Are You Designing a Brand Strategy for Six Generations of Customers?
Businesses today need to map a larger “demographic spread” of customers. A report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found increased life expectancy in OECD countries since 1960. We must therefore consider longer life spans and more active customers among younger and older generations. So your product or service may need to connect with, and gain the loyalty of, six different generations (according to a research paper “Marketing to the Generations” published by Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business):
Matures/Silents (1927–1945): Concerns include healthcare, financial, and personal security, as well as face-to-face communication.
Baby Boomers (1950s–1960s): Often individualistic, receive a lot of information on TV, and enjoy Internet convenience, but may lack superior mobile skills.
Gen X (1970s): Often question conventionality, seek work-life balance, and prefer short sound bites and informal communications.
Gen Y (1980s): Independent, autonomous, and highly motivated; reach out through social media freely for product and service information and opinions.
Gen Z (1990s): Accustomed to technology and multiple sources, and respond well to visual information.
Tweens (10-12-year-olds): Often care about products in fashion and are influenced by peers, and desire instant gratification.
While these are broad generalizations, clearly each generation alive today presents very different concerns, preferences, behaviors, and reasons for using your products—or not.
This is a crucial insight that businesses must address. By targeting generations differently, you can improve the effectiveness of product, marketing, and Customer Experience Management (CXM) strategies. We know that digital, mobile, and social customers are very well-informed and, thus, wield more power.
But for customer interactions to be contextual and valuable, as well as rapidly and continually personalized, businesses must address the diversity of generations.
ENABLE DIVERSE CUSTOMER JOURNEYS
So what can organizations do to build customer loyalty from such a diversified target audience?
ompetitive advantage demands the tracking and mapping of consumer intent and predicting behavior, with the generation imprinted on data sets for them to be really valuable. Also, keeping the consumer engaged over multiple communication channels is what keeps the customer invested in a brand.
Clearly, Big Data analytics and real-time, self-learning decision engines have much to offer in this age of intelligent CXM to automate and digitize business operations.
But there are several things you can do to harness today’s technologies not only for quick, real-time insights, but for rapid, personalized actions:
Map your customer journeys from category interest through consideration, purchase, and service.
Use Big Data and analytics to understand patterns and predict their future behavior and intent to guide product development, brand messaging, and customer experience.
Deploy algorithmic logic to power rules-/trigger-based systems. Embed your insights into your CRM engines and other customer-facing systems to automate workflows for seamless, contextually-relevant activities and personalized responses that take cues from customer behavior to drive sales conversion.
Build interest, engagement, and loyalty based on each customer’s unique preferences and approach to the buying/consumption journey keeping abreast of their specific generational mindsets by leveraging analytics, algorithmic logic, and omni-channel technologies.
DOES LOYALTY REALLY MATTER?
In today’s fast-paced digital world, customer loyalty is fickle because of the asymmetric information equation between them, and the enterprise is often in favor of the customer. But loyalty is a key driver of the bottom line.
The 2015 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Leaders List shows that the most successful brands have customers that remain loyal, sometimes for a lifetime. Netflix, Amazon, and Apple are the top 3 brands in the survey, with the most loyal customers. Google, Kindle, PayPal, Facebook, and Twitter are some other brands in the top 20.
Brand loyalty among mobile, digital, and social brands dominates: Mobile and digital products and services occupy one-third of the top 100 slots in the list. These brands have succeeded in shaping consumer needs and fulfill their desirability criteria admirably. This emotional connect between customers and brands benefits businesses immensely, since customers promote their loyalty further. So businesses comfortable with today’s digital and connected media use it to build deeper emotional connections with consumers.
Change reigns, as 36 of the top 100 are new brands: Today’s marketplace is complex. Businesses need to keep up with customer requirements that change frequently. The displacement of 36 brands from the top 100 suggests that many are unable to develop sufficiently agile market outreach. They struggle to engage with today’s younger digital and connected customers, as well as juggle with the different preferences and consumption behaviors of older generations.
The biggest brands fail to make the cut: Some of the biggest businesses have failed to make the list this time—e.g., Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s (first miss since 1996), General Motors, Ben & Jerry’s, Skype, Southwest Airlines, and Walmart. The generation a customer belongs to changes the impact a marketing campaign has on her. It is therefore necessary for these brands to execute a customized brand strategy to retain customer loyalty across each generation.
While automotive companies don’t appear on the Leaders list until Hyundai at 19 and Ford at 22, they did climb from numbers 23 and 26 in the 2014 study, possibly due to a concerted focus on delivering specific needs to a wider audience: e.g., telematics applications and digital services in the connected car. They may need to devise even more effective social and digital strategies to connect with new generations of buyers, who are happy using the sharing economy or subscription-based business models. Another key area will be to work out how the industry’s dealer network contributes to value delivery.
For all businesses, a key question to explore is around how customers can be their brand ambassadors, promoting it and converting others to the brand experience. Older firms will have to compete with brands like Google and Netflix, which operate very well in today’s digital, mobile, and connected world. To be successful, they will need to answer key questions, such as:
What will they do with their traditional strengths and how will they add new ones to connect better with six different generations?
What are their strategies to improve brand loyalty and contain churn across these demographic divides?