Marketing to Gen X: How Your Ecommerce Strategy Can Successfully Convert Them
Get The Print Version
Tired of scrolling? Download a PDF version for easier offline reading and sharing with coworkers.
You have a solid ecommerce marketing strategy in place and you’ve worked hard to identify the appropriate channels and campaigns to attract your target audience — ranging from social media for Generation Z and Millennials to more traditional media and direct mail for the Baby Boomers.
But, what about the in-between generation, the Gen Xers?
Unfortunately, this generation is usually an afterthought. But Gen X, making up more than 30% of the American population, has vast purchasing power.
Accordinging to the U.S. Department of Labor, Generation X outspends all other generations when it comes to housing, clothing, eating out and entertainment.
They are experienced with purchasing both online and in-store, so you have to be strategic with how and where you market to this audience. Given some of this generation is close to the Baby Boomer age, you shouldn’t forget traditional media. 48% listen to the radio, 62% percent still read newspapers and 85% percent watch traditional television.
Who is Gen X?
Generation X is one of the smallest generations in the U.S., but they make up a large portion of the purchasing power. They are born sometime between the years of 1965–1980, and are effectively a technological conduit between Baby Boomers and Millennials. To better understand this generation, it’s important to recognize the generations they are sandwiched in between.
Baby Boomers, born between the years of 1942–1964, were once the largest generation, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials have surpassed them. Boomers worked hard and enjoyed social activities in their younger years.
The majority are retired or preparing to retire, they have money to spend, but they are also want to protect their wealth. The most likely generation to shop for items on sale, they value good deals and take advantage of them by using coupons.
On the other side of the Gen Xers are Millennials. Born between the years of 1981–2000, Millennials make up the largest percentage of the population and aren’t familiar with a world before the internet and mobile phones.
The younger portion of this group just graduated from high school or recently graduated from college and can be still reliant on their parents. The older Millennials might already have children, work in a professional career and have expensive college debt.
One thing they all have in common is they are very tech savvy — and not as loyal to brands as older generations like the Baby Boomers.
In this sense, Gen X can understand the points of view from both generations. They enjoy learning the new tech of the century, spending time with their families and having independence. We also have to keep in mind, Generation X has borne witness to some significant events, including civil rights movements, several wars across the Atlantic and the Y2K crisis, to name a few.
A stereotypical Xer will be family-oriented, financially responsible and self-reliant. They may be overlooked, but Gen X’s impact on the workplace and the economy is hard to ignore.
What to Know About Gen X
Gen X can be the hardest age group to understand and nail down for even the most savvy marketers. You essentially have two types of Gen Xers:
- Those born earlier in the generation who have some of the characteristics of Baby Boomers.
- Younger members of Gen X who have some Millennial-type buying habits.
From a marketer’s perspective, it’s interesting how different each end of the generation can be when it comes to their savviness with technology. Earlier members of the generation may still have trouble with technology, such as computers and phones, while the later members have no trouble at all and are usually enthusiastic early adopters.
The more tech-dependant marketing techniques may appeal more to those that were born closer to 1980 and miss altogether those that were born closer to 1965.
Despite their differences, there are still commonalities across this diverse generation. Below are a few things to keep in mind when you are marketing to Gen Xers:
1. They are financially stable.
Since the oldest Gen Xers are 54 and the youngest are 39, they are at their highest-earning years and are on their way to reaching the top of their profession. Ignoring them means ignoring a demographic that has impressive influence over both household and company decisions.
2. They care about security.
Most Gen Xers have started families, and their children are likely in school or graduating from college at this point in their lives. Making smart decisions for their family’s safety and financial future is very important to them.
They also hold strong family values. To more easily connect with this generation, make it a priority to show them you can be trusted, and provide them a reliable product or service to build relationships and referrals.
3. They’ve seen a lot.
Gen X (as a whole generation) has been through the moon landing, the Cold War, the internet revolution, the Y2K crisis and everything in between. They have seen a lot of ads and been the target of a lot of marketing, which means having an authentic message throughout your marketing is very important.
4. They use the internet to research businesses.
Generation Xers tend to research businesses on the internet even after seeing a TV commercial or newspaper ad. You’ll want to make sure your company information and messaging are consistent across all directories, social platforms and, most importantly, your website.
5. They prefer marketing that is more personal and authentic.
Most Gen Xers are now parents and prefer to consume media that reflects their values. They also prefer brands who are authentic. Be transparent and don’t hide agendas or values from this generation — they will see right through it. Try to be forward with your intentions, no “smoke and mirrors.”
Stats on Gen X
Unlike some of the Baby Boomer generation, Gen X has embraced the internet.
This educated age group enjoys spending time searching online and connecting with friends on their favorite social media platform, Facebook. They’re also known to be very loyal customers — just another reason to focus your marketing efforts on this generation!
Below are some interesting statistics you’ll want to keep in mind when building your marketing plan to capture the attention of Gen Xers:
- Generation X currently makes up 31% of the total U.S. income.
- Gen X loves social media — 95% of them use Facebook.
- 72% of Gen Xers use the internet to research businesses.
- Acknowledge this generation in your marketing — 54% of Gen Xers are frustrated that brands constantly ignore them.
- Use traditional media to your advantage with Gen Xers — 48% listen to the radio, 62% still read newspapers and 85% watch traditional television.
- 35% of Xers in the U.S. have college degrees, compared to only 19% of Millennials. This means that they tend to hold more powerful positions in organizations.
- Keep device usage in mind when marketing to Gen X — they spend more time per week on all devices than Millennials do: 21 hours on smartphones, 9 hours on PCs, and 4 hours on tablets.
Which Channels Reach Gen X?
With 58.2 million Gen Xers using the internet every day, they are the hardest generation in the U.S. to pin down. Generation X is the closest generation to retirement and are at the peak of their buying power. However, they are not as wealthy as the previous generation, the Baby Boomers, and often have more debt.
Gen Xers remember the world before the internet, but don’t let that steer your perception of this generation — many of them are well-versed with technology. It’s important to recognize that this group does have a tendency to develop brand loyalty and is also more likely to spend more on brands that contribute to social causes.
However, there are key channels to include in your marketing strategy to catch Gen X’s attention and influence them to make a purchase on your website.
Generation X likes to research businesses online. Ensure your business information and messaging is consistent across popular websites and directories, and include your listing on:
- Google or Bing,
- social media,
- and other popular online directories.
Millennials are often seen as the social media-obsessed generation, but Gen Xers are just as likely to engage with brands on social media. Since Facebook is the most popular social media site used by Generation X, you’ll want to ensure you’re providing relevant information and have a Facebook-specific marketing plan to encourage engagement and online purchases.
- Add a description to your “About” section.
- Ensure your company details are correct — address, website, phone number and hours.
- Use the “Shop Now” call-to-action button.
- Manage and respond to reviews as quickly as possible!
- Post regularly — a minimum of one post per week.
- Use Facebook advertising to attract your target audience.
- Utilize discount codes to drive online purchases (use a specific code for Facebook to track ROI more accurately).
Generation X still holds an appreciation for “snail” mail, as long as it isn’t bills (although I think it’s safe to say this holds true across all generations). Many Gen Xers still send out handwritten cards for both personal and professional means.
As we’ll discuss more in a later section, try to include a discount code to entice them to purchase. This is also a great way to track your return on investment. It’s important to note that direct mail marketing can be expensive. To save on costs, try using a postcard-size mailer and make sure your mailing list is as accurate as possible. Lastly, don’t forget to include your website URL and phone number on your marketing mailer.
With 58.2 billion Gen Xers using the internet every day, they tend to check their email on a fairly regular basis, which means they’ll usually see your message. Email can be a very cost-effective marketing tactic, so this is a win-win for marketers! If you have something to important or enticing to communicate, email is a great way to get their attention.
If you don’t have a big mailing list, try adding email capture forms to your website (more on this topic can be found in the next section).
For your emails, you’ll want to focus on creating highly visual emails highlighting your products, or a short video of your product, company or customer testimonial (Gen Xers love videos). Try to use personalization and segmentation as much as possible. Marketing automation platforms are great for this!
As mentioned previously, Generation X loves video marketing, especially on Facebook. Videos are also more likely to be shared over social media than links and articles. A well-made video can add a more human element and help you connect in an authentic way. You can use video across multiple channels, including social media, your website and email.
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s an important aspect since you are most likely driving all your marketing traffic to your website. You can have the best marketing plan, but if you don’t have a website that creates a seamless online buying experience, you’ll likely lose a lot of potential buyers.
Below are a few areas to focus on to create an enjoyable and easy shopping experience for Gen Xers:
- Ask for feedback to continually improve the shopping experience. You’ll be surprised how open Gen Xers are to giving constructive feedback, and it lets them know their opinions matter to you!
- Use marketing tools like Hot Jar to understand how your customers are navigating your website and where you should make adjustments.
- Integrate a robust search functionality that quickly allows Gen Xers to find what they are looking for. We’re a fan of Searchaniese, which integrates easily with BigCommerce.
- Add a live chat function to your site and ensure it’s properly managed. Some Gen Xers may prefer to chat online instead of calling.
- Add a pop-up email capture form to join a newsletter or to receive a discount code. JustUno is easy to use for this!
How to Tailor Your Ecommerce Marketing to Gen X
Now that we know who Gen Xers are and which channels are most effective at capturing their attention, let’s explore some of the marketing tactics to turn this discount-loving generation into repeat, loyal customers.
1. Provide discounts.
Gen X grew up with various discounts in the newspaper, magazines, and on TV. Keep discounts alive in your marketing plan by providing an intro-discount to a first order. This can be a part of your marketing automation plan.
2. Create a loyalty program.
Gen Xers are known for their loyalty. Create a reward program to encourage repeat purchases, whether it’s a discount after a certain amount of purchases, free samples, free shipping, or with a simple thank you email.
3. Have written reviews.
Written reviews boost your authenticity as a company and build trust with Gen Xers. You’ll want to focus on showing Gen X that your customers love your products. And, a simple “Thank you for taking the time to review our products,” response to a positive review goes a long way!
Don’t forget to make sure your product reviews are displaying in Google searches (which also benefits your organic ranking).
4. Appeal to security.
Offer free return shipping and include a prepaid return shipping label with your package. This helps Gen Xers feel more secure and provides a safety net in case something goes wrong. Make sure your return policy is easily understood on your website.
5. Keep it personal.
Appeal to Gen Xers by rooting conversations in real-world possibilities by showcasing everyday life and situations. Keep the sales tactics to a minimum — this is a big no-no for this generation.
6. Use traditional and social ads.
You don’t have to stick to just traditional ad formats like newspapers or radio to grab the attention of Gen Xers. You can use online ads as well. Just remember who you’re selling to. Facebook ads, Google Shopping, and search ads (Google and Bing) are great places to start.
7. Have great customer service.
Provide timely responses and rectify any issues immediately. If you provide a great experience, Gen Xers are likely to become repeat customers and provide positive reviews.
8. Incorporate nostalgia.
Add a little nostalgia to your marketing tactics. Gen Xers enjoy taking a trip down memory lane, whether it’s related to past events, old TV commercials or music from the past. Try to sprinkle these into your marketing channels. For example, try posting a throwback photo on Facebook and encourage Gen Xers to comment or share.
9. Optimize your website for mobile.
Ensure your website is built with mobile in mind — and not just for the huge SEO benefits! Generation X spends a lot of time on mobile devices each day. Make sure your website loads quickly — no one likes to wait! Text should be very easy to read on mobile. Lastly, ensure it’s a seamless and easy buying experience across all devices — tablet and different phone screen sizes.
10. Use videos.
Gen Xers watch upwards of 32 hours of TV a week, and 45.8 million of them consume digital videos. Use videos to showcase your products or services in a creative, personal way. You can also appeal to Gen X by using real-world narratives and clearly outlining your company’s values.
Generation X has a lot of spending power and shouldn’t be an afterthought when you’re building an effective marketing strategy. If you meet this well-educated age group where they search and purchase, you’ll build a loyal customer base for the years to come.
This in-between generation encompasses traits from Baby Boomers and Millennials, so be sure to include a combination of different channels in your strategy, such as social media, direct mail and email, to drive them to your website.
Want more insights like this?
We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.
Less Development. More Marketing.
Let us future-proof your backend. You focus on building your brand.
Ecommerce insights on the go
Introducing the all-new Make it Big Podcast — a thought leadership audio series for retailers, entrepreneurs and ecommerce professionals. Tune in for expert insights, strategies and tactics to help grow your business.