
From boomers to Gen Z, reach the right audience with the right message with search marketing by generation
There’s no “one size fits all” approach to search marketing. Finding your target audiences means segmenting your customers again and again. But one segmentation opportunity that many practitioners miss is search marketing by generation. Generational marketing can absolutely help better tailor search to age-specific needs.
Here’s a breakdown of the generations you can target:
And while no two customers are exactly alike just because they happen to be close in age, there are some helpful tips to keep in mind.
Generational assumptions are rampant, both in the media and in marketing. For example, all too often we think of baby boomers as tech-illiterate and millennials as way more interested in social media than any other channel. But the truth is, search engines absolutely still matter, no matter what generation you’re targeting.
According to a recent Forbes article, 96% of baby boomers use search engines. And of that overwhelming majority, Google also found that “Search is the top online information-gathering resource for boomers and seniors, driving a variety of actions. Relevancy, familiarity, and trust are equally important in influencing which search results are clicked on.”
Meanwhile, even though many brands are shifting their focus away from search to other channels when they want to reach younger audiences, studies show that the under-40-crowd is still using search engines as a primary means of gathering information. Search Engine Land found that 68% of millennials were conducting daily searches, and 62% were conducting at least five searches per day.
But while every age group is absolutely using search engines, the devices they’re using to access those search engines vary based on age. Here are a few stats to keep in mind when devising a search marketing by generation strategy:
Baby boomers: A study by Millward Brown Digital found that 31% of baby boomers use laptops and PCs to shop online.
Gen X: While Gen X is much more likely to be on mobile than baby boomers, one of the best ways to reach this incredibly busy generation is via tablet: 64% of Gen Xers own a tablet, more than any other generation.
Millennials: Millennials truly are the mobile generation. A study by GlobalWebIndex found that 68% of millennials called mobile their “most important device,” while just 16% said the same for their laptop and only 14% for desktop.
Gen Z: Gen Z is another generation you’re much more likely to catch on mobile. According to a recent study by eMarketer, U.S. teens spend around 85 hours each month on their smartphones, and smartphone usage makes up about 62% of their time online.
Learn more about how to market to today’s generations
Just because marketers might perceive generations certain ways doesn’t mean that they necessarily see themselves that way. In fact, quite the opposite is usually true. Baby boomers, on the whole, see themselves as active and vibrant; they pretty much hate anything with words like “elderly” and “golden years.” Meanwhile, millennials hate “millennial speak,” while Gen X can’t stand anything that seems phony. This anecdote from The New York Times about American Express executives struggling to understand and correctly use generational slang is exactly why it should probably be avoided:
“In one Amex brainstorming session, according to an executive I spoke with, participants spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what FOMO meant before turning to Google.”
Instead, search marketing by generation requires you to understand the intent behind what different generations are looking for rather than trying to guess which slang terms they might use.
Baby boomers: Baby boomers have a lot of disposable income, but when they’re researching, they’re much more likely than any other generation to be comparing prices. A recent study by BRP found that 64% are comparing products by price.
Gen X: This generation’s purchasing power is often overlooked in favor of boomers or millennials, but Gen X is absolutely shopping and most likely searching for coupons. According to a March 2019 report by Valassis, 93% of Gen X respondents said they had used coupons in the past year.
Millennials: Millennials are the most cash-strapped generation, and since they’re trying to make every dollar count, they’re doing more homework before buying than their elders. The Intelligence Group’s Cassandra Report says that when millennials buy products, 36% tend to make purchases they view as “really necessary.” They’re also doing a lot of research beforehand; 72% says they research online before making an in-store purchase. Millennials also think about the resale value of the things they buy, with 44% saying they factor resale value into a purchase and prefer brands “that allow them to repair, reuse and/or recycle the goods they consume.”
Gen Z: The youngest group of shoppers are still trying to figure out which brands they like, so they’re most likely to be searching for product reviews, rather than prices and coupons. According to The Center for Generation Kinetics, 86% of Gen Z relies on user reviews and other online opinions before making a first-time purchase.
No two customers search in exactly the same way. The key to successfully using search marketing by generation is understanding what each generation is looking for and where they’re most likely looking for it. Doing this will help you create content that resonates with the right audience in the right place at the right time.
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