At Good Rebels, we have discovered a generation that is busting myths about digital, and it’s not the one you are thinking about. Usually known as ‘baby boomers’, the Zen Gen (55-75) experienced the hippie movement and became devoted fans of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. They have always been pioneers, and now they continue to be, even when it comes to digital.
Zenners were between 40 and 50 years old at the dawn of the digital revolution and were, therefore, the first ones to use computers and mobile phones at work. Their experiences, halfway between digital and analogue, have made this generation mature and reflective, with distinct online behaviours.
For more than three months, we have deep dived into their universe, learning from and about more than 1,500 zenners in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Mexico. Our research, consisting of surveys and qualitative interviews, has allowed us to analyse this unknown generation and unveil its secrets. Would you like to discover it?
First of all… who are zenners?
In the UK, people aged 55-75 account for 22% of the population. That is 29 million zenners. Back in 2015, they held about 50% of the UK’s household wealth, and this figure is expected to experience year-on-year growth due to the accelerated ageing of the population, according to The Silver Economy UE, 2018.
However, although Zen Gen is the population group with the highest purchasing power, most brands choose to target their messages to younger generations. Zenners often feel invisible and forgotten and believe that marketing and advertising campaigns do not take them into account. But are brands aware of the cost of this opportunity? The data speaks for itself: 83% of the participants in our study have shopped online at least once, and 51% do so at least monthly.
Data varies slightly when we zoom into the different markets. In the UK, 78% of zenners are frequent online shoppers, and within that a further 30% purchase online at least weekly, as opposed to zenners in Spain and Mexico, where the figure is of 6.8% and 4.8%, respectively.
But not only do they buy online. Although they are not digital natives, the Zen Gen was still the first generation to make widespread use of, and feel at ease with, tech. In fact, at a global level, 86% find no difficulty in surfing online, and 76% consider online purchases to be easy or very easy.
Zen Gen’s digital galaxy
Surprised? That is not all. Besides feeling at ease with online shopping, British zenners are also very present on social media. A huge 71% of participants said they are users of Facebook, while 20% are on Twitter, 19% are on Instagram and, surprisingly, 14% have a Pinterest account (yes, Pinterest!). They mainly use the platform for inspiration for different activities (crafts, decoration, home remedies, math exercises for their grandchildren…). In case you have any doubt about the digital behaviour of this generation, qualitative interviews showed that what zenners like the most about Pinterest is the user experience, which allows them to organise their pins into different folders, as well the delicate, beautiful aesthetics of the platform.
With regards to the preferred device to use to go online, one of the key differences we discovered between the markets we studied was that, while most zenners in the UK (64%) prefer laptops or computers, mobiles phones are the preferred option in Spain (40%) and Mexico (52%). In fact only 14% of our UK survey participants preferred to use their phone for online shopping.
How do they relate to brands?
We already know they like to buy online, but what leads zenners to choose one brand over another? The answer is much simpler than you would expect: for 72% of our respondents, trust is crucial, and therefore they choose the same brands they buy in physical shops when buying online. They also take into account the recommendations of their acquaintances (33%) and the offers they receive by e-mail (22%).
Trust is one of the main reasons why zenners choose a brand. This is a reflexive generation: zenners are consumers who take it slow, think twice about what they are going to buy and do not make impulsive purchase decisions. This is why they choose products from brands they already know, either because they have tried them before or because they follow recommendations from acquaintances. By doing this, they are guaranteed that the product or service is of high quality. Buying from brands they know also allows zenners to make sure it is the brand, and not a marketplace, who is in charge of the transaction, as well as ensure they know who to contact if there is a problem with their order.
When a problem with an online purchase arises, Zen Gen prefers to speak to a person on the phone (67%), although email (53%) and live chat (34%) are also among the preferred options. Once again, data reveals the digital habits of this generation, who have no problem solving issues related to their orders in purely online channels.
And what products do they prefer? The answer is simple: all of them. Our research shows that zenners buy mostly fashion (45%), groceries (38%) and health and beauty products (34%), but they also purchase appliances and tech. In short, they are seasoned consumers who don’t mind acquiring different products online.
What they value the most about online shopping is convenience (72%), price (57%) and the fact that they can do it from home (52%). Qualitative interviews revealed that Zen Gen highly values the personalised customer service of physical shops, which, in their opinion, should not disappear.
However, convenience is not the only thing zenners value when buying online. Our research shows that certain ethical issues also play a decisive role. Brands often assume that only younger generations, such as Centennials or Millennials, are concerned about sustainability. But our data suggests that Zen Gen also cares about the future of the planet: 66% take it into account when choosing products and brands.
They are also concerned about privacy: 59% consider it to be a very important factor with regards to digital purchases, and 24% state they have chosen not to complete an online purchase because they perceived the website as unsafe.
In short, zenners are responsible consumers that advocate for a more sustainable and ethical online purchase. Moreover, although buying online is more convenient for them, they support and worry about the survival of local businesses, as they value the close, personalised customer service that these businesses offer.
The above poses a great opportunity for the development of online-to-offline strategies (using digital channels to generate traffic to shops). It is also an opportunity for purpose brands with solid values to connect directly with their consumers, thus taking control of their end-to-end supply chain.
These are the most relevant highlights related to the digital behaviour of this pioneering generation. If you would like to learn more, you can access our white paper for a thorough analysis of the data by country and the main takeaways of the research. Now that we have shared all the insights, it is your turn to discover the Zen Gen universe and include them in your marketing strategy. Are you ready?