Gen X aren’t happy and that needs to change

When I walk into my local curry house I’m warmly greeted, we’re shown to ‘our’ table in front of the fish tanks my boys love and within minutes of arrival our favourite drinks are chilled and in front of us. It’s a personalised experience that sees us coming back time and again.

It’s the same when I go to my barbers. But it’s rarely ever the same when I’m online.  It’s hard to remember the last time I felt as if my custom was truly valued and in turn that I felt I should value that experience and reward it with my loyalty.

And I’m not alone. Soberingly, over half (54%) of gen Xers – the generation that will account for 35% of total consumer spending by 2020 – are frustrated by the feeling that brands are ignoring them, presumably while focusing significant resource on digital native Millennials they see as key to their brand’s future success. 

But now, for the first time ever, new Doddle Pulse research shows that gen Xers have joined Millennials in doing the majority of their shopping online. A third (32%) of gen X now claim to shop more online than in the physical environment, with only a quarter (25%) intending to do the majority of their shopping in the physical environment over the coming 12 months.

It’s a timely wake up call. Gen Xers are a generation migrating to an environment in which they don’t feel that their very considerable spending power is sought after or valued. Surely few brands bar those solidly aimed at those in their teens and twenties can afford to sideline society’s biggest earners? Those in their forties are society’s highest earners in terms of both gross and net income and are the only group earning more than entrepreneurial Millennials in self-employment income, according to Experian’s Spending Power Index.

They’re also unique in influencing the spending decisions of dependents in the generations before and after them and thanks to increasing life expectancy and longer working lives are likely to be active consumers for far longer than any generation preceding them. In an era in which we’ve woken up to the lifetime value of customers, surely each of these factors should make these sidelined consumers worthy of the attention they’re hungry for?

So what can brands do to reverse this gen X sense of being the ‘forgotten generation’? The answers are surprisingly simple and rely on understanding and responding to six fundamental gen X realities:

  • Gen Xers rarely shop with just one person in mind. They are often buying for children and frequently relied upon by increasingly dependent parents for advice. Recognise this truth and you’re instantly ahead. Offering Back to Uni bedding sets?  Offer discounted bundles that encourage parents to treat themselves and their own parents at the same time to instantly achieve a point of difference that will get you noticed and appreciated.

  • Gen Xers are nerds. Gen Xers’ obsession with bikes has become an observation of cultural satire. The revelation is that we’re the same when it comes to clothes, technology, toys, personal care and books. Our days of careless, throwaway purchasing are long gone. We want to know everything about what we’re buying. One in six Gen Xers now regularly use their phones in the physical environment to access product ratings, reviews and information (Doddle YouGov data, 2019). Feed our thirst for knowledge with videos, deep product comparisons, interviews with product designers and honest customer ratings and we’ll come back time and again.

  • Gen Xers are more mobile orientated than you might suspect. A third (32%) now regularly shop ‘on the go’ using their smartphones with one in six of us using mobile apps. The brands that recognise this trend and make their mobile experiences as information rich as they are experience rich will see Gen Xers swarming to them in their droves.

  • Gen Xers are time pressed. Family life and work pressures are often at their most intense at this time of life. Centre your shopping experience around potential time savings and convenience and control and it will instantly resonate with Gen Xers. Over half (53%) of this generation value the trip chaining convenience of click & collect, while 42% appreciate the time savings offered by being able to collect, try on and if necessary return items on the spot – both easy wins.

  • Gen Xers DO care about green choices.  The media picture might be that millennials are leading the charge in driving forward the sustainability agenda, but gen Xers are also making sustainability a determiner of lifestyle choices and driver of loyalty.  Over half (55%) intend to trip chain more in the future while 49% hope to exclusively support retailers that offer a good range of sustainable delivery solutions.Incorporating sustainable solutions into your fulfilment mix and spelling out the benefits of the options you’re introducing are increasingly fundamental to winning the hearts and minds of this frequently overlooked demographic.

  • Gen Xers are proud ambassadors. We might not share brand love in as visible a way as millennials – we’ll rarely become brand followers or share our love online – but that doesn’t mean our potential as powerful brand advocates should be overlooked. We’re practiced advice givers and receivers and will pass on great experiences on sports sidelines, at the school gate and at dinner parties where they arguably carry even more weight. Encourage this behaviour with incentives for deep, informative reviews and by introducing collaborative discounts that encourage gen Xers to spread brand love amongst family, friends and colleagues.

At a time when each customer is so hard won and prized, sidelining the needs of a generation at the height of their spending power, that has influence over the consumer decisions of multiple generations, that is shopping more online than anywhere else and likely to be consuming for decades to come is no longer an option.

Being amongst the first switched-on brands to recognise and meet the unique needs of gen X is fast becoming retail’s biggest opportunity.I for one can’t wait to see which brands are first and fastest out of the starting blocks in the race that we somehow forgot to line up for…