If we think about how each generation uses technology, Boomers are stereotyped as struggling to “work” a Droid and thinking Facebook is a cool, “new” place to hang out (“Hey, I’m friends with my first girlfriend… from 40 years ago”), whereas Gen Yers, digital natives, have a base-level knowledge of coding (thank you MySpace), are extremely impatient, just want to laugh and expect cross-platform brand experiences. Although the differences between these two generations are many, there are commonalities that narrow the age gap.
Simplicity — How did Apple rocket into the consumer technology stratosphere? Simplicity. The software and hardware developer rolled out user-friendly alternatives to DOS-type systems and the rest is history. Simplicity is not generation specific, as you might have noticed when riding on a NYC train — Boomers to Gen Yers are tapping away on their iPhone 4s. Other digital brands, such as Google have made their claim to fame through a simple UI. From its search engine to Chrome browser (where are the toolbars with dozens of links? exactly), Google has been the simple, user-friendly, alternative.
For brands, simplicity is not specific to non-digitally savvy users (i.e. the stereotypical Boomer). As our digital lives are plugged into more and more websites and social networks, users will increasingly seek a simple UI. Therefore, you need to ask, “Do I need this?” more often than ever before. By shedding a few digital pounds, it will help users understand the intent of your product offering.
Personalize — Boomers crave a personalized brand experience to establish trust, whereas Gen Yers seek personalization through ubiquity across web platforms. Merecedes created a social network called Generation Benz to get their primarily Boomer audiences’ feedback. That doesn’t mean every brand should have a social network, but instead join existing networks, such as Eons, BOOMj.com, Boomster.com and TeeBeeDee. Boomers are embracing digital social networks with almost one in four younger Boomers active in social networks, up from 15% in 2007. It’s a way to establish a personal connection and it’s best to strike while the iron is hot (who knows, half of Boomers could be signed onto a social network in the next couple of years).
Gen Yers seek an overall personalized web experience. Think Facebook Connect. Regardless where you are, you can comment or share your opinion via Facebook. Or, Tumblr, a Gen Y-focused social network (with an user-base of more than 37 percent Gen Yers), enables users to easily share wherever they are on the web. For brands, to target Gen Y in the digital space, it’s about ubiquity. For instance, Call of Duty has a video game, iPhone app, website, Facebook and Twitter. Brands need to ask, how can we engage Gen Yers across platforms.
Spending — The Great Recession forced many Boomers to crack their nest eggs. “Boomers have lost the most in terms of retirement and savings, and they have very different spending parameters today,” Lisa Feigen Dugal, PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S. retail and consumer practice leader, tells Marketing Daily. “Gen Y, and to a degree, Gen X, have disposable income in a way Boomers don’t. And they spend very differently. They are still trading down, but are using many different ways to seek out bargains.”
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