In 10 years, the largest influence on all purchases will be the virtual experience associated with them, according to consultant Gartner, Inc. By 2015, more money will be spent marketing and selling to multiple anonymous online personas than marketing and selling offline. This transition in customer interaction is being driven by what the firm calls Generation Virtual, also known as “Generation V.”
Now before you say – here’s ANOTHER generational label, Gartner analysts note that this Generation V is the recognition that general behavior, attitudes and interests start to blend together in an online environment. While the notion of Generation X (and later Generation Y) was conceived as a way to understand new generations that appeared not to have connections to the culture icons of the baby boomers, such categorizations have helped those who sell to (including the selling of things like retirement savings plans) those in different age groups.
Increasingly, however, Gartner says that as more baby boomers (who are living longer) and the younger generations go online and participate/communicate in a flat virtual environment, those generational distinctions break down. Customers will “hop across segments” at various times of life for various reasons and “…are likely to act like several generations at any given time.”
“For Generation V, the virtual environment provides many aspects of a level playing field, where age, gender, class and income of individuals are less important and less rewarded than competence, motivation and effort,” said Adam Sarner, principal analyst at Gartner. “For example, an 11-year old individual can be the leading “go to” person for advice on how to upgrade/hack a digital video recorder (DVR) for more recording space. An unpopular office worker can be a highly revered, accomplished 40th-level half-elf in World of Warcraft. The opportunity for reputation, prestige, influence and personal growth provides a powerful social draw for the masses to spend more time in a virtual world.”
For companies, it means access to new economies. For example, by 2030, there will be twice as many people over age 65 in the United States with 70 times the real median income of their corresponding age group in 1990. They will be spending more time online engaging as Generation V members.
“Companies will need to shift from collecting personal data about individual customers toward collecting more-complete and more-relevant data around online customer behavior and influence on others,” Sarner said in a press release. Citing the need to shift from “demographic to psychographic insight”, the Gartner report suggest that, “Although the real person may never be known, far more intimate information of the persona’s actions, personality, lifestyle habits and attitudes can be collected and exploited for business goals.”
“Sell to the persona, not the person. A persona will show you how it wants to be treated,” according to the report.
Gartner, Inc. is an information technology research and advisory company.