Survey sheds light on N. American Gen X vs. Gen Y

Forrester Research, Inc. released the results of its 2008 North American Technographics® Benchmark survey, its largest annual data set about consumers’ technology adoption and attitudes, based on a mail survey of nearly 61,000 consumers representing 53,000 households in the US and Canada.

A rich data asset for Consumer Market Research professionals’ product planning and go-to-market strategy assessments, the 11th annual Benchmark includes responses to more than 100 questions covering 1,500 elements and more than 450 brands. It is the largest ongoing survey in the world to explore consumer attitudes, ownership, and use of technology.

A generational analysis of the survey results is available in the new report, “The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2008.” By examining the unique technology profile of each generation, Consumer Market Research professionals can gain critical insight into future buying and adoption trends for their target demographic and set their product strategies for the next five years.

Gen Y is the audience that most companies are struggling to understand right now because it’s key to their future revenue growth,” said Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “One of the questions we’re asked most frequently is the difference between Gen Y and Gen X, and this year’s data clearly shows the distinction. Gen Xers use technology when it supports a lifestyle need, while technology is so deeply embedded into everything Gen Yers do that they are truly the first native online population.”

According to the report, although Gen Y is a small generation of 18- to 28-year-olds, comprising only 38 million US adults, it sets the pace for technology adoption. Nine in 10 Gen Yers own a PC, and 82 percent own a mobile phone. But it’s technology use that sets this generation apart: Gen Y spends more time online — for leisure or work — than watching TV. Seventy-two percent of Gen Y mobile phone owners send or receive text messages, and 42 percent of online Gen Yers watch Internet video at least monthly.

In contrast, Gen X, which is comprised of 29- to 42-year-olds — 63 million US adults — uses technology when it intersects with a personal need or fulfills a desire. For example, 32 percent of Gen X households own an HDTV, and 29 percent have a DVR. In the past three months, 69 percent of online Gen Xers shopped online, and 65 percent banked online, higher percentages than any other generation. Gen X is also ramping up its Internet and mobile activities, including reading blogs (21 percent of online Gen Xers do it at least monthly, up from 15 percent in 2007) and texting (61 percent of Gen X mobile subscribers do it today, up from 49 percent in 2007).

Forrester Research, Inc. is an independent research company that provides pragmatic and forward-thinking advice to global leaders in business and technology.www.forrester.com.