Segmenting Generation XYZ –  An Alternative View

Lately, I am confronted by the amount of material targeted at marketing to millennials. I’m sure many would agree that focusing squarely on this segment comes at the sacrifice of others. However, the purpose of this article is not to challenge the experts on how to market to each of these so-called segments, but rather to question the very simplistic (and in my opinion naïve) approach of narrowly confining the market into three boxes.

Today, the ability of companies to analyse their data and recognise variations within age demographics seems powerful. However, the risk of categorising a 10-year segment (20-30 year old’s) as a generation is that we lose the effectiveness of being more targeted in our approach.

Where one feels the need to segment age groups, I would suggest five-year brackets would be more appropriate. Defining the Boomer Generation, X, Y, and Z is an attempt to state that each of these generations have unique expectations, values and behaviours – in particular buying patterns.

In real terms, we’re talking about age groups such as 20 to 30, 30 to 40, and 40 to 50. You don’t have to be a marketing guru to know that the 20-year-old consumer is looking for discount travel, education and jobs, whilst a 50 year old consumer is looking for leisure, travel and possibly more expensive cars.

It comes as no surprise that different age groups consume media differently. Twenty to 30-year old’s will predominantly use the web and their phones. One could generalise – although probably dangerously – that people in their 50s may be more focused on print media and TV. These separations are almost too obvious and don’t require this segmentation known as generation XYZ.

We all accept that the speed of change is debilitating, and yet our ability to adapt occurs faster than ever. Having said that, the life-cycle of products from inception to market is incredibly short. If we accept this, then it’s not in our interest to use such rigid timelines and to continually segment the consumer (as the media often does) into 10-year blocks – as we know, 10 years in the technology space is akin to a lifetime.

Businesses have at their fingertips tools to help analyse buying behaviours. In fact, we have tremendous access to behavioural data, and our ability to target the individual based on their email or mobile number is an easy task. To use an approach termed as mass media, or a ‘shotgun approach’, is archaic, and any business using this logic is simply burning cash. There is no doubt that one can create targeted personas for our customers, but clearly it would be more profitable to focus on individuals based on their media and buying habits as opposed to grouping them into 10 year homogenous blocks.

I’m personally a bit of a techie. I read almost everything off my IPhone. I check Instagram, use Uber,  live on WhatsApp, and rarely use a USB – preferring to keep everything in my Dropbox cloud. Would you say I am typical of my generation? Maybe, maybe not.  But on the flipside, you would probably find some 25-year-olds out there who are diligently saving for their retirement. In other words, trying to put us all in a box for the sake of ease or to create messages on this basis could be damaging. Instead they should be catered to the individual’s behaviour which is visible to those who know how to access the information.

Mining the behavioural data of our customers will reveal information that will enable us to touch them in the most targeted ways.

If we agree that behaviours change based on experiences, then it is fair to assume that people who lived through the Depression will tend to be more careful with their money. If we look at people in their early 20s, we hear marketing experts saying that ‘Millennials’ want an ‘experience’ – I say , who doesn’t? They want their marketing to be ‘personalised’ – what am I missing? So, do I.

“The price is critical but brands matter” – I think this is true of more than half of the population regardless of age or demographics.

This segment of the market is said to value ‘authenticity’…I think I will really rock the boat with my next comment. To appreciate and understand authenticity it would help if one read and studied history. Unfortunately, in my experience and interaction with this age group I see a severe gap in their knowledge of history and their ability, or should I say desire, to read anything longer than a few lines, or a watch a video clip for more than 60 seconds (I have teenage kids, I’m allowed to make  these comments)

So at the end of the day what’s my point?

If you are selling diamond jewellery, ensure that you and your team are well educated on the history of diamonds – the changes and challenges occurring in this market today is your baseline. The ability to answer questions about who the World Diamond Council are? What does the World Federation of Diamond bourses do? What is the Kimberley process? What are synthetic diamonds and how do they compare to natural diamonds? Why shouldn’t I buy a synthetic? How is a diamond cut today compared to 20 years ago?

Appreciate that it doesn’t matter whether it’s an 18-year-old or a 60-year-old, we all want an engaging experience and to hear wonderful stories about the gems and jewellery we are looking at.

We all appreciate a piece of marking literature which feels like a personal letter as opposed to a mass produced brochure. Who doesn’t want value for money? It doesn’t necessarily mean a discount but rather adding value – giving the consumer more bang for their buck. If you want to emphasise the authenticity of your message, it will come about from my previous comment, that you and your team need to have a broad and deep knowledge of the trade and are able to reveal that to your customer. This might be reflected in the differences between certificates, or the fact that a certificate is neither a guarantee nor a warranty but a subjective opinion.

Try to remember they don’t wear the paper, they wear the jewellery. Never forget that whether face to face or on the phone you have to excite your customer!

As a diamond expert it is you who will be able to take your customers into the inner sanctum of diamonds. It is you who will reveal the unique properties and wonderful history that they possess, and only then will they be able to choose the stone that suits them best.