Every generational group is analyzed and studied so marketers know how to target different demographics. As technology moves at the speed of light, many are looking at how Millennials (referring to a person born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) are different from Baby Boomers (referring to a person who was born between 1946 and 1964). When it comes to mobile devices and other technological aspects such as laptops versus smartphone and what does that really mean when selling to groups a few decades apart.

“Our target market are primarily individuals at or near retirement,” explains Anthony Allen Anderson, VP of Sales and Marketing at GSI Exchange, a leading online precious metals dealer specializing in gold and silver coins and bullion, “so our marketing materials are very much geared toward the Baby Boomer market and we invest in educational materials and research that is of interest to this important demographic.”

Neustar did a study of 1200 shoppers (who spent at least $250 online, purchased …at least four times annually and owned smartphones) to ascertain how “… (Millennials’) shopping preferences were different from those of Baby Boomers” using mobile devices as the catalyst.

Considering the wide divide between the age groups of the two generations and the cultural differences that comes with such an age difference, the one thing Neustar did find out is that marketers often underestimate how much technology use and knowledge Baby Boomers actually use. As a matter of fact, Baby Boomers use technology, but in different ways.

Here are a few findings as it pertains to mobile phone usage

1. Researched disclosed that mobile email “opens” have surpassed desktops for the first time, according to Neustar and that smartphones will eventually out-purchase laptops. The interesting statistic is that this is true with both Millennials and Baby Boomers. Neustar also reported that shoppers over 55 plan to clip on “more mobile” ads on smartphones this year – more than any other year.

2. Research also indicated that all groups will increase mobile activity over the next few years but the big difference is that younger shoppers are likely to view retail advertising. In addition, Neustar stated that Millennials are three times more likely to use social media on a device –than Baby Boomers — 33% versus 11%.

Overall, Millennials and Boomers are mad for their mobile phones.  What makes the two groups very different is how mobile devices are being used. As stated previously, social media is the main driver for Millennials, according to Neustar.

  • 46% of Millennials surveyed said social media ads are extremely/somewhat influential in getting them to begin researching a product/retailer
  • 33% of Millennials spend over 11 hours per week using social media on mobile devices
  • 59% say social media advertising prompts them to begin researching a product or retailer
  • 52% say social media advertising influences their decision to purchase a product
“Boomers may not be digital natives but as digital immigrants, they certainly don’t shy away from embracing ecommerce and online offers. I see this first-hand with my mother-in-law; she shops online all the time,” Lisa Joy Rosner, Chief Marketing Officer, Neustar, said.

Mobile vs. desktop

Despite everyone’s seeming dependency on mobile devices – both boomers and Millennials tend to prefer the laptop overall.

“The perception that Boomers aren’t technically savvy just isn’t accurate and marketers are looking closer at what behavior drives different device uses. Boomers may prefer their desktop device for viewing ads but when it comes to redeeming a coupon they will also use their mobile device,” Rosner said.

In addition, research found that “Boomers are slightly more reliable consumers because their behaviors are more predictable,” Rosner said, adding that “marketers that understand how Boomers research products and make decisions along the consumer journey will win…A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work when implementing cross-device campaigns.”

“We see a mix of shoppers for our handmade soaps online,” explains Sujoy Bhattacharya, Founder and CEO of Falls River Soap Company in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, “Millenials tend to show a preference for the convenience of online shopping on their mobile or tablet, while Baby Boomers seem to prefer purchasing online via a desktop computer or by phone, although this is likely to change in the coming years as mobile and tablets become even more ubiquitous.”

Privacy regarding location

Neustar looked at the privacy issue as another way to target various generations. Neustar asked consumers of varying ages how comfortable people were in disclosing their locations. This information can be very important for marketers looking at different ways to target their shoppers via geography.

Research found that Millennials were far more eager to give out their location then boomers. Neustar said that the majority of Boomers are “somewhat comfortable” (36%) and “neutral” (23%) about sharing their location, while the majority of Millennials are “very comfortable” with it.