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Many business owners think that EVERYONE is their customer, so they create a coupon, find a monthly delivery system (a coupon magazine or coupon mailer) and hope for the best. But, understanding your target customer can give you insights into how to price, how to promote, how to utilize media and what special offers will appeal to them.

Is Generation X the most likely group of people to purchase your goods and services?

How would you know? Start with your current customers. What is the average age of the majority of your customers? Who typically makes the largest purchase during an average visit? Who are your return customers?

If you are not in business yet, look at the neighborhoods where you are thinking of locating your business. What is the average age and income of the people in the immediate one mile radius? Check out the three mile radius also. If you have a retail business, the majority of your customers will be local to those areas.

If your answer is Generation X, have you made them the target of your marketing dollars? Do you know how to make your message resonate with them?

Let’s start with some facts.

The term Generation X refers to those born from 1965 through 1976. That means they ranged in age from 42 to 53 in 2018. Observers of popular culture have known for a long time that, in a large part, people who were born at approximately the same time usually share a similar attitude toward life and leisure activities. They tend to dress alike, vote alike, live alike and shop alike. (Hmmm, they shop alike? That’s where you, the business owner, come in.)

Generation X numbers 49 million strong and in 2018 represented 16% of the total population. They account for less than 30% of the nation’s workforce, they are equally divided between male and female, over 50% are married and living with their spouse and over 55% of them have at least one child under the age of 18 living at home. The majority of them own a home and they are more educated than any generation before them, with nearly 30% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Over 50% of them have pets and nearly 20% of them are caring for aging parents more than 30 hours per week. They are more ethnically diverse than any generation before them, and they have a tolerance for differences and an acceptance of those from diverse backgrounds. They are not only comfortable with change, they embrace it.

They don’t have the same sense of loyalty to their employers as the baby boomers (born 1946-1964), showing themselves reluctant to sacrifice their family life for a job, consequently they have pushed for work-life balance in the workplace. They grew up in a time of change and their values and viewpoints were shaped by several significant social, cultural and historical events.
The oldest members of the group were pre-teens when the first test tube baby was born and the first mobile phone was developed, they were teenagers when MTV premiered and CNN was launched and they turned 21 the year the space shuttle Challenger exploded and IBM introduced the laptop computer.

Shopping Habits

Now that we have some background on them, let’s look at their shopping habits. Compared to previous generations they are; accustomed to inexpensive imported goods and less averse to buying them, are more pessimistic about their financial futures and are suspicious of “slick” conventional marketing approaches.

They are more likely to swipe a credit or debit card at the gas pumps than baby boomers, and are less brand loyal. When is comes to shopping for fashion items, the women are motivated by price and 34% report shopping at discount stores such as Target, Wal-Mart and Kmart. They spend more money eating out than the national average and as a group prefer beer over wine.

Although they make fewer shopping trips, they spend more dollars per trip than previous generations. They favor mass merchandisers and supercenters over more traditional formats like grocery or drug stores.

Spending Habits

The categories where Gen Xers spend more than the national average: Apparel for children under 2, personal services, apparel for boys and girls 2-15, household operations, cars and trucks, furniture, housing and major appliances.

They spend less than the national average on: prescription and non-prescription drugs, health care, life insurance, medical supplies, apparel for women 16 and over, education, personal care products and nonalcoholic beverages.

What you want to know

We have gathered a variety of facts about our subjects and will now use those facts to answer the following questions.

1. Why do they buy?
2. How do they buy?
3. What do they buy?
4. Where do they buy?
5. Where do you find them?
6. How do you reach them?

Let’s answer the questions using the information we’ve learned about Generation X.

Why do they buy?

We know Generation X women are motivated by price when it comes to fashion. We also know they spend more than the national average on apparel for children under 16. We could conclude they are willing to spend more money on their children than themselves, at least in terms of fashionable clothing.

They also spend more than average on housing, furniture, major appliances, cars and trucks. We might conclude that when it involves their family they are willing to spend more money.

To convert this information to marketing tactics, we might decide that anytime you cater to their children, you cater to them. As over 55% of them still have children at home, you might have a child activity center in your establishment to keep the children busy while Mom and Dad shop. You might offer family activities or family discounts to attract them.

We could conclude that if you can involve the children of Generation X, they will most likely show up and spend money, so consider framing your benefits around family and children. Select photos, for your marketing, that show families happy and enjoying themselves. You might employ phrases like “Your family will love…”, or “Your children will be happier…”, or “Treat your loved ones to…”.

How do they buy?

We know they use debit and credit cards at the gas pumps more often than other generations, and they spend more than the national average on big ticket items like cars and furniture. We can draw a conclusion that they like the convenience of not carrying cash and have no problems using credit, as they are not likely using cash to purchase cars and furniture.

Your response could be to indicate you take credit cards by including the Visa and M/C logos in your advertisements and having them prominently displayed in your place of business. If you don’t currently have a merchant account, get one immediately so your customers can pay in a way that is familiar, comfortable and convenient for them.

We know Generation X is technically savvy, so we can conclude that they do some of their shopping on the internet. You should have a web presence, and if possible allow them to purchase your product over the internet. Make sure your return policy is clearly stated and straight forward. Remember, they are suspicious of advertisers.

Where do they buy?

We know that Generation X makes fewer shopping trips, but spend more dollars per trip than other generations. We also know that they frequent mass merchandisers and supercenters.

We could conclude that Generation X has things to do and places to go and are reluctant to spend their spare time to running around from store to store. They like one-stop-shopping, where they can purchase a variety of items in one place, or get a variety of chores done in one stop.

How can you turn this to your advantage? Set up similar opportunities for your customers. As an example, if you are a wedding planner, instead of providing referrals to business partners for the invitations, flowers, cake, food, etc., you could create a package for your customers, so when they come in to consult with you, they could also consult with your business partners and make all the decisions at one time.

In a different approach, you could put together a comprehensive package for your Generation X ‘parents of the bride’ that includes everything they need for a memorable wedding and have agreements with business partners or independent contractors to provide the parts of the package that you don’t. So, now your customers can select and purchase in one place.

What do they buy?

We already know, at a high level, what Generation X spends more money on and what they spend less money on. But, what if your particular product or service doesn’t fit into the categories previously mentioned? We have to review the data, make assumptions and draw conclusions.

Looking at the list of what they spend money on; houses, cars, furniture, personal services, household operations and appliances, you could conclude that making their home and family comfortable comes high on their list of priorities.

We can gather more clues from research facts. Over 50% of them have pets, so pet accessories, food, toys, grooming and training would be of interest to them. Nearly 20% of them are caring for elderly parents. Could your product or service contribute to their success in that area of their lives?

They are more technologically advanced than any generation before them and they have embraced the internet in huge numbers. So they are likely to have cell phones for most, if not all, members of the family and will have at least one and probably multiple computers and laptops for the use by the family. So, any technology products or technology support products would be of interest to them.

If you are a member of Generation X, use your own purchasing habits and the purchasing habits’ of your friends as a guide.

Where do you find them?

The majority of Gen X own homes so you will find their neighborhoods through local demographic data of areas near your place of business. They will frequent local, age appropriate entertainment spots. Over 55% of them have at least one child living at home and as family is very important to them, you will find them supporting youth activities such as team sports, dance and gymnastics.

Being very technologically proficient, they are likely to be found surfing the web to comparison shop both price and features on products they are interested in purchasing. They are busy parents, so they could be found eating out at restaurants in the area.

Look around at the places you frequent. Do you see more members of Generation X, more members of the Baby Boomer generation or more members of Generation Y around you? Observe their actions, peek into their shopping cards to see what they are purchasing. The more information you have the better.

How do you reach them?

Generation X has been fed technology from the cradle. Video games started to gain wide spread popularity by the late 70’s, so by the time Gen Xers were in grade school, video games had a firm grasp on the youth of the country. IBM introduced the floppy disc in 1970 and the first Apple computer was created in 1976.

They are more knowledgeable about technology than previous generations and more likely to use it. Consequently, email and social networking are excellent ways to reach them. You should craft a strategy that includes a website and possibly some form of regular communication, be it monthly or quarterly.

The majority of them own a home, so local publications that are delivered to their home could be a good bet. They are young enough that they are not likely to be couch potatoes, so entertainment publications would work as many are looking for a place to go or to take their family. Don’t forget direct mail, but keep your message simple and straight forward with clear evidence to support your claims as they are suspicious of advertising.

You can also look to others for help. Consider national companies who cater to Generation X and monitor their advertisements. Borrow ideas from the big guys. They’ve spent millions of dollars creating and testing their ads. Take advantage of their investment to help you design your own ads and successful promotions.

We now have information on how, why, what and where they buy, we know ways to reach them and some places to find them. We have an idea of some vehicles we could use to approach them and some ideas on how to frame the message.

Don’t Stop Now!

I hope this information has helped you with your message to your primary customer, Generation X. But we’ve only just brushed the surface. Continue to do research because more information is being released regularly on blogs, by insurance companies and from polls and surveys. There is a treasure trove of data from the latest census www.census.gov).

Additional research will help you discover who has the highest coupon redemption rate. Who makes the most unplanned purchases when they go shopping? Find out how much time certain consumers spend in the store, whether they wander the aisles or go directly to what they want to buy.

All of this information puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to crafting your strategy and deciding the tactics to use to reach your target customer.

Good Luck !