Pitney Bowes, in conjunction with the CMO Council, undertook primary research to better understand which “Channels of Engagement” consumers want brands to use in their communications and which channels consumers see as critical. Over 2,000 people in 6 key countries (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand) were surveyed, with respondents spanning the 5 key generations of influence: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and The Silent Generation.
The research revealed dramatic new insights and definitively confirmed some long-held assumptions around how consumers want to be engaged. Above all, respondents across all generations confirmed that “Omnichannel is the Channel of Choice.” Over 85% want a mix of physical and digital communications from the brands they choose to engage with.
What does this mean for brands? While the influence of digital continues to grow, owing to the speed and convenience of email, text, web, social and video, organizations cannot or should not forget the influential role of telephone, physical mail and face-to-face interactions as a complete part of their marketing mix.
Omnichannel is the channel of choice.
Personalization is the content of choice.
For brands that heed the call, profitability and loyalty are the reward.
Everyone wants omnichannel...but there are subtle differences
What exactly are the top channels that consumers value? There is real practical impact in examining the generational details, which reveal that omnichannel is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. While there may be commonalities across generations, the individual generational profiles that emerge from this study can go a long way in helping brands shape channel selection strategies in their omnichannel execution.
In analyzing the survey findings, we looked at consumers across the five generational groups: Gen Z (born after 1997), Millennials (1981 – 1996), Gen X (1965 – 1980); Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964); and the Silent Generation (1928 – 1945). Let’s take a closer look at the research results by generation.
Gen Z: The next generation
As this age group enters the workforce or gains the independence of going off to university, it is shifting from “influencer of parents’ spending” to a buying group on its own. Gen Zers are comfortable juggling screens and interacting across social channels.
Therefore, it’s not a surprise that email ranked first among the channels Gen Z expects brands to use for communications and that texting ranked second. Shifting to a physical channel, Gen Z ranked telephone third in the mix.
Social, at 54%, emerges as the channel of choice for discovery of information about new products, solutions or opportunities to save, followed by the web and then video.
Key takeaway: If you’re targeting Gen Z, think social as well as video for discovery and learning, but don’t toss out email or telephone, which are valued for transactional communications.
Millennials: The “me” generation
The experience-oriented millennials came of age with the internet and mobile and are comfortable in the digital world. They expect brands to communicate via email and are happy to communicate via telephone and text.
For their source of new information, Millennials also rank social first, followed by the web. But unlike Gen Z, their third channel of choice for discovery is email. For 48% of Millennials, social media is the top influencer channel.
Key takeaway: Millennials are influenced by what they see on social channels, but convenience and reliability are what they value in communications with brands.
Gen X: The individuals
Sometimes called the “middle child” of generations, Gen Xers are the parents of Millennials and Gen Y, and they like their status symbols and luxury goods. The first to grow up with computers, this generation is technologically adept. Nonetheless, in channel preferences they have more in common with the older two generations than the younger two.
They expect email communications with brands, but they are also happy to browse the web or pick up the phone. They turn first to the web for new information and influence, but they do pay attention to social for discovery of new products or solutions.
Key takeaway: Your website is a critical channel for this generation along with email, but don’t neglect social. And be sure you are there to help when they reach out to you by phone. They’ll expect you to know who they are and what their history is with you.
Baby Boomers: Size and diversity
Long the largest segment in terms of numbers (Millennials are set to overtake Boomers in 2019*), Baby Boomers are a diverse group that can defy broad categorization. They have adapted well to technology, with the majority owning computers, smartphones and Facebook accounts. So it’s not surprising that they expect brands to use these communication channels.
Likewise, their channels of choice for discovery are the web, social and email, with the web also ranking first as the leading channel of influence. But the must-have channel is telephone. They want a human involved in the omnichannel experience.
Key takeaway: While a significant number of Baby Boomers qualify on paper as “seniors,” their channel choices tell you not to pigeon-hole them as non-technologically oriented. Make sure this cohort is included in your website and social content strategies.
The Silent Generation: Active consumers
With influences that span The Great Depression, multiple wars and the rise of corporations and consumerism, members of The Silent Generation still vote with their wallets. While you might expect them to favor more traditional written methods of communication such as physical mail, like all the other segments this group ranks email first, followed by websites and then telephone.
When it comes to discovery and influence, the web comes first, followed by email in second place.
Key takeaway: Defying stereotypes, this age group expects you to communicate with them via email and to have a place for them on the web. However, more than their younger cohorts, they place a premium on face-to-face contact as part of their discovery journey.
Be there at THEIR moment of need
Understanding the nuances of what constitutes “omnichannel” for different generations can help marketers reach that sweet spot of being in the right place with the right message at the exact moment of your customer’s need. That is ultimately what consumers think of as personalization, along with a brand’s ability to know and follow them, seamlessly, across all channels of engagement. This is what consumers want from the brands they want to do business with, and the reward for brands that meet this expectation will be loyalty and profitability.
Read “Critical Channels of Choice”, a research study conducted by CMO Council and Pitney Bowes, to learn more about consumer requirements and expectations.