Six Generations at Retail
For the first time in history, six generations of shoppers – each with very specific experiences, standards, attitudes and desires – fill American retail locations. How you interact with these consumers and tailor the brand experience for each can impact the next generation…of your business.
The GI Generation, the oldest generation (a.k.a. Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”), was formed in the era of Henry Ford’s assembly-line revolution. They believe that you can buy anything you want as long as you follow the rules. And you shouldn’t be buying more than you need anyway.
The Silent Generation was taught the notion of delayed gratification, and believes in layaway plans. They adhere to the retail strategy of living small in the present while planning to live large (or larger) in the future. Patience and acceptance are the defining traits of this group. They also follow the rules and are “textbook” consumers.
The Baby Boomer’s retail strategies were formed in shopping malls, so for them, life and shopping are a smorgasbord of possibilities and entitlements. Boomers are impatient and don’t see the wisdom in waiting for – or putting off – anything. Acquisition is the prime imperative for Boomers, as “he who dies with the most toys wins.”
Generation X was the first generation to leverage control through technology. The VCR taught them that they could manage time and deploy it to their preferences and intentions. Gen-Xers value individual control more than any previous generation. As consumers, they focus on savoring the nuances and emotional touchpoints of the products and services they purchase.
For Millennials, virtual reality and “real” reality are interchangeable, creating a state of “virtuality.” They are devoted cyber consumers, but they prefer to complete their research by shopping in person – touching and experiencing the merchandise – before making a purchase. (If they don’t, then the likelihood of product return skyrockets.) Having come of age in a recessionary period, Millennials are proving to be strategic shoppers, spending money on what matters most and making it up elsewhere. Paying $700 for an iPad while sporting thrift shop couture is not uncommon for this shopper.
America’s youngest generation, with more than $150 billion in spending power (amazing, given that these shoppers are not even teenagers) is the Homeland Generation. They are growing up in the age of touch-screen gadgets and technology. As a result, Homelands will expect to experience retail intimately, regardless of time and distance. More importantly, they will be empowered to create fusion retail experiences. They will realign their options, creating personalized mash-ups of shopping, products and brands that marketers, with all of their resources, talents, and skills, could never design for them. They won’t cyber shop, they will avatar shop.