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Generational Differences in Customer Experience Expectations

By Ron Welty, Founder & Chief Client Officer

Today’s consumers expect a quality customer experience, but generational differences can present some challenges. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to customer experience rarely works, as most brands have customers of all ages with varying expectations.

In order to stay competitive, brands must learn to personalize their customer experience and understand the generational differences among Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. Here are the buying habits and customer experience expectations for each generation.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964, have seen and experienced it all. Spending by this older generation is expected to increase by 58 percent over the next 20 years, so they’re definitely a generation many brands will want to pay close attention. Here are some tips for tailoring your customer experience to Baby Boomers.

Focus on in-store experiences

When it comes to in-store versus online shopping, a LoyaltyOne survey found that about 84 percent of Baby Boomers prefer to make their purchases at brick-and-mortar stores. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they find the experience to be relaxing, especially if the store is messy and hard to navigate or associates make them feel rushed. To appease this generation, make sure floors are swept, aisles are clearly labeled, outdoor signage is easy to spot, and associates are friendly and helpful.

Leverage technology

A common misconception about older generations is that they are inexperienced when it comes to technology. However, 67 percent own a smartphone and 57 percent use social media, according to Pew Research Institute. Be sure to include Boomers in your omnichannel customer experience design, whether it’s live chat, a mobile app, social media, or marketing automation. Similar to a clean brick-and-mortar store, make sure your website and communications are simple, clear, and free of distractions.

Offer rewards and discounts

When it comes to a good deal, First Insight found that Baby Boomers love receiving discounts more than other generations. Not to mention, they also want to feel appreciated as a customer. Consider offering loyalty rewards programs or sending discounts through social media or email marketing, as this generation doesn’t like paying full price.

Generation X

Don’t forget about Gen X, or your customers born between 1965 and 1976. Commonly referred to as the “lost generation,” these customers should not be ignored, as they outspend all other generations. Here are a few ways you can meet the customer experience expectations of Gen X.

Be honest and transparent

Back in 2009, Gen X was hit particularly hard by the Great Recession. As a result, this generation wants to see the value in what they’re buying and will do their due diligence before making a purchasing decision. In fact, they read more reviews, visit more opinion sites, and spend more time researching than any other generation. On your online product pages, for example, be sure to offer a clear explanation of your product or service and its benefits and prominantely display customer reviews.

Reward customer loyalty

Gen X is a loyal customer base. In fact, eMarketer found that brand loyalty is highest in this generation. Leveraging loyalty rewards programs can be a great way to appeal to this generation and retain them as customers. A few best practices include keeping your rewards methodology simple, offering both long and short-term rewards, and personalizing the rewards to the customer.

Leverage social media

When it comes to social media, Gen X may be the customer you want to target. Whether they need a customer service issue solved or want to share their customer experience, this generation isn’t afraid to talk about it online. According to RevLocal, 95 percent use Facebook, 35 percent use LinkedIn, and 25 percent regularly tweet. Make sure you have an active presence on these platforms and engage with your customers often by responding to their reviews, queries, and complaints in a timely fashion. 

Millennials

Those born between 1977 and 1995 are dubbed the Millennials. While they have earned a reputation for spending all their money on avocado toast and mastering the selfie, neither will likely be useful in meeting their customer experience expectations. Here’s how you can best serve Millennials.

Focus on ecommerce experiences

When it comes to shopping, Millennials would rather do it online. A recent CouponFollow survey found that this generation makes 60 percent of their purchases online—with 36 percent of those purchases being made from a mobile device. When it comes to your online customer experience, make sure your ecommerce site is responsive, loads in under two seconds, and has a streamlined checkout process. 

Provide personalized recommendations

Want shoes to go with that outfit? According to First Insight, Millennials are impulsive shoppers and the most likely to add additional, unplanned items to their shopping carts compared with other generations. Leverage customer data, such as past purchase and browsing history, to provide personalized recommendations to Millennials.

Set them up for success

Millennials make for very self-sufficient customers, meaning they would rather do it themselves than rely on others for help. According to an Aspect survey, about three-quarters of Millennials prefer to solve customer service issues on their own, citing that they “feel good about themselves and the company they’re doing business with when they resolve a problem without talking to a customer service representative.” Set your Millennial customers up for success by providing online resources to answer their frequently asked questions, troubleshoot issues, and research your products.

Generation Z

As your youngest customer base, Gen Z was born as early as 1996, so some are graduating college, while others haven’t even started kindergarten. Surprisingly, this generation shares a lot in common with Baby Boomers. When thinking about next generation customer experience, here’s how you can customize yours for Gen Z.

Consider brick-and-mortar storefronts

As the first generation to grow up with the internet, this generation isn’t as glued to their phones as you may think. Retail Dive reports that the majority prefer going to a store over online shopping. They most enjoy interacting with associates and being able to touch, hold, and try the items they purchase. Make sure your brick and mortar locations are staffed with personable and knowledge associates and your shelves are stocked.

Speed it up

Gen Z has a short attention span, meaning they can become easily distracted and overwhelmed. Instant gratification is key for this younger generation, as they are very impatient, especially when it comes to waiting in lines. To meet their needs, make sure your website and mobile apps are designed for convenience. In your brick-and-mortar stores, consider fast checkout options, such as self-checkout shopping carts and mobile payment options.

Listen to their feedback

Gen Z wants to be heard. In fact, IBM found that 44 percent want the opportunity to share their ideas with brands. Consider leveraging customer feedback surveys, online review platforms, and other voice of the customer tools. But just opening the line of communication isn’t enough. IBM also found that 76 percent of Gen Z want brands to respond to their concerns and feedback. Good or bad, it’s a best practice to respond to online customer reviews within a week’s time and something tells us Gen Z won’t want to wait much longer for it. 

Evaluate Your Customer Experience Across Generations

Whether it’s in person, online, or over the phone, IntelliShop’s mystery shopping programs can evaluate your customer experience across generations. Our field evaluators think, act, and shop just like your customers to help you understand exactly how they interact with your brand. We’ll track the entire customer journey and present our findings to you in a detailed, actionable InSite™ report to create a strategy that will help improve your customer experience for every generation you serve. Contact IntelliShop today to request a consultation.