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  • February 2, 2016
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

THE BOOMER GENERATION: Booming or Busting?

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ADD INDIVIDUAL VALUE

For members of this generation, relationships have to go two ways. When it comes to loyalty programs, for example, Baby Boomers primarily join to save money or earn cash back, but they want rewards that are valuable. Nearly 66 percent will opt out of a program if the rewards aren’t compelling, according to CrowdTwist’s data.

Baby Boomers also place a premium on simplicity. More than any other age group, Boomers have no patience for loyalty programs that make it too complicated to earn or redeem points or other rewards. CrowdTwist found that nearly half have abandoned programs because they got tired of waiting for points to accumulate, and nearly 41 percent deserted programs they felt were too difficult.

"Brands have to constantly earn and re-earn [Baby Boomers'] loyalty, and the best way to do that is with repeated quality and value," Smith explains.

Boomers are also very willing to interact with brands and provide their feedback wherever possible, but they also want to be rewarded for doing so. In fact, 87 percent of respondents to CrowdTwist's survey said they would take a survey to earn loyalty points, 36 percent would visit a Web site, and 34 percent would open and read email. Other activities that they might be willing to do include checking in at stores, writing product reviews, watching videos, and referring friends.

Baby Boomers are 10 percent more likely than Millennials and 16 percent more likely than Gen Xers to want to take surveys for points, according to the data.

But for Baby Boomers, a sense of individuality is a hallmark trait, one of the foundations for this generation, which prides itself on constantly doing things differently than the way they were done before.

"In our opinion, there is no such market as the senior or Baby Boomer market. Considering such diverse populations as monolithic groups, all sharing the same values, needs, motivators, and desires, is unrealistic," Gilmartin says. "Just consider Boomers and older customers as individuals. After all, they aren't simply writing a new chapter of their lives, they're writing a brand new book, and each book is different."

NOT NEW TO TECHNOLOGY

So, too, is the technology that Baby Boomers are using to write that book. Long considered technologically inept, Baby Boomers today are shattering that stereotype, showing that they are more comfortable with technology than people give them credit for.

To reach Baby Boomers, companies need to adopt strategies that incorporate both traditional and newer digital channels. For this generation, traditional outlets, such as print and broadcast media, are definitely not dead, experts warn, but digital channels are not completely foreign either. If there's one thing that Baby Boomers are good at, it's adapting.

"Baby Boomers started out in mom-and-pop neighborhood stores. Then they moved to shopping malls. Now they're online," says Richard Shapiro, founder and president of the Center for Client Retention.

Some Boomers are quick to point out that members of their generation were instrumental in creating the Internet in the first place. And now, despite being exposed to the technology later in life, many Baby Boomers are using it in great numbers.

Boombox Networks reports that 80 percent of all Boomers today are online. And, according to Google's figures, they spend on average about 19 hours per week online researching products and services, making purchases, staying in touch with friends and family, sending and receiving email, and more. Pew Research found that 88 percent of Baby Boomers use email. Forrester Research even noted recently that, per capita, Baby Boomers are actually outspending younger adults online by a two-to-one margin.

Baby Boomers are also highly networked customers who like to interact with other like-minded people through social networking sites. Current estimates suggest that Baby Boomers account for about half of all social media users, and their numbers are growing.

Though they're not frequent contributors to Instagram, Periscope, or some of the other emerging channels, "Baby Boomers are on social channels, reading blogs, going to review sites, and all that," Kovacs says. "Social is a great way to reach them."

Additionally, according to Com.score data, Baby Boomers own more than a third of all tablets in the United States, and more than 85 percent of them own mobile phones. Not surprisingly, then, texting is also gaining ground as a communications channel for Boomers. According to Harris Interactive research, 69 percent of all Baby Boomers use text messaging. Additionally, 57 percent said they would have a positive view of companies that offer texting as a customer interaction channel, and 33 percent would prefer to use texting over other options to get in touch with companies and vice versa.

That in no way should be interpreted to mean that Baby Boomers have abandoned the telephone, however. Whether it's over a mobile or a landline, most Baby Boomers still prefer phone conversations.

"While digital proficiency is not always correctly correlated to age, Baby Boomers grew up with the phone and still tend to want to talk to a person to make sure whatever they called about is handled," says Natalie Petouhoff, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

This, she adds, is in stark contrast to younger generations "born with a tablet or device in their hands," who prefer to use any method but the phone.

And where in the past there was a generational divide when it came to the telephone and customer service, that gap is shrinking. Higher expectations now cross generational lines. According to research from Nuance Communications and Wakefield Research, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials all share a common pet peeve with telephone customer service: not being able to get through to a live person, which is the top pain point for Millennials (32 percent), Gen Xers (30 percent), and Baby Boomers (47 percent).

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