Different Generations Respond to the Pandemic - What It Means for Homebuilders

The pandemic has turned our lives upside-down. Everyone is feeling it from the youngest to the oldest. And as a result of working, schooling, and living at home 24/7, people’s behavior especially around technology has changed.

We recently interviewed Mandi Mankvitz, VP of Engagement Trends at Sphere Trending, a strategy think tank, and trend forecasting company. For over 20 years, Sphere Trending has been tracking the consumer behavior of six influential generational segments – from birth to seniors – and how brands interact with each. The six segments and their nicknames are:

  1. Global from birth (ages 0-11) – the no boundaries generation
  2. Gen Z (ages 12-23) – generation creative
  3. Millennials (ages 24-44) – good news generation
  4. Gen X (ages 45 – 55) – generation purpose
  5. Baby Boomers (ages 56-75) – the new tech-savvy generation
  6. Seniors (ages 76+) – the new viral star generation

Since quarantining the past few months, each segment’s behavior has adapted and brands are taking notice. This analysis is especially insightful for homebuilders because they inevitably interact with one of the segments directly and/or are influenced by a segment during the home purchase process. Below is the summary for each segment and a key takeaway for builders.

Children in the no boundaries generation (ages 0-11) were born into a world where they can reach anyone at any time due to technology. While previously dismissed by brands outside of the obvious commercials during children’s programming, brands are now circling parents and children stuck at home schooling and entertaining together. Brands realize that while not decision-makers, children do very much influence their parents. In fact, a recent National Retail Federation study said that 87% of parents consult their children before making a large purchase such as a house or car.

Net/net to homebuilders – don’t forget about the littles. They may be small in size but big in influence as their parents search for the perfect house to fit everyone’s needs. 

Gen Z (ages 12-23) is your future home buyer and probably the most important group to watch when it comes to trend forecasting. This generation feels they are more creative than their cohorts in the previous generation and have approached the pandemic in a surprisingly positive way. They have tapped into both analog and digital outlets and have become very creative content creators. Like the younger generation, they too are virtually attending school (even college students) and having conversations with their parents as to what their needs are at home. Some very interesting new brand relationships have come out of the pandemic and will impact how they think about homes in the future.

Net/net – Gen Z is directly influencing their parents on what elements a new home should have including both layout and technology. Homebuilders should take note of their need for creative outlets and dependence on digital solutions.

The Millennial generation (ages 24-44) is the powerhouse segment of homebuyers, parents, and workers. Millennials were raised on Instagram and Facebook and the perfect post. But the pandemic has now level set things and made them realize that life is not perfect. They’ve missed out on graduations, weddings, vacations, etc., Millennials are now instead focused on spreading the good news that has come out of the pandemic. They love sharing stories they’ve either experienced or have seen social media about the good people are doing. The follower is now the influencer and builders would be remorse not to remember this.

And unlike the latchkey kids of Generation X, Millennials are making a concerted effort to develop a close relationship with their children. They purposely focus on the family unit, how they spend time together and find balance in their lives. A good thing to remember as buyers focus on home design & layout– game rooms, outdoor “living” spaces, and other rooms the entire family can commune in.

Net/net – To attract Millennials, homebuilders should emphasize the family unit in messaging and imagery. Demonstrate how your home is the perfect destination for everything from spending Friday night watching a movie to playing together in the backyard.

Gen X (ages 45-55), the latch key kids, is a very pragmatic segment. They are heads down during quarantine working and caring for children, sometimes adult children and sometimes aging parents. Gen Xers expect more than a purchase from a brand. They expect a partnership. A commitment. Someone they can count on and trust. This is hugely important when you think about home. Likewise, they love relationships with brands that champion a cause. Not just a one-time stunt but a long-term commitment.

And while this group has been hyper-focused on producing, the pandemic has forced many Gen Xers to shift their view about what is important and even “lighten up”. With parents working and kids schooling from home, parents see their kids participating in social spaces like Tik Tok and Instagram. Rather than sitting back judging, they’re jumping in headfirst and participating. This is the new “shared” space that homebuilders should be aware of. Families are communicating via these technologies and it’s a prime opportunity to market to and reach Gen Xer’s.

Net/net – Gen X expects a lot out of homebuilders but in return, you’ll have an advocate for life. Don’t forget that social messaging is just as important to them as younger generations.

“Boomer!” Has anyone been called this by their teenager? (even if you don’t fit into the demographic bracket!) It's their way of calling out age and lack of digital-savvy. Then we’re submersed in a pandemic, only to push Baby Boomers towards technology and make them the new tech-savvy consumer. Being quarantined has forced Baby Boomers (ages 56-75) to take a crash course in downloading apps for online ordering, shopping, and even telehealth. And they expect this to not be just a short-term fix but a new lifestyle. It’s a big wake up call to brands who used to discount digital as a means to reach Baby Boomers.

But Baby Boomers have an even more important reason for adopting digital – their grandchildren. Being quarantined and not able to visit in person, Boomers have rapidly adopted Zoom calls to connect with their family resulting in a new nickname – Zoomers. Expect that Zoomers will also request Zoom when it comes to interacting with brands to feel safe.

Net/net – Do not discount digital when it comes to reaching Baby Boomers. It will be part of their lifestyle going forward not only for convenience but also for safety reasons due to their age. Virtual tours? Zoom appointments? All a possibility now with Baby Boomers.

While it’s probably the last generation you’d consider digital messaging, the pandemic has made viral stars out of many Seniors (ages 76+). Coors Light jumped on the opportunity when the post of the elderly lady holding up a sign that said “need more beer” went viral. Or when Matthew McConaughey played virtual bingo with a senior living facility. People have become empathetic to Seniors being isolated and are questioning whether or not they should live alone. As a result, families are reconsidering the blank slate that is a new build. How do they accommodate their immediate family while possibly adding a Senior with their own set of unique needs?

Net/net – Home builders are primed to help solve the challenge of caring for Senior relatives in a really helpful and meaningful way. As builders think about the needs of Seniors, consider messages aimed at the caregivers – Gen X or Baby Boomers.

There may be a silver lining to this crazy time. Families spending more time together. Developing empathy for each other’s needs. Children learning how to contribute to their families and help around the house. And the accelerated adoption of technology for the better and creating connections across generations.

The beauty of digital is that you can shift quickly and it costs very little to engage socially. Don’t miss the moment to pivot and utilize digital to connect sincerely with new homebuyers.  To learn more about BDX’s digital solutions, contact us at info@thebdx.com.

About the Author

Builders Digital Experience

At BDX, our team of experts sets us apart. For over 20 years, we’ve helped top builders successfully market their new home communities. We work with over 1000 builders to create successful digital marketing programs. Our professionals are experts in the latest technology, marketing, and industry trends.

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