Spiceworks: Millennials Differ from Gen X, Baby Boomers on IT Spending

The study shows the "consumerization of IT."

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

April 28, 2018

4 Min Read

Millennial-aged IT decision makers tend to buy differently than their older counterparts, according to a new study.

A Spiceworks study of 674 IT professionals subdivided how baby boomers (born between World War II and the 1960s) Generation X’ers (between the 1960s and 1980s) and millennials (between the 1980s and 2000’s) prioritize IT spending. The survey found clear differences in what influences different generations to buy technology for their businesses.

1. Millennials tend to be swayed more by vendors that pursue a relationship.

The study suggest that the younger generation takes a more personal approach to selecting a vendor. One-quarter (26 percent) of millennial respondents said the mission of the vendor must align with their own values, compared to 19 percent of Generation X and 13 percent of baby boomers.

2. Millennials will buy from less established brands.

On a similar note, the “young’ns” appear less averse to trying out the offerings of up-and-coming technology providers. That doesn’t mean brand reputation isn’t important to them; 75 percent of all respondents said a strong brand reputation is the most important factor for selecting a vendor. But while 32 percent of baby boomers and 31 percent of Gen X’ers said it is critical for the vendor to be established, only 23 percent of millennials agreed.


Spiceworks’ Peter Tsai

“Millennials are more willing to look at younger companies,” said Peter Tsai, Spiceworks’ senior tech analyst. “It’s not a given that just because a company has been around forever or decades, that they’re going to go with them. They’re more willing to look at other options.”

Spiceworks’ study suggests that the millennial cares more about having a personal relationship with a supplier. For 60 percent of millennials, it was more preferable to work with a brand that aims to develop a relationship compared to a “quick transactional” deal. Generation X and baby boomers were relatively close to this, with 53 and 51 percent respectively, but they were far less likely to need a “personal encounter” with the brand. Millennials are twice as likely as baby boomers need to have either an email-based or in-person experience with the brand.

3. Millennial buyers are more influenced by their personal technology preferences.

Sixty-five percent of millennials said they were likely to be influenced by this factor, compared to 55 percent of Gen X’ers and 57 percent of baby boomers.

Peter Tsai says this statistic fits well with the explosion of consumer technology in the last two decades. Millennials have grown up in a time when enterprise technology has often followed trends in the consumer space. Call it the “consumerization of IT.”

“Consumer devices usually tend to have the more innovative features and the development loopholes, whereas the business technology has more of an emphasis on durability, reliability and getting the job done,” Tsai said. “I think now that everybody is a computer user and everybody has their personal preferences on what devices they use at home, a lot of that is bleeding over into the workplace as well.”

4. Device reliability is more important to millennial buyers than high-quality support.

The younger generation cared less about having on-demand support than the older generations. Baby boomers (85 percent) saw support as more critical, followed by Generation X (82 percent) and millennials (74 percent).

While all of the generations placed a big priority on the technology being reliable, millennials were most concerned about having a product that …

… won’t need fixing.

I asked Peter: If millennials prefer a relationship with a vendor, why aren’t they as interested in that vendor’s support?

The younger generation believes there are easy ways to get support without talking to the vendor, particularly online methods, Tsai said.

Tsai, who graduated from college in 2002 and falls into the millennial category, says he and many of his peers learned the habit of using the internet for help material.

“Whenever I run into a problem, the first place I go is Google, then it’s YouTube, then it’s forums, then something on social media,” he said.

The takeaways of the study confirm what many channel experts have been saying for the last few years: Relationships are more important than you think. The channel is aging out, according to Forrester’s Jay McBain, and the upcoming generation of partners and business owners seem to place a higher value on personal encounters.

“To really stand out, all organizations including channel partners really need to personalize their messages and spend a little bit more time on genuinely trying to help people out – not only millennials, but everybody – in order to stand out above the noise.”

The Spiceworks study painted millennials in a much kinder light than a recent First Orion survey, which painted them as being gullible and overconfident with mobile technology.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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