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A new study from Radius Global Marketing Research compares the purchase influences for Baby Boomers and their children, known as Gen Y or Millennials. The upshot? Boomers are more influenced by advertising than the younger generation; Millennials are more influenced by word of mouth and search engines.

How Boomers and Millennials Research Products

Radius reports that 90% of Millennials (18-32 years old) and 86% of Boomers (49-67 years old) research products online. A high percentage of both groups conduct that research on PCs. There is a big split when it comes to mobile use — 60% of Millennials research via smart phone vs. only 14% of Boomers.

Print is still a valuable source of information for Baby Boomers. 38% research products in newspapers or magazines, a rate Radius said was twice that of Millennials.

Both cohorts said they’d increase travel spending in 2014, and both groups prefer to make travel purchases online — Boomers are even more likely than their children to have done so, which surprised MarketingCharts but will be a no-brainer to anyone who’s heard Creating Results talk about the “Power of Generational Marketing.” Who’s booking long cruises to celebrate 50th wedding anniversaries and intergenerational safaris to mark 70th birthdays? It’s not a 25-year-old.

For 2014, Boomers are more focused than GenY on “necessities.” They ranked packaged foods and insurance products higher priorities, while Millennials said their priorities were travel and apparel. This is logical given lifestages. But what will sway their purchase decisions?

What Influences Purchases Large and Small

The Radius team asked respondents about their purchases within four categories, two large (financial services and big-ticket purchases like travel and tech) and two small (apparel and packaged goods). Here, some distinctions emerged.

Boomers rely more on advertising and advice from sales representatives. Millennials rely more on word-of-mouth and search engines.

Table - What influences purchase by baby boomers, millennials - Radius research

 As MarketingCharts summarized,

“Among Boomers, word-of-mouth (WOM) is the top influencer for financial products and big-ticket purchases, but was only third for packaged goods purchases, and fell out of the top 3 for apparel decisions. Interestingly, though, Boomers ranked advertising among the top 3 influencers in each category, giving it top billing for packaged goods decisions.”

I was surprised search engines didn’t have more influence over Baby Boomers as search is one of the top 2 online activities for older adults.

What This Means For 2014 Boomer Marketing

1. Is your website optimized for ALL ages and most devices? This study showed that roughly equal numbers of Millennials and Boomers research on PCs. Other studies have shown the rise in tablets for research and purchase, a device much loved by Boomers. Be sure your content is ageless and your user experience is responsive.

2. Are your sales representatives trained to work with older adults, including Boomers? As Kathy East noted in her excellent post, “What Over 55 Housing Can Learn From Nordstrom’s,” an investment in training can pay off.

3. Is your advertising — online and off — delivering the ROI it should? Perhaps it’s time for an audit and testing some new messages with Boomers.

 

What do you think this research means for marketing to baby boomers? Please share your take-aways below.

RELATED: TV and Newspapers Trump Social for Influence on Older Adults

About The Author

Erin Read

Erin Read spearheads integrated and digital marketing programs for organizations targeting mature consumers. She writes, researches and speaks about marketing to baby boomers and seniors. Erin has addressed local, regional, international conferences on generational marketing. She is the co-author of three national studies/eBooks (Photo Finish; Social, Silver Surfers 2010 & 2013) and the principal blogger for Mature Marketing Matters.

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