They've been likened to a “middle child,” and you know the rub on middle children. Being wedged between the Baby Boomers and the millennial generation can't be any fun, but this doesn't mean that Generation X doesn't claim some extraordinary distinctions of its own. Born roughly in a 10-year period, or in the years from about 1965 to 1975, Gen Xers had a front-row seat to America's technological revolution, witnessing an explosion in computer, Internet and cell phone use. “Like their namesake suggests, Generation Xers are less distinct than other generations. And they know it,” the Pew Research Center says. If you're a small business owner who is interested in how Gen Xers behave as consumers, you may not wish to believe this declaration for a minute.

Gen Xers Embrace the Internet

While Baby Boomers had to get used to the idea of holding a mouse in their hand, as they surfed something called “the web” --– Gen Xers accepted this technology without batting an eye. This one insight helps explain much of their other behavior, too. Namely, Gen X consumers are “shrewd online shoppers” who possess a “keen understanding of marketing and media,” as reported in “Purchasing Habits of Generations X and Y Differ Widely.”

Gen Xers Love to Search

Once they're online, Gen X consumers are content to search far and wide for the information they want and need before making a purchase. They're motivated by skepticism toward marketers, but they also seek the best deal, say researchers who penned “During Critical Christmas Shopping Season, Consumer Habits of Generations X and Y Present Tricky Mix for Marketers.” Gen X consumers also gravitate to online text as much as visuals, the researchers say. To successfully market to Gen X consumers, small business owners should provide facts that are “verbally and visually rich and highly informative.”

Gen Xers Expect Inclusion

Savvy small business owners should master the art of subtle persuasion, say Kaylene C. Williams and Robert A. Page in “Marketing to the Generations.” This means presenting information to Gen Xers in such a way that it “educates them into buying.” Taking one more step will help: keeping them “in the loop by asking for their feedback and sharing information with them regularly.” Doing so in a straightforward, credible manner is vital. “They find advertising utterly transparent in its aim, i.e., to get them to buy something,” Williams and Page say. “You must show them that you know what you are talking about.”

Gen Xers Demand Reliability

Since Gen X consumers can be “both cynical and sophisticated about products, ads and shopping,” it doesn't take much to shake their confidence, Williams and Page say. To maintain their credibility, the onus is on small business owners to demonstrate follow-through and consistency. Gen X consumers “demand trust to the extent that if your organization does not follow through once, then you are likely to lose them,” the researchers say. “Treat them like family.”

Gen Xers Favor DIY Projects

Williams and Page encouraged marketers to give Gen X consumers “opportunities to learn, grow and improve.” Further support for this advice can be found in “Marketing to Gen Xers? Here's what they're watching on YouTube.” Researchers found that nearly 73 percent of Gen X consumers regularly tune in to watch YouTube videos in five categories: home repair and improvement; cooking; technology use and repair; arts and crafts; and beauty and personal care. This insight can uncap a treasure trove of opportunities for small business owners, who can effectively position products and services in these categories to Gen X consumers. So determined are they to learn that they often hit the “pause” and “replay” buttons as they watch, thereby flouting conventional wisdom by acting much more like a first-born child than a middle child.