In today’s overly competitive business landscape, companies are constantly looking for ways to reach their customers across various channels and touchpoints. However, it’s becoming increasingly challenging as customer pools become more diverse than ever, with several generations each having their own unique needs and preferences. Leading to; how do adapt customer journeys across the ages?
“The customer pool is more diverse than ever, with several generations each having their own unique needs and preferences.”
Understanding the customer journey across different age groups is key to providing an exceptional customer experience and building long-term loyalty, but it’s not easy. With a 60-year age difference between the oldest consumers in the market and the youngest, businesses need to diversify their customer journeys to cater to everyone, whilst simultaneously moving to adopt new technologies and operational norms to stay efficient. In a post-pandemic, evolving, AI world, this is harder than ever.
In this article, we’re going to explore the customer journey across the ages, from baby boomers to gen Z, and provide actionable insights on how your business can meet the needs of each generation to enhance your customers’ experiences and stay thriving.
The 5 Fundamentals of Customer Journeys
Regardless of the generation you’re targeting with your products or services, there are five core aspects of the customer journey you need to map out. These are:
- Awareness – Making sure your target demographic is aware of your brand and offering
- Consideration – Highlighting to potential customers how your solution can solve their problem, leading them to consider your business
- Purchase – Converting your target customers to complete a transaction
- Retention – Engaging your audience to turn your customers into repeat clients
- Advocacy – Moving repeat customers into advocates for your business and give word of mouth recommendations and endorsements
For businesses with multigenerational customer bases, validating each step of the customer journey can be difficult. This is due to a multitude of factors, including how brand awareness is built (different generations can be found in different spaces), how to convince customers to make a purchase (different generations have different values and things that will sway them, e.g., price vs brand ethics), and how customers advocate for your brand and how loyal they’re likely to be.
It’s not always plausible to create four separate customer journeys for the four generations currently in the consumer market, meaning businesses need to be extremely smart in how they approach their customer journey and the type of experience they create. A large part of that relies on understanding the different generations.
Understanding the Different Generations
As mentioned, at present, there are four generations in the market:
- Baby boomers – 1946-1964
- Gen X – 1965-1980
- Millennials – 1981-1996
- Gen Z – 1997 – 2012
Whether you’re in the banking, utilities, telecoms, insurance, or financial services industry, you need to cater to each of these generations. It’s not easy when you consider the 60-year age gap between the oldest boomers and the youngest adult gen Z’s. Naturally, the life experiences and behaviours of each generation will vary, and within generational groups there will be a range of characteristics and proficiencies with technology – all of which will influence how they interact with customer journeys.
Boomers were born post-war and extend into the 1960s, a time of great societal change and upheaval, but not a time when computers and modern technology were commonplace. Whilst most boomers have adapted to things like the internet and social media, they are generally slower to welcome new technologies at a rapid pace compared to younger generations, and they often prefer to do things the traditional way.
Generation X ranges from the 60s to the start of the 80s, making them another generation that saw a lot of societal change in their formative years. Though more likely to quickly adopt new technologies compared to boomers, they have fond memories of in-person interactions and so, like boomers, tend to prefer this method, but they’re not adverse to using technology when necessary, with some even rivalling younger generations with screen time and number of devices.
Millennials are known as ‘digital natives’ because most of them grew up alongside the widespread implementation of technology and the internet. They’re used to having endless options at their disposal, so whilst they may feel nostalgic for certain brands, they’re often not specifically loyal to them. Millennials are the first generation to prioritise brand ethics over product quality or price as a major differentiator.
Gen Z are the youngest generation in the consumer market at present. Having grown up during a global recession and entered adulthood during a global pandemic, they have different views on businesses compared to older generations. However, they know nothing except the internet, so are primed to only accept fast service. Like millennials, brand ethics plays a big role in their buying decisions.
With so many different life experiences and preferences, how does a multigenerational business cater to every need? That largely comes down to understanding how consumerism as a whole has changed over the years, how it’s likely to change in the future, and how your business slots into it.
The Evolution of Customer Experience Across Generations
The way customers experience shopping has, undoubtedly, undergone a massive transformation over the years. In the past, brick-and-mortar stores were the only option for customers to buy products. With the advent of technology and the internet, online shopping has become an integral part of customer experience. This has resulted in a shift in customer behaviour, preferences and expectations.
Generations have adapted to these changes in different ways, especially in regards to preferred touchpoints. Baby boomers, for example, have a higher preference for traditional brick-and-mortar stores, based on the fact this is what they have been used to for almost all their lives. This generation values personal interaction with sales associates and wants to touch and feel the products before making a purchase. However, they have also embraced online shopping to some extent and use it for convenience and ease of access. They are also likely to adopt certain technologies like online banking, though they may not be as proficient as their younger counterparts and may require more customer service help.
Gen X, on the other hand, was the first to experience online shopping and has embraced it for the most part. They are more comfortable with technology and are likely to research products online before making a purchase, though they may do this in store. They also value customer reviews and ratings and are more likely to make a purchase if a product or business has good reviews.
Millennials and gen Z have grown up with technology and are the most tech-savvy generations. They are more likely to make purchases online, and social media platforms play a significant role in their purchasing decisions (influencer marketing is a prime example). Despite this, they also value personalised experiences and expect brands to tailor their marketing efforts to their preferences and needs.
Customer service preferences
The differences in the way generations use the internet and social media has a significant impact on their purchasing decisions and expectations when it comes to customer service. For example, baby boomers may prefer phone calls or in-person interactions with customer service agents, while millennials and gen Z would typically prefer online chat or social media messaging.
Providing a personalised and seamless customer experience across channels is crucial to meeting the expectations of all generations. Brands that can successfully navigate these changes and provide an excellent customer experience across all channels will be the ones that thrive, but how do you meet everyone’s needs when everyone shops so differently?
Millennials and Gen Z discover new brands and products primarily through social media ads and internet searches.
Half of Gen Zs want brands to take stances on important social issues, and those that do tend to influence buying decisions more.
33% of Gen Zs have purchased a product as a result of influencer marketing in the last three months
Millennials are more reachable through TV ads as opposed to streaming service ads.
4% of boomers have made purchases through a store app within the last three months
Boomers are mostly reachable through retail stores, TV ads and internet searches
Half of boomers say brands shouldn’t take a stance on social issues, and they’re less likely to be swayed by this
Meeting the Needs of Different Generations
In the same way every customer journey has five core steps, there are five fundamental ways you can make sure your business is adapting to the needs of every generation it serves.
- Understand the preferences of each generation: The first step in meeting the needs of different generations is to understand their preferences, as we’ve established. There is a lot of research and data on the buying habits, communication preferences and expectations of each generation, so make sure you start there.
- Personalise the customer experience: Personalisation is critical in today’s market and is something every generation values. Customers of all ages want to feel like they are valued and understood, and personalisation can help you achieve that. Use customer data and technology to provide a personalised experience for each customer, such as customised recommendations or personalised promotions.
- Leverage technology: Technology can be a powerful tool for tailoring the customer experience to different generations. Use customer data to create targeted marketing campaigns, develop a mobile app or offer self-service options on your website. These technologies can make the customer experience more convenient and accessible to all generations, ensuring there’s a way for everyone to interact with your business that aligns with their preferences and capabilities.
- Provide excellent customer service: Customer service is a vital component of the customer experience. Train your customer service agents to understand the preferences and expectations of different generations, and provide them with the tools and resources they need to meet those needs. Invest in customer service technologies such as chatbots or AI-powered assistants to provide quick and efficient service to customers who prefer self-serve options, but also retain enough agents to help those who prefer human interaction.
- Embrace diversity: Having a diverse team of customer service agents can help your business relate to customers from different generations. Diversity can also help you understand the unique needs and perspectives of different cultures and communities. Hire agents who speak different languages or have different cultural backgrounds to better connect with your customers.
In addition to organisational changes required to target things like diversity, and additional training to ensure agents are well versed with every type of client, there are a number of software tools and platforms you can use to cover every generation’s needs.
Tools and Software to Improve Customer Experience
There is a wide range of innovative tools and software that can help companies improve their customer experience and appeal to customers of all ages, enabling businesses to engage with customers in real-time, therefore making the customer journey more efficient and effective.
Screen sharing is an essential tool for businesses that want to visually present information or materials for customers – something every generation values. It allows either party to share their screen with a customer service representative, who can then guide them through a process or troubleshoot an issue. This tool is particularly helpful for customers who may not be as familiar with technology. Rommon Thompson, Head of Demand Generation at Vizolution, said:
“As consumers we’ve trended toward being very visual with our approach. In the majority of cases, we learn and understand through sight more so than hearing. This is why having the ability to screen share during a customer call has huge benefits. It allows advisors to explain complex products or processes and avoid confusion by displaying info on screen. It also allows customers to have complete clarity ahead of making decisions or undertaking fixes themselves.”
Co-browsing is another powerful tool that can greatly impact customer journeys and experiences. It allows customers and customer service representatives to navigate the same webpage simultaneously, enabling the customer service representative to guide the customer through the process. This tool is particularly useful for older generations who may not be as well versed in technology and might need additional support in real time to navigate certain systems. Furthermore, younger generations who are used to instant gratification and expect quick and efficient customer service can also benefit from the almost instantaneous resolutions afforded by co-browsing.
Online document exchange
Online document exchange is another tool that can help businesses streamline their customer journey. It allows customers to upload, download and share documents with customer service representatives securely. This tool is particularly useful for businesses that deal with sensitive information, such as financial institutions, legal professionals, or healthcare. In terms of helping multiple generations, it means that older people who may not be as mobile can send documents easily without having to leave their homes, whilst younger people don’t have to interact face-to-face to complete their document processes. Rommon said:
“The biggest benefit to businesses when it comes to digital document exchange is the cost and time savings. No need to wait for snail mail, worry about lost documents, or the filing of documents. Having the ability to upload or download documentation and provide it in real-time, or later at your own convenience, really smooths out the customer experience.”
Improving Cross-Generational Customer Experiences with Vizolution
At Vizolution, we are experts in helping businesses improve customer journeys and experiences, no matter their clientele. We offer a wide range of tools and softwares that can be implemented to cater to all four generations currently in the market, as well as allowing you to streamline your customer service operations and make the agent experience better as a consequence. Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help your business create a multigenerational customer journey.