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Marketing Review: A Difference In Generations

A study from IBM shows Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers have different preferences when researching B2B products and services. 

Generations have different music.  Different styles.  Slang expressions all their own.

So it’s not that surprising to find generational differences when it comes to online shopping and research.

This study by IBM on product and service research preferences in the B2B sector is illustrative.  Some telling points:

  • Millennials prefer direct contact with vendors
  • Gen X prefer third party websites with reviews, articles, white papers and comparisons
  • Baby Boomers prefer trade shows
  • Recommendations from personal friends and social networks did poorly across all generations
  • Vendor’s customers/testimonials ranked in the middle for all generations

The most interesting takeaway is in the age of internet information, the youngest generation has the greatest preference to interact directly with vendors.  Gen X is the online research generation, while Baby Boomers remain steadfast with trade shows.

Also notable is how poorly personal recommendations – both from friends and on social media – did in this study.  Vendor provided testimonials had moderate impact at best.

In the B2B sector, people are looking for expert information.

Yet for Gen X, contact with vendors was the least popular resource behind personal contacts.  For Millennials, is was the most popular.


This data suggests that from Gen X to Millennials there is a shift taking place. Millennials trust Information that comes directly from vendors.  Gen X does not trust the vendors themselves; they want independent, third-party resources.

It may also have something to do with efficiency.  In today’s world of social media, content marketing, and online review websites, research about vendors, products, and services suffers from information overload.

10-15 years ago, when Generation X were the primary internet users, this type of research worked well.

Today, it’s infobesity.  Time consuming research results in more questions than conclusions.

Millennials sound like they may be ready to just take it back to the vendor and get direct information.


For ecommerce vendors and retailers, this is information worth noting – for both B2B and B2C.

There is a lot of marketing buzz around social media, online reviews, and content marketing.  But Millennials making a buying decision are more likely to phone, email, or come knocking.  They may have done less research and have more interest in information you provide, as well as the impression you make.

Perhaps in time this will help cut the fat when it comes to online infobesity.

Content marketing in the business world created a feast of information.  But for Millennials, ironically, there’s a lack of information that helps them make a decision.

Additional Resources:

Marketing Profs

Madwire Media Reviews