From Gen X to Gen Z: How to Engage Each Generation and Build Genuine Connections

Welcome to the second post in our series about the changing face of retail. Last week, we examined the latest trends that are shaping the retail industry, so if you missed that post, be sure to check it out. In this week’s installment, we’re diving deeper into the preferences of three key shopper generations: Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. Drawing insights from our research, we’ll explore the unique characteristics and shopping habits of each generation and explore how you can better tailor your campaigns to build more meaningful connections.
If you’re interested in learning more, download our eBook which provides a deep dive on specific data points and strategies.

Gen X: The Pragmatic Pioneers

The first generation we’re looking at is Gen X. Currently in their mid-forties to early fifties, Gen Xers are characterized by independence, adaptability, pragmatism, and a strong work ethic. Unlike the Baby Boomers who witnessed economic growth and Millennials who grew up in the digital era, Gen X navigated through economic instability, social change, and technological advancements during their formative years. These experiences have shaped their values and attitudes, making it crucial for marketers to understand their unique perspective. By acknowledging their experiences and catering to their preferences, marketers can establish strong connections and set themselves apart. Here are 3 things to keep in mind when marketing to Gen X:

Transparency Matters

Gen Xers are cautious shoppers and want brands to be open and honest in their communication. In fact, around 69% of them believe that transparency is essential when making a purchase and prefer brands that show that they have nothing to hide.

Invest in Sustainability & Social Responsibility

While Gen Xers may have initially questioned claims about sustainability, they’re becoming more aware of environmental issues, and are willing to support sustainable causes. In Fact, over 90% of Gen X consumers say they would spend a bit more on products that are environmentally friendly.

Find Ways to Build Loyalty

Gen X strongly values loyalty with an impressive 84% reporting that they are either extremely or moderately loyal to their favorite brands. This loyalty is fueled by personalized rewards and benefits that suit their individual needs and preferences.

Millennials: The Digital Natives

Currently in their late twenties to early forties, millennials represent the second youngest generation in the workforce and consumer market. They’ve grown up with the internet but still remember life before the rise of social media and mobile devices. Often referred to as digital natives due to their deep connection with technology, marketers need to focus on delivering seamless digital experiences across multiple channels.
Social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube play a crucial role in reaching this audience, as they heavily rely on peer recommendations and influencer endorsements when making purchasing decisions. Engaging purpose-driven messaging and interactive content are essential strategies for capturing their attention. As you build out your messaging strategy, here are 3 things to keep in mind:

Deliver and Authentic Message

Authenticity is key for Millennials. In fact, a staggering 90% of this generation consciously selects brands they perceive as genuine. Millennials possess a keen eye for inauthenticity, with 30% reporting that they unfollow or “break up” with brands that come across as fake or insincere.

Investments in Sustainability Will Deliver ROI

Similar to Gen X, Millennials actively seek out brands that do more than pay lip service to environmental sustainability. Our research shows that 75% of millennials prefer to support brands that invest in sustainable business practices and firmly believe that companies should contribute to society rather than focusing solely on profits.

Create Opportunities for Discounts and Deals

Millennials are known for their price sensitivity, approaching brand and retailer choices with a value-based mindset. They’re always on the lookout for deals, especially if they can be easily accessed and stored on their mobile devices. Scanning for discounts is second nature, with 68% admitting that targeted promotions effectively influence their purchasing decisions making affordability a key driver of their brand preferences.

Gen Z: The Socially Conscious Consumers

Gen Z is the youngest generation in the workforce and consumer market and currently accounts for just over 20% of the population. Unlike previous generations, they were born into a world where technology is ubiquitous and indispensable, which heavily influences their communication, consumption habits, and worldview. They prioritize authenticity, social responsibility, and immersive experiences when choosing brands to connect with.
Marketers aiming to connect with Gen Z need to prioritize ethical practices and demonstrate a genuine commitment to social causes. Engaging video content, user generated campaigns, and personalized recommendations are key driving engagement, as well as seamless shopping experiences across online and offline platforms. As you create your campaigns, keep these 3 things in mind

Embrace ‘Phygital’ Retail

Despite their digital native status, Gen Z customers exhibit a preference for in-store shopping. 47% of Gen Z respondents, more than any other generation, reported that in-store shopping was their preferred way to purchase products. However, they’re much different from the conventional shopping habits of older generations like Baby Boomers. Prior to stepping foot in brick-and-mortar stores, Gen Z engages in extensive pre shopping activities, leveraging a variety of digital tools such as mobile devices, online reviews, influencer videos, and recommendations from friends.
Tired of irrelevant ads, Gen Z seeks a sense of community where they can connect with someone who shares their experiences and opinions on products. Moreover, 77% of Gen Z may prefer the in-store experience, but they seamlessly integrate various digital channels for a holistic and interactive shopping journey. Known for their impatience, Gen Z is also embracing the emerging trend of “buy now, pay later,” reflecting their desire for instant gratification.

Double Down on Authenticity, even if it’s Uncomfortable

For Gen Z, authenticity takes center stage in their evaluation of brands and companies. 95% prioritizes authenticity above all else when making purchasing decisions. They search for the real and genuine aspects of a brand, looking beyond the polished corporate image. In fact, 82% of Gen Z prefer to buy from a brand that features real customers in their advertising, as it demonstrates a celebration of diversity and a step away from over-polished, airbrushed models. In essence, Gen Z customers demand full transparency—they want to know exactly what they’re buying and from whom, embracing both the strengths and flaws of the brand.

Find Opportunities to Highlight Sustainability & Social Responsibility

As with Gen X and Millennials, Gen Z in particular, has a heightened awareness regarding the impact of businesses on the environment and society as a whole. They gravitate towards brands that employ visual storytelling to showcase ethical practices and demonstrate how they help reduce their footprint. Gen Z also seeks input from ethical influencers and activists who align with their personal values, meaning brands that partner with these individuals or groups are more likely to be successful.

Tailor Your Campaigns for Each Individual Generation

As we’ve uncovered, marketers need to tailor their strategies to connect with each generation individually. By acknowledging the unique perspectives of your audience and aligning your campaigns and positioning with their values, you can carve out a niche in the market and differentiate yourself from the competition.
Be sure to check back next week for the final post in this series, where we will explore how Zeta empowers marketers to bridge the generational gap through identity, activation, and intelligence. If you’re interested in diving deeper into the data, download our eBook: The Changing Face of Retail: Connecting with Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.


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