“Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.”
– Douglas Adams, 1999
The FSC team recently attended a breakfast briefing, hosted by consumer insight and futures consultancy, Trajectory Global Foresight, to learn about the relationship between technology and generational cohorts, and how the ever-evolving digital world impacts consumer facing businesses, writes Lottie Armstrong.
In today’s society, we have reached what ex-MP and government minister, David Willetts, snappily refers to as a “point of Generational Equipoise” – an age where four substantial and evenly-sized generational cohorts, each accounting for about 20% of the population, exist at one time. Each of these cohorts is made up of digital ‘haves and have-nots’ with varying levels of technological literacy.
According to author and satirist Adams (quoted above), technology is an area where age makes a clear and measurable difference. Although it is constantly being assimilated into our daily lives, the extent and the effect of this will differ greatly across generational boundaries.
In simple terms, the younger you are, the more likely you are to have better access to, and greater knowledge of technology. This is not to say the pre-WWII generation is entirely bereft – about a third of UK consumers aged 75+ own a tablet device and 25%, a smartphone.
However, compare this with Generation Y (aged 22-36), and we can see a chasm in technology adoption: 89% own a smartphone and 61% a tablet.
But what does this mean for companies? Research by Trajectory shows us that varying levels of technology sophistication can significantly impact consumers’ consumption and transactional behaviours.
With 42% of pre-WWII consumers having concerns about the privacy of their personal information online, versus just 25% of Generation X (aged 37-51), very few businesses can afford to cater to just one, or even two, generational groups.
Within the eating out market, many casual dining operators understand this balance. Most venues now give diners the option of a traditional payment method, or “pay-at-table” apps such as Qkr!, MyCheck, Flypay, and Zapper to settle a bill. This taps into both the digitally savvy Generation Y, while continuing to satisfy consumers’ heightened privacy concerns.
As companies increasingly turn to technological solutions, be it using apps and online services for financial transactions, or digital approaches to strengthen customer relationships, there is a risk of alienating older consumers.
It’s important for businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector, to recognise and address the varying levels of technological competence and confidence across generation cohorts and adjust their approach accordingly.
In doing so, they can demonstrate they have listened to their customers’ concerns and continue to build trust and loyalty.