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Message to Marketers: Don’t Ignore Gen X

November 21st, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

There’s a lot of hullabaloo about marketing to Millennials these days, but in all the frenzy, you might be forgetting about a very important demographic: Generation X. Aged 35 to 44, this often-ignored generation is important for marketers to target—but it’s important to target them correctly.

New research from SymphonyIRI’s Q3 2012 MarketPulse study found that while Gen Xers might at first glance seem similar to Baby Boomers, they actually have a lot in common with Millennials. Dubbed “cheap but cheerful” in the study, Generation X generally has a positive outlook on the economy, but are still more frugal than either Baby Boomers or seniors. They’re more likely than either group to buy products on sale, seek out the lowest price, buy products based on loyalty rewards, and avoid making unplanned impulse buys.

One reason for this frugality is that Gen-Xers had already gone through their own version of the recession pre-2008. Many of them first entered the job market after the 1987 stock market crash. Just like today’s Millennials, many of them struggled to find jobs out of college and had to move back with their parents. They also lived through the dotcom bust of the early 2000s. This “bleak” heritage has shaped their outlook on spending, just as the Great Depression left its mark on seniors and the Great Recession is shaping today’s Millennials.

Despite their past, Gen-Xers are more financially optimistic than the average shopper, SymphonyIRI found. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) say their financial situation has improved in the last 12 months, and more than one-third (37 percent) believe their finances will improve during the next 12 months.

That doesn’t mean they’re free spenders; on the contrary, Gen X is cost-conscious. Before going shopping, 69 percent of Gen X consumers make a shopping list, 49 percent look at sales circulars and 48 percent use coupons.

One important difference between Gen X and the Boomers is that Gen X is much more tech-savvy. In fact, this generation is pretty much on par with Millennials in their use of technology for shopping. More than half of them download coupons from manufacturer, retailer or couponing websites; 35 percent go to daily deal sites; and 31 percent look for coupons on social media.

No matter what demographic you’re targeting, SymphonyIRI’s study found some good news: in general, U.S. consumers in all demographic groups have shown an increasingly positive financial outlook during the third quarter of the year.

Image by Flickr user takomabibelot (Creative Commons)

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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