Gen X: hybrid digital consumers 

In this digital age, it can be strange to consider that there are whole generations who grew up without social media and online shopping, GPS and mobile phones. In essence, some people have lived half of their lives in analogue. These audiences can be categorised as hybrid digital consumers, those in the unique position of having experienced both sides of the digital divide. Generation X makes up the majority of this group. By looking at Gen X as hybrid digital consumers, marketers can better understand how to connect effectively with this undervalued audience.


Who are Gen X?

To be considered a part of Generation X, you must have been born roughly between 1965 and 1980. Stereotyped as a forgotten generation, Gen Xers are said to be highly independent and resourceful. Despite having grown up with limited technology, they are well adapted to the latest devices and platforms. This elusive audience has been challenging to pin down for many marketers and overlooked by many more. One factor may be that their age is seen as a barrier to technological proficiency, causing marketers to put more effort into targeting younger groups such as Millennials and Gen-Z. Whilst this is generally not the case, Gen X are indeed less reliant on e-commerce and social media when it comes to purchasing, having grown up with a more traditional, holistic approach.


Social media & customer reviews

Gen X are incredibly active in social media, with a reported 80% signed up to Facebook and Twitter. However, unlike other generations, more than 50% choose not to follow influencers online. How Gen X interacts with social media can be an essential factor for considering how they can best be marketed to. One study asserts that 37% of Gen X will research a potential purchase using social media. This could be because this generation is renowned for making sure that they are purchasing from a company they feel they can trust. Whilst this means that their path-to-purchase is often longer than average, it also means that after one purchase from a Gen Xer, you have potentially gained a loyal customer for life. But what does this signify for digital marketers?


Setting up easy-to-access social media pages for customer reviews is a must. This allows you to control the environment in which your audience sees customer reviews, e.g. you can reply to unfavourable reviews and show potential new customers that you care about their experience. For consumers who make decisions based on your website reviews, the same principles apply. Creating a positive brand image through social media channels can significantly enhance your chance of converting from a Gen X customer since this is one of the first places they will go to check out your brand.


Post sharing

Despite being prevalent on social media, Gen X typically remains relatively private, using social channels to socialise rather than advertise. This being said, there is a trend for Gen Xers to share others’ posts, mainly when they include images or videos. This penchant for post sharing means that digital marketers can focus on creating short, visual content that engages Gen X with their brand, with the reassurance that it will be shared with other people within that same audience. This can be an advantageous characteristic when considering expanding your brand’s audience to include Gen X.


Email marketing

Typically, Gen X uses email as the predominant communication method for both their work and professional lives. While many omni-channel marketing strategies will include email content, email is incredibly relevant and should take a leading role in Gen X. It is essential to consider your audience carefully when creating email content. Gen Xers don’t like to feel that they are being marketed to and can easily recognise on-the-nose content. Counter-culture has played a significant role in shaping this generation’s values; marketing content needs to be less aggressive and more personal to hit the mark.


Gen X are often looking to make smart purchases and rely heavily on their independent research around brands. Therefore, emails should include valuable and straightforward information to see the facts upfront and have less need to find data through non-brand content. Lastly, email content shouldn’t just be confined to desktop formatting. Since Gen X is known for juggling multiple devices throughout the day, optimisation for mobile is another critical step.


Hybrid digital consumers

So, what makes Gen X the ultimate hybrid digital consumers? Whilst all audiences require specific digital marketing strategies; hybrid digital consumers are more difficult to target since they are media literate and highly aware when they are being marketed to. With an emphasis on independent discovery and purchase, hybrid digital consumers are less swayed by prominent advertising. They will continuously dig deeper into a product or business before making a decision. These audiences are also less reliant on digital platforms for information, commerce and entertainment, leading to a less predictable environment for marketers to operate in.


Gen X exhibits all of these qualities, which could be why they are often overlooked within many brands’ digital marketing strategies. While they may be difficult to win over, Gen X are some of the most loyal customers, and returning customers’ value is high.


Will new hybrid digital consumers will challenge the future? Certainly not in the same way as Gen X has, being in the unique position of having lived through both analogue and digital eras. However, though digital now permeates all of our lives, Gen X may be ahead of the trend. With many consumers already looking to return to a more holistic method of purchase due to factors such as environmental concerns and social responsibility, it seems likely that hybrid digital consumers are here to stay.




Written and researched by Paige Elford, Digital Marketing Graduate