How Gen Z influences older generations

Generation Z – those born between the mid-90s and the early 2000s – have been a hot topic for marketers over the past few years. They are the first generation to be complete digital natives. They are judged for always having their faces in their phones. And just like every generation seems to be, they are lumped together, often with less than positive labels assigned to them.

Is it fair? Maybe. Maybe not. Is there more to the story? Always.

The challenge with generational assumptions

The challenge with making generational claims is that nothing ever happens in isolation. You can learn a lot about a singular generation on its own, exploring what happens within that group and across that group to identify trends and outliers.

But you can’t see influence, or what happens as groups interact and learn from each other. So this year, we set out to look across generations. Using Epsilon’s proprietary transactional data and Shopper’s Voice® survey, we examined the 12-month spend of 85 million U.S. consumers across generations and then asked 3,000+ people about their preferences.

The findings became our cross-generational report, Age matters: A guide to cross-generational marketing. The research aims to help marketers understand similarities and differences across generations, including actual spend behaviors. But one of the key things we saw was just how influential Gen Z is on older generations. Let’s explore.

How Generation Z influences older generations

Generation Z has the power to influence other generations. Put another way, younger generations’ thinking and adoption of technology filters through to their parents, and maybe even to their grandparents.

Influence relates to education and exposure. If a Gen Zer is in the household, they both educate and expose their parents and grandparents to their way of life. This exposure is generally not happening without the Gen Z in the home.

Here are two findings from the research to outline the influence Gen Z has around technology behaviors and channel preferences. Check out the full report for more on how Gen Z influences social media use and loyalty. 

Technology preferences and behaviors:

Channel preferences:


How to put this into action

We now know that Gen Z has the power to influence older generations, including acceleration of technology adoption, strengthened brand loyalty and increased purchase activity. The not-so-easy part is figuring out how to turn that insight into action. Rather than thinking about generations in isolation, we need to think cross-generationally.

Here are three tips to bring cross-generational insights to your marketing efforts:

  1. Use complete data to understand households. Look at attributes like family composition, presence of children and number of generations in the household to understand generational influence among your audience. While the bulk of spending power resides with Gen X and boomers, having kids in the household can greatly influence how that money is spent.
  2. Adopt a tech-forward approach with every generation. Don’t assume that tech adoption is limited to younger generations. When Gen Z are in the household, Gen X and boomers can handle tech-based promotions and campaigns. This also applies across channels: older adults with young kids use channels outside their generational norm.
  3. Don’t market to a single generation. Focus on who’s in the household. Don’t just tailor your messages to just the kids or the parents, instead use multichannel techniques to reach each group with the messages that matter to them.

To learn more about how generations spend and behave and how to start thinking more cross-generationally in your marketing efforts, check out the full research report.