Forrester to Marketers: Let Age Define Your Buy

  |  October 7, 2006   |  Comments

A Forrester Research study finds that generations of users show significant differences in media consumption and response to various forms of marketing.

Marketers looking for the best way to reach a target audience online should go beyond choosing the most popular methods of the day and consider generational differences in media consumption habits, according to Forrester Research.

"To plan effective integrated campaigns, marketers must start with search and layer on site messaging in the media that resonate with target consumers: buzz, blogs, and banners for Gen Yers, deep search and word of mouth for Gen Xers, print and product packaging for Boomers, and the written word for Seniors," writes Charlene Li, principal analyst at Forrester.

Search results from a general search engine account for 71 percent of site visits, with another 8 percent coming from vertical search engines, according to the report. Those results are similar across generations, with Gen Xers, those between age 27 and 40, being slightly more likely than other age groups to use general search engines like Google and Yahoo, and Younger Boomers, age 41-50, more likely to use vertical search engines, like travel and health search engines.

Because search is important for all users, Li recommends that marketers start with sound search marketing and optimization efforts. "Smart marketers will prioritize their search optimization efforts to ensure high relevance and ranking," she said.

While search is a universal way for users to find a site, usage of other media channels is dependent on which generation a user belongs to, Li said. After search, the methods used to find something online begins to diverge, as does consumption of other media that can be used in cross-channel campaigns.

For Gen Y, age 18 to 26, the most common methods for finding a site are word of mouth from friends, and links from blogs. Surprisingly, Gen Yers also click on banners more often than other generations. Gen Xers, besides being prolific users of search, are best reached by "pass-along" media, including word of mouth and e-mail.

Young Boomers, age 41 to 50, and Older Boomers, age 51 to 61, are fond of print media, and are most likely to visit sites they find in print ads, or on product labels. In addition, about 30 percent of Boomers said they had visited a site they heard about in a news story. Seniors spend less time with media than other groups, but the time they do spend is most often spent with print media like newspapers or magazines. They are also more likely than other groups to type in a URL directly, or to visit sites recommended by friends or family.


Kevin Newcomb

Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.

Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.

With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.

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