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Life Stage vs Generational Marketing Strategies

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on April 3, 2018

When it comes to rewards, an individual’s life stage dictates what drives them.

By Jim Valenti, Director of Merchandising & Replenishment & Raul Garcia, Merchandising Manager

Google “Millennial generation” and you’ll get over 28 million hits. Business began thinking about Millennials long before they first entered the workforce around 2000. And with good reason, they are the largest, most diverse, highest educated and arguably the most connected generation America has ever produced. Their impact on every aspect of every business whether as consumer, partners, employees or suppliers will be monumental.  Leaders ignoring this generation do so at their own peril. In many cases most individuals do not know which generation they fall into but easily will identify as “Self Employed, Work at Home, Empty Nester, Weekend Warrior, Dog Owner”

But when it comes to incentive and loyalty programs, you don’t reward a generation.  You look to engage individuals with an award selection appealing to their personal tastes and preferences.

Every program needs the right awards to engage and inspire their target participants.  But looking at any group only as a generation is far too broad and general to build a compelling award mix.    Life stage is a much more accurate predictor of award preferences.  Life stage looks at the different phases in life.

  • Single or Married
  • Home Owner vs Apartment Dweller
  • Parent of young children or Empty Nester
  • Employee or Retiree

People at the same life stage generally have far more in common with one another than those simply of the same age or whose incomes are similar.  That makes life stage a more useful and relevant indicator of reward preferences.

Which of these people would you expect to be most similar?

  • A married 27 year-old with a toddler living in their own home in Omaha and working as a manager in a manufacturing company
  • A single 26 year-old working for a Silicon Valley startup who lives in a rented apartment.
  • A 45-year old middle manager who owns a home in Charlotte and lives with their spouse and two young teenagers.

Although they are separated by a nearly 20-year generational divide and half a continent, the parents with their own homes probably have much more in common with one another than either would have with the lifestyle of the single, Silicon Valley Millennial.

Life stages tend to outweigh generational difference when it comes to incentive awards.

  • Homeowners will choose grills, lawn furniture and housewares to make their abode more comfortable, appealing and easier to entertain guests.
  • Apartment dwellers with less space may opt for awards creating memorable experiences.
  • Parents always relish giving gifts to their children and might be very driven by a bicycle or gaming system for their youngsters.
  • Singles may be looking to give one of their rewards as a gift as well, but are more likely to be searching for adult gifts like jewelry for a significant other or perhaps even their own parents.

This isn’t to say generational differences are completely irrelevant. After all, people born and raised in a given time experience a unique set of social, economic and political events which contribute to shaping their generational culture, attitudes and outlook. Millennials, for example, have been described as the first “digital natives”. While this may be very important in understanding how best to communicate with them, it probably has little to do with the type of incentives appealing to Millennials.

The three best pieces of advice we can offer for choosing awards for your next consumer or employee program are:

  1. Choose a broad selection of awards appealing to a variety of life stages.
  2. Look for memorable rewards.
    • Electronics have great appeal and may become an integral part of the family life.
    • Durable items like home furnishings provide consistent, lasting reminders.
    • Sports items can engage so many diverse individual preferences.
    • Experiential & Travel rewards like concert tickets to major city venue create long-term memories.
  3. Make the participant feel special with an award delivery experience recognizing their efforts.
    • Changing the packaging just a little like using a white shipping box or colored tissue paper can make the rewards feel more like a present and accentuate the reward delivery experience.

The Art and Science of Curating an Engaging Rewards Offering

While technology is critical component of the participant browsing, redemption and delivery experience, its ability to simplify presenting more and more awards to participants can become overwhelming.. Many programs today offer participants “millions” of redemption options and tens of thousands of manufacturers.  Touted as the “Amazon” shopping experience, the idea is cast the widest possible net to appeal to virtually any participant taste.

The reality of this retailing shotgun approach to rewards may have a negative impact on the program.  First, by its very nature, this approach includes a tremendous numbers of consumables.  Consumable items have little long-term value and are quickly forgotten. The shopping experience itself becomes a daunting task as participants must navigate through thousands of similar items with only slightly different features at nearly identical price points. Associating the program with quality brand names becomes impossible. The “Amazon” shopping experience values brand proliferation over quality. But that model doesn’t fit our reality as motivators of a specific behavior change for our consumers, employee or B2B partners. A carefully selected offering of a few thousand items in the four main reward categories, Home Furnishings, Electronics, Sporting Goods, and Experiential/Travel will entice 99.9% of your audience, keeping them engaged in your program for the long term and repeatedly coming back to your site.

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Learn more about engaging, inspiring and rewarding incentive program participants at www.hinda.com.