generation communication - family huddled together on couch with daughter holding phone for a picture

4 Generations, 4 Styles of Communication

For the purposes of this article we’ll be covering:

Baby Boomers – Born between 1945 – 1964

Generation X – Born between 1965 – 1980

Millennials – Born between 1981 – 1996 

Zoomers (or Gen Z) – Born from 1996 – present 

As of March 2022, there has yet to be a set end-date for the birth window of the Zoomer generation. 

In reverse chronological order, we’ll be taking a look into how each of these generations predominantly communicate and use technology.

Zoomers

Close in cultural profile to their older siblings, the millennials, zoomers hate phone calls. Sixty percent of them claim they dread making calls to do things like set Dr.s appointments. They’d rather this type of call be made for them or use an app or SMS-based platform to get it taken care of.

Having been born into an era where the internet was in full swing and seeing the use of smartphones become normalized before their teenage years, Zoomers are the most confident with handheld technology. 

Zoomers are by far the most comfortable generation using social media to speak directly to brands. Nearly 80% of them will do so for inquiries, complaints, or praise. Along with this, they loathe advertising vehicles like email marketing, where they’re spoken to en masse with other customers. They like brands to court their sense of individuality. 

In like manner, they prefer 1 on 1 communication. Surprisingly matching with boomers in this sentiment, 40% say that one-on-one, in-person communication is their most desired form of conversation, with the remaining 60% being split across other styles like one on one texts, group chats, and a variety of others. 

What remains consistent is Gen Z’s strong dislike for being addressed in depersonalized batches, as they deeply value their individuality. Personalized content is also thought by some marketing aficionados to be the antidote to Gen Z’s short attention spans. 

Millennials

Comedian Gary Gulman says; “to me, the phone is this seldom used app… on my phone. And if you use it on me… I’ll be furious! You should text me first, to see if I’m even taking phone calls today.” 

Millennials are extremely partial to the lack of intrusion that SMS communication provides. According to a hypothetical posed by OpenMarket, if given the choice between a texting-only and voice-only phone, 75% of millennials would opt for the text-only

They want to receive and respond to messages in their own time, and enjoy that texting gives them this ability. They can open and digest messages when they please, and don’t have to respond right away. The phone call poses too much immediacy, and, like zoomers, many millennials find calls to be anxiety inducing. 

But rest assured, if you text a millennial, they’re probably seeing it right away. Over 90% open texts within 3 minutes of receiving them, and with around 30% of millennials using their smartphone as their primary device for internet connectivity, you can be sure they’ve got their phone open often. 

Gen X

Somehow exonerated from the boomer vs. millennial culture war (or, according to some, caught in the middle), Gen X is both tech-savvy and direct. They prefer to get their news from social media, and about 20% of them use their smartphones as their main source of internet access

The first generation in history to grow up with personal computers, Gen X still loves a good email, unlike their millennial counterparts. Email and 1:1 phone calls are Gen X’s preferred methods of messaging at preference rates of over 50% for both. While not as averse to texting as boomers, they’re certainly less fond of it than millennials. 

They’re also less app friendly than millennials and zoomers, having been indoctrinated into desktop versions of web applications – or, as they used to be called; “websites.” They share this quality with older millennials. 

Gen X prefers a blend of IRL and web-based shopping to maximize their value-hunting prowess. At a rate of 45%, they’ll utilize their smartphone while in person at a retail store to scan the web for the best price point, before they go ahead with their in-store purchase. Savvy! 

Boomers

In the same way that millennials are perturbed by unexpected phone calls, Baby Boomers mostly find text messages annoying. 

Boomers like being as direct as possible in their communications, so their ultimate preference is face-to-face talks. Short of this, they’ll take a phone call. Studies prior to 2020 show that Baby Boomers have a strong distaste for SMS communications. 

In 2020, the forced uptick in mobile phone use, brought on by the pandemic and lockdowns helped many people become familiarized with previously neglected apps and processes, pushing boomers into a higher overall appreciation of SMS. 

Despite a growing appreciation for texting, they own smartphones in smaller numbers than any of the generations beneath them, about 85% of them on average, compared with millennials and zoomers, who own smartphones way into the majority (rates of over 95% for both groups.)

Along with this, they think that texting and surfing the web during work is inappropriate. 88% of them say that’s a major workplace no-no. It might be safe to guess that the remaining 12% work in digital marketing. 

Integrating Generational Communication into Your Marketing Efforts

As technology continues to rapidly change, along with our norms and preferences around it, don’t get left behind. There’s a diversity of methods you can use to appeal to your customers, regardless of their age. 

AnswerNet can help you strategize the best way to reach and support your customers. Whether it be through telephone answering services, SMS communications, live chat, or email support. We’ve got you covered! 

Communication preferences and styles need not be a battle of the generations. As things change, these preferences come down more and more to the needs and wants of the individual customer and their journey, rather than something that can be predicted by broad categories like age brackets.

Regardless, there’s something for everyone, and AnswerNet is happy to offer it all.