When It Comes to Buying Power, Does Age Matter?


It’s official! Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, overtaking both Boomers and Gen-Xers over the past year or so. The potential for marketplace dominance in consumer purchasing power for Millennials is staggering. Most corporations have been preparing and positioning themselves for this eventuality, directing resources and decision making for the future success of their businesses.

But wait – Baby Boomers are still out-saving, outspending, and out-investing Millennials – let’s not deemphasize their importance. With labels like Millennials, Gen-X, and Baby Boomer, the perception is that we all think and act differently, but we are very connected in so many ways with each group having an echo effect on the other. One generation invents the technology, the next improves it and then the earlier generation rediscovers it. Boomers created computers for personal use – mostly for utility to solve problems. We had a great tool to create fancy spreadsheets or easily edit a letter or survey.

Millennials are now showing us the potential for communication and vast network social interaction – ideas are now shared through social media, which can impact consumer decisions and buying habits almost instantaneously. But Boomers are adapting quickly to social media, and many are regular users. We have (yes, I am Boomer) been exposed to big leaps in technology over the last 50 years. A good many of us have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Most of the current templates for modern consumer behavior were created for the Baby Boomer generation. The golden age of TV, radio and print advertising happened as a result of targeting the insatiable consumer demands of the post-war generation. However, the residual effects have made their mark on the generations that followed. This led to an explosion of growth for many of the companies and industries we, as researchers, deal with on a daily basis.

Any color as long as it is black

While Boomers had some product choices available to them growing up, certainly more than was available to their parents and grandparents, Millennials have been introduced and raised to expect limitless and personalized options and choices, that they will research endlessly (mostly online). Some of us may remember a 4-8 foot section of cereal in the local grocery store of our youth. Now it is a full aisle of choices with companies competing for your attention at the shelf in the super, supermarket.

Companies are catering to these buying patterns; the Coca Cola Freestyle soft drink dispenser with more than 125 Coke products to be mixed and matched as desired is a perfect example of this. Millennials may be driving these trends, but Boomers are enjoying the benefits of these options as well. However, some companies tend to just study the habits of their younger customers; perhaps feeling older consumers are set in their ways or just aren’t interested in having to think about so many choices. Many adult beverage companies do this, but Boomers are typically the ones who are buying the good stuff; they can afford and appreciate it. Positioning strategies and customer targeting is a great tool, but we shouldn’t overlook the tremendous buying power of the Boomer generation.

Boomers are still booming

So with the business world changing as it continues to do – whole industries have been created literally out of the ether, while other industries have disappeared overnight as a result. Boomers are quick to embrace these changes in the consumer landscape and are eager to benefit from them too. AARP, an organization advocating for the over 50 crowd for quite some time, has created a new full service marketing agency, Influent50, in recognition of the financial strength of this segment (70% of U.S. disposable income).

Boomers are here to stay – we are all living longer – 50 is the new 30 as it has been said. Chronological age is becoming less and less relevant. Boomers are adopting new technologies, have money to spend, and are spending it! And, Gen-Xers are starting to turn 50 too! We shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of all that power.