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Product Recommendations: Research Shows How Each Generation Shops and Who They Trust

Erin Ollila
August 21, 2019

3 minute read

88% of customers trust service and product recommendations made by people they know, says the “One Size Doesn’t Fit All” research study of over 1,100 consumers across generations, conducted by Oracle in partnership with Jeanne Bliss. However, peer-to-peer recommendations aren’t the only way people learn about new-to-them products.

Data allows brands and businesses to make personalized shopping recommendations to their audiences, and paid advertising has adapted to pinpoint prospective customers with their products and services. Though, customers tend to have varying levels of trust for digital recommendations.

With all the access consumers have to recommendations, here’s what the research says about how each generation prefers getting them.

Baby Boomers

According to the study, 80% of Baby Boomers don’t trust product recommendations from digital platforms. Why? Because this generation, the one that controls 70% of all disposable income in the United States, finds digital recommendations to be an intrusion, and not a helpful suggestion.

So, how can brands reach Baby Boomers? This generation prefers word-of-mouth endorsements from family, friends, and colleagues, with 87% mentioning these recommendations to be trustworthy.

Generation X

Influencer marketing is projected to become a 6.5 billion dollar industry in 2019. But, do consumers actually trust the people who are being paid to influence them?

According to the research, the answer is no.

While the majority of survey respondents admitted to not trusting influencers and bloggers, a whopping 90% of the Gen Xers claim to not trust the word of influencers when it comes to service or product recommendations.

Millennials

52% of consumers surveyed admitted to being skeptical of any recommendations delivered via a digital platform. However, Millennials may be a bit more lenient than their counterparts, as 36% reported that they trust they advertisements they see when using social media.

This isn’t to say that brands should reduce their ad spend. The study did find that 68% of Millennials found new products and services through social channels on a monthly (or more frequent) basis. When this happens, 37% of respondents admitted to clicking through to buy the new find.

Generation Z

Generation Z is the youngest generation born in a completely digital era, and is also just entering the workforce. This group has the most trust in digital product recommendations compared to their counterparts, according to the study — though, they’re still not fully trusting of the data-driven recs.

The one place you might not expect ads to appear is the one place Gen Zers trust digital content the most: video games. The report found that almost a third of the respondents in this age bracket consider ads that appear while they’re playing video games. In addition, Gen Z is more likely to trust a digital recommendation coming through this medium than they would one that appeared on their cell phones.

Which generation shares the most recommendations?

While Gen Zers have the most trust in digital recommendations, they also happen to be the generation that shares the most word-of-mouth endorsements to their family and friends for the products and services they enjoy. The report found that 79% of Gen Z respondents routinely share positive brand experiences with their networks, but also that all other groups were vocal when it came to impressive CX.

To learn more about product recommendations and other buying habits across generations, read the full report, “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The Subjective, Emotional, and Contradictory State of Customer Experience“.

Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. After a 12+ year career in human resources, she's jumped headfirst into digital strategy. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media.
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