Whatever happened to Generation X?

They have become the caring consumer.

tl_files/content-photos/children watering plants.jpgGeneration X used to be known as the 'lost generation' because they are members of a demographic cohort much smaller than their predecessor, the baby boomers.  In fact, the group was so small in comparison that their existence was referred to as the 'boom echo'.  As a result, and over time, this cohort has and continues to be ignored- in both business and organizational development literature.  They have become squeezed between the two larger cohorts - Boomers and Generation Y - and are seldom acknowledged for their own particular preferences and behaviours.

But they are of an age where making large purchases, such as homes and cars, are part of their daily routine.  For those seeking customers, this cohort should not be ignored.

From latchkey to boomerang:

Generation X experienced tough economic times watching their boomer parents work long hours for a company only to be downsized or laid off when the economy tanked.  This developed in them a distrust of employers and politicians.  At the same time, they struggled to gain economic independence from their parents but, in many cases, became 'boomerang' children, the ones who kept returning to their parents' home because they couldn't find employment that would support their lifestyle.

While growing up, they were 'latchkey kids', left to their own devices while both parents went to work.   With rising divorce rates, among their boomer parents' group, and the faltering economy, this generation struggled to create a path for themselves.  This experience encouraged resilience and independence, causing them to seek to go their own way.

Is that the reason Google, Yahoo, and Amazon rose to significant heights - because as Generation Xer's they were challenged to find their own way rather than rely on the corporate world to help them out?

As a result of these experiences, this generation, today, is family-oriented and values work/life balance.  They are technologically adept, very well educated (over 60% of them went to college), adapt well to change and are tolerant of alternative lifestyles. Many of them waited until their late 20's or early 30's to marry so they take parenthood very seriously.  The return of the stay-at-home mother (unlike the boomer generation) is a choice they make because they believe in the importance of spending time with their children during the early development years.  They can be considered 'caring consumers' because they do spend, but they do it carefully.  They look for products and services that come with recommendations from other consumers.  They will read online consumer reviews and incorporate them into their purchasing decisions.  They will spend but they are frugal in the sense that they comparison shop and seek out products and services that are considered family friendly as well as affordable.

The caring consumer:

How does this knowledge help us to engage this generation and secure them as customers?

Although this cohort is much smaller than the Boomer and Generation Y cohorts, they are of the age where large purchases are being made.  They are the ones securing mortgages, purchasing vehicles and buying those adventure vacations.  They are the ones with the disposable income by being employed for many years now and still seeing themselves as a long way from retirement and the income restrictions that come with that stage of life.  Because they grew up during the introduction of the internet, they have become technologically-savvy and are comfortable with all forms of advertising and media - both online and traditional.  But they are also committed researchers - they will research a product or service fully before making any purchasing decision.

What the caring consumer will buy:

Generation X looks for products and services with the following characteristics.

  • environmentally good, organic and healthy
  • family friendly
  • variety of purchasing options
  • lots of choice
  • opportunity to comparison shop
  • access to consumer reviews
  • customer service responsiveness
  • customized to their specific interests and needs. They dislike the 'one size fits all.'
  • best value for money.

Generation X has grown into an independent, resilient and flexible consumer group.  They value diversity and integrity and they use knowledge when seeking out the products and services to enhance their lives and those of their children.  Keep in mind that they are much more brand loyal than any other cohort so if you capture their interest and respond effectively and appropriately to their feedback, they will remain one of your best customers.

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