Insight: Study examines the generational divide in IT, Spiceworks

Spiceworks has announced the results of a new survey that examines buying habits across different generations of technology buyers to understand what influences their business and personal technology purchasing decisions. The findings indicate that compared to Generation X and baby boomers, millennials are influenced by a different mix of brand and product attributes and therefore require a different set of marketing tactics to reach and engage them.

The results revealed three key ways millennials differ from their Generation X and baby boomer peers when purchasing from a tech vendor:

  • Millennials are more likely to be influenced by their personal tech preferences: 65 percent believe the technologies they purchase for personal use influences the technologies they purchase for their organisation, compared to 55 percent of Generation X and 57 percent of baby boomers.
  • Meaningful brand relationships are more important to millennials: 60 percent prefer to purchase from tech brands that focus on building a relationship vs. those looking to secure a quick transactional deal. This is compared to 53 percent of Gen X and 51 percent of baby boomers.
  • Personal experiences are more important to millennials: 34 percent said they need to have a personal experience with a tech brand, such as an email exchange or in-person encounter, before making a purchase, compared to 25 percent of Gen X and 17 percent of baby boomers.

Most important vendor attributes: Millennials deemphasize a company’s tenure

The study also examined the brand attributes that are most important to IT buyers when evaluating technology vendors for their organisation. The vast majority of IT buyers (75 percent) believe a strong brand reputation is the most important attribute. Nearly half of IT buyers also said it’s important or critical for a tech vendor to be a leader in the market and one-third said it’s important or critical for a vendor to have sustainable business practices.

When examining the data by different generations, the results show millennial tech buyers think it’s more important for a company’s mission to align with their values: 26 percent of millennials said it’s important or critical, compared to 19 percent of Gen X and 13 percent of baby boomers. Millennials are also less concerned about how long a company has been in business: Only 23 percent of millennials said it’s important or critical for a company to be established for at least 10 years, compared to 31 percent of Gen X and 32 percent of baby boomers.

Most important product attributes: Millennials place less priority on high-quality support

In addition to vendor attributes, the study examined the most important product attributes when IT buyers are evaluating new devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, for their organisation and for personal use. The results show device reliability is the most important factor reported for both business and personal purchases. Security and cost effectiveness are the second and third most important factors for business purchases. But on a personal level, IT professionals prioritise device performance over security and cost effectiveness.

Compared to millennials, baby boomers and Gen Xers believe it’s more important to have high-quality support: 74 percent of millennials said it’s important or critical when evaluating vendors for their business compared to 82 percent of Gen X and 85 percent of baby boomers.

Purchase motivators: Millennials are more influenced by industry buzz around new devices

The survey also evaluated what typically prompts IT buyers to purchase new laptops, tablets, and smartphones for employees in their organisation and for their personal use. On the business side, IT buyers said employee needs, such as providing devices to new hires, is the top purchase driver. For personal use, IT buyers reported that budget availability is the top driver to purchase new devices.

Only about 10 percent of technology buyers said new device features or a price drop on a device will prompt them to purchase new end user devices for their organisation. However, three times as many technology buyers said new device features will drive them to purchase a new personal device and four times as many said a price drop will drive a new personal device purchase.

When comparing generations, the results show millennials are more influenced by the buzz around a new device, particularly for their personal tech devices: 17 percent of millennials said industry buzz will prompt them to purchase a new personal device compared to 10 percent of Gen X and 8 percent of baby boomers.

“As millennials come into roles that influence meaningful business technology spend, B2B marketers have to recognise they have different motivations, interests, and needs that drive their purchases,” said Sanjay Castelino, vice president of marketing at Spiceworks. “In order to ultimately reach and influence these technology buyers, it’s important to add a human element to your campaigns and engage them as people vs. simply a sales lead.”


The Spiceworks survey was conducted in March 2018 and included 674 IT decisions makers in organisations across North America and Europe. Respondents are among the millions of IT professionals in Spiceworks and represent a variety of company sizes, including small- to-medium-sized businesses and enterprises. Respondents also come from a variety of industries including manufacturing, healthcare, nonprofits, education, retail, government, and finance. The generational data includes millennials born 1981 to 1997, Generation X born 1965 to 1980, and baby boomers born 1946 to 1964.

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