As a proud member of Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980), I’ve felt repeatedly eclipsed by those Gen Z hipsters and, to a much smaller extent, millennials. You may know us as the “forgotten generation” or the “middle child,” the perennial Jan Brady, if you will.
That said, I was heartened to discover a new global study all about me and my peers: Gen X: Examining the Attitudes of Digital Behaviors of Internet Users Aged 38-56, conducted by GWI (GlobalWebIndex). The study analyzes the digital habits of Gen X, its influence, and its significantly greater spending power, and why that should (still!) matter to digital marketers.
GWI’s research found that during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, digital activity markedly increased for Xers, and has sustained this higher frequency. Why is that noteworthy? Prior to Covid, Gen Z had already proven their mastery of all things digital. Almost by necessity, Gen X was playing catch-up, and that higher level of activity and engagement has not waned. Xers also began using their mobile devices more to access content across channels, expanding their device of choice beyond the default laptop.
Let’s take a closer look at why you should be reaching out to this off-the-radar smaller demographic: purchasing power and newly discovered social media prowess, to name just a couple.
We Are Living in a Material World
Members of Gen X tend to be higher-income property owners with more stable careers compared to their younger counterparts. Being in their prime working years, the typical Gen X household earns more than any other generation with an average wealth of $106,173 and net worth of $168,600. For comparison, the millennial household averages $79,514. It’s not surprising, then, that Xers spend the most on consumer goods.
Gen X accounts for 31% of the total U.S. income (albeit saddled with the highest amount of debt). Its average household annual expenditures are $76,788, although they tend to be relatively cautious spenders. There are two major reasons why Xers turn to online shopping: convenience and cost savings. That’s why deals are so important to this generation.
Everyone loves a good deal but Gen X LOVES a good deal and will scour the internet to find one—and then share with friends. In fact, one-third of Xers say they rely on word-of-mouth recommendations when shopping for new brands. A study from CouponFollow found that 86% of Xers would try a new brand if offered a coupon or discount. Similarly loyalty programs are a big thing with Xers.
And here’s a fun fact: 27% of Gen Xers plan to maintain their shift to online shopping post-pandemic. That’s good news for marketers. The GWI study found that Gen X is more likely to embrace online ads than younger users who tend to employ ad-blockers on a wider basis. According to PwC, last year’s digital ad spend grew by 12.2%, due to the post-Covid blowup of e-commerce; thanks, in part, to the digital habits of Gen X.
I Just Can’t Get Enough
It might surprise you that one-third of Xers have more than seven social media accounts. It might surprise you even more that 26% of Xers own five or more devices. Although they continue to use social media mostly for news and current events, followed up by staying in touch with friends and family, they spend a respectable 26% of their time on researching products.
Nielsen research found that Gen X uses social media 40 minutes more each week compared to millennials, including staying on their phones at the dinner table. (Good for marketers, not so good for quality family time.) Their overall social media activity is slowly shifting to other platforms outside of Facebook (still at 76%), such as YouTube, Instagram (47%)—even TikTok.
Although TikTok and its short-form videos seem customized specifically for Gen Z, a recent article in WIRED points out that the founder of TikTok, Zhang Yiming, is pretty much an Xer (born in 1983 but we’ll take him). The article also refers to TikTok as a “Gen X comfort zone.” One thing Xers are known for is their nostalgia and those corny short-form videos could be just what they’re looking for. It’s a good reminder for marketers to start switching the channels to reach Gen X.
What’s Gen X Got to Do With It?
Short answer? Plenty.
First, the obvious. They earn more than every other generation. And unlike the majority of Gen Z, Gen X is not just turning to e-commerce and online shopping only for themselves; they’re taking care of kids and aging parents at the same time. They’re shopping for staples like groceries (boosted by the pandemic), they’re buying school supplies, and they’re turning to social media to research and compare products.
Xers are loyal and respond not only to coupons and discounts but to the entire brand experience. Perhaps most importantly, they’re changing their online patterns and digital behaviors for the foreseeable future.
All things considered, the new digital habits of Gen X have changed the game. Gen Xers are evolving as they get older—and they’ve got money to spend. You could even say these are our glory days.