I’ve been invited to speak at the Online Customer Experience 2010 conference in London on the 12 July where I will be doing my Mind The Gap presentation on the different generations. Leading up to this event I’m going to be sharing some of my thoughts and ideas on how to strengthen the online connection you have with each generation

Here are my headline top tips for delivering online customer experience for Generation X:

Who are Gen Xers?

Howe and Strauss define Generation X as those people born between 1961 and 1981. Whilst these dates may be accurate for American Gen-Xers our research shows that Generation X in the UK and Europe are those people born between 1964 (starting with the Profumo scandal) and 1989 (Fall of communism and the Berlin Wall). The term was popularised by Canadian author Douglas Coupland’s 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, concerning young adults during the late 1980s and their lifestyles.

Why is Gen X important?

Gen Xers are entering their peak years of product and service consumption. Although this generation staved off marriage and families, most are now entering the life stages of mid-life and established families. They are also entering positions of leadership and influence. The oldest of this generation, or its cuspers are becoming leaders of important nations. Prime Minister David Cameron and his Deputy PM Nick Clegg are both Gen X-Baby Boomer Cuspers. They bring with them a very different approach to work, family life and viewing the world.

Gen X view electronic media as a primary tool for conducting research and accomplishing a vast array of every day tasks and have embraced technology. For information on everything from parenting to consumer products, they go online. For them the Internet, along with mobile phones is a convenient way to shop, bank and network with peers.

Online customer experience top tips:

1. Life is short, play more: Don’t take yourself or life too seriously. Have some fun and build humour into your website.
2. Give it to them straight: They are cynical and well educated, they have grown up with marketing and know what it is all about and what you are trying to achieve. So loose the marketing speak and give it to them straight!
3. Stylish, visual and dynamic: If your website is cluttered, you have lost them, if your navigation is confusing you have lost them, if there is too much copy you have lost them. Your website needs to look slick and have loads of great images to draw them and entice them in. Your website needs to have a dynamic feel to it – changing images are a good start.
4. Give it to them in sound bites: Draw Gen X into your website bit by bit, little by little. They are bored easily so don’t give them loads of copy to read. Provide them with hors d’oeuvre copy, little tasters that can wet their appetite to learn more. if they like what you are saying they will drill down. A rule of thumb if they need to use the scroll bar to scroll down and read your copy…you have lost them
5. Use videos: This is a great way to engage Gen X. They hate reading copy so get a video to explain your value proposition to them. But your video had better not be a boring monologue of the copy it is replacing because if it is, hey you’ve lost them. They have the attention span of a nat! Make your videos fun, use music and a little intrigue.
6. Relationships are vital: Family and friends are very important to Generation X. They seek relationships with the brands they interact with, but you will need to work hard to win their trust. Once you do though they will reward you with a loyalty of sorts.
7. They value opinions: You need to take the plunge and let your customers rate your products and give you feedback. This is the best kind of marketing for Gen X and provide it on your website. They are going to go and look for peer-reviews anyway so keep them engaged and on your website by allowing them to read what other customers are saying about you on your website. And word of warning, don’t edit what it being said, if you are caught out doing that…you have lost them!
8. Don’t use celebrity endorsement: They have no hero’s. No matter who you get to endorse your product, Gen X knows you have paid them to say what they are saying so they will revert to type become cynical and switch off.

Gen X presents massive challenges to marketers. They use fragmented media and embrace a wider range of lifestyles than previous generations. And because they were weaned on MTV and cable television, they are largely immune to traditional advertising.

Dean van Leeuwen is a co-founder of TomorrowToday International a dynamic organisation that shows companies how to create workplaces where employees love to do their best work and customers love to do business. Dean is a highly sought after presenter and recognised expert on customer experience strategies and employee engagement. He is available to speak on this and other topics. Quote this blog and receive a discount

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