A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
Different strokes (and strategies)
for different folks.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (September 5, 2011)
When did you last take a close
look at your customers and make changes in your business based on
their needs? Today you work with four very different generations:
Generation Z (16 and younger); Millennials (17 – 30); Generation X
(31 – 46); and the 50+ Zoomers, a combination of the Baby Boomers
(47 – 65) and the group we’ve coined the LOMLOTs (Lots Of Money,
Lots Of Time -- people of retirement age and better). Each group
expects different very things in a service experience, both in-store
and online. Know what else? What works with one generation is
Kryptonite to another. Let’s meet each one:
Generation Z: The Zeds
The kids of Generation Z –
“Zeds” for short – are the first 21st Century generation, and
although they may resemble the kids of our past, they are very
different. The oldest Zeds are 16; the youngest are yet to be born.
They come from families with younger parents who want their kids to
experience it all – according to all reports, the Zeds will be the
most empowered generation ever.
We're seeing an erosion of
childhood – this is a generation of little adults. Marketers call it
KYOG: Kids Getting Older Younger: Six is the new sixteen. Zeds left
the womb knowing how to work a computer/cellphone/iPad and never
looked back – they have no past memory of life without technology.
Zeds live on the Internet –
they’re highly connected little guys. Kids in grade school create
avatars and play on Whyville.net; their older siblings hang out on
Facebook. And they all love YouTube. As they grow, expect technology
to be important in every area of their lives.
When it comes to service, Zeds
are accustomed to being the most important person in the room; smart
retailers understand this. Zeds don’t like to be followed around,
they hate to be asked if they need help over and over, and they
don’t appreciate associates who treat them like, well… kids. What
they like is to be welcomed by friendly faces who treat them with
respect. Great customer service knows no age.
This is the generation that used
to be kids; today the youngest Millennials are still in high school,
but their elder statesmen are 30 years old with families of their
own. Before the Zeds showed up, the Millennials were said to be the
most beloved and doted upon children ever to walk the face of the
A Millennials world goes 24/7 –
this means your store needs a 24/7 presence. What’s your website
like? Is it merely a place to get basic information about your
product, classes and services, or is it a living, breathing,
ever-changing entity? Millennials like to play, and in fact will
spend hours on websites that they enjoy.
Millennials have a “pack”
mentality; they tend to do things in groups. Remember when you had
to have a date for Homecoming? That’s like, so 1970. Being exposed
to so many group activities as little kids has created a generation
that likes to hang out together. If your store does not currently
offer classes and/or in-store activities for this age group, it
might be a good thing to add. Try a “Girls Night Out” event for moms
who need a little time off, and “Mommy/Daddy and Me” classes for
parents who want to learn with their kids.
Growing up shopping in stores
that catered solely to them has produced a generation that expects
personal attention; they seek places that are willing to provide it.
They are also brand conscious – the Millennial in perusing your
fabric may have a purse from Target but she wants a Louis Vuitton.
Sometimes it seems like
Millennials can’t breathe without their cellphones -- texting, not
talking. They process information quickly and prefer to communicate
in sound bites. Fashion your email blasts as "20-second" reads –
more photos than copy. Millennials consider email passé, however –
and that’s a BIG however, they prefer to receive offers and coupons
via email. Unless they specifically sign-up to receive your
messages, texting is still just for family and friends.
Millennials take technology for
granted, spending more time on the Internet than watching TV; in
fact, a big percentage of them prefer to watch their favorite shows
online. Like the Zeds, Millennials grew up on interactive websites
and blogs. Ninety-six percent of them are on Facebook. They'll
"like" your page if you offer quality information peppered with cool
offers and lots of photos. And if they comment on your wall, you
need to respond within 24 hours – social medias are meant to act
like online cocktail parties. Communication goes both ways.
Generation X may be the smallest
generation, but they are mighty consumers. There are just 40 million
of them, so they tend to be under-represented and over-looked by
marketers. Big mistake.
Generation Xers are smart,
well-educated and savvy consumers. They have money and are quite
willing to spend it if they deem your store worthy of their
business. They grew up in a time when self-service was king:
standing on line at Wal-Mart and Kmart was a cool, new shopping
experience. Now when they discover personal service they embrace it.
Unlike Baby Boomers who live to
work, Gen Xers work to live; they enjoy spending time with family
and friends. They’re in their peak earning years and they’re raising
families; two things that make them time-starved and stressed-out.
Both parents are over-committed, impatient shoppers who are looking
for solutions. And, unlike other generations, Gen Xers are not
necessarily brand loyal.
Xers are tech-savvy and
impatient, independent thinkers. Don’t waste their time with long
newsletters or detailed copy – get to the point! In a sales
conversation, it’s better to be a partner, than an authority. Xers
also rely heavily on the opinions of people they like and respect;
online review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor prove that. To attract
Xers, your marketing efforts should include customer testimonials –
a customer testimonial is 10 to 20 times more believable than what
you say about yourself.
People over 50 aren't old;
they’re in the prime of their lives. They’re healthy and happy, and
far richer than any other generation that spends money in your spa.
According to Ken Dychtwald, PhD, founder and president of Age Wave,
as the Baby Boomers pass through their middle years, and on to
maturity (the oldest Boomers turn 65 this year), several key factors
will reshape consumer supply and demand. These factors include a
concern about the onset of chronic disease, their desire to postpone
physical aging, and entry into new adult life stages.
The good news is that Zoomers
consider middle-age to be 55, and don’t even think about calling
them "Seniors" until they hit their mid-70s. The bad news is that
even thought they don’t feel any older, your store has to be ready
to help in areas where they won't ask for it. Consider the
• Product needs to be placed at
an easily reachable height. If you have tall fixtures, instruct
staff to be on the lookout for customers trying to get at product
they can't reach, and help them accordingly.
• Presbyopia, a disease that
affects our ability to see clearly up close, kicks in at around age
40. (Sorry, Gen X!) Zoomers looking at all your fabulous merchandise
may be missing key product detail. Why not place a basket of reading
glasses in various magnifications at your front counter for use on
the honor system?
• Pump up the type size used on
signing, brochures, on-line communications, and other
point-of-purchase (POP) materials. These materials are designed to
help customers make good purchasing decisions when there is no store
associate around to help out. If they can’t read the materials, no
one wins. You may also want to offer visitors the ability to
increase font size on your website should they so desire.
• As we age, it gets harder to
adapt to different lighting. This makes it tough for anyone to see
the merchandise, and tougher still for aging eyes that need 2–3
times more light to see as clearly as younger eyes. Yet, a space
that’s too bright can also cause problems. If you’re not sure where
you stand lumen-wise, consider calling in a lighting professional to
help you out.
• We all love shiny floors, but
shiny floors are scary to older customers who do not want to risk a
fall on what appears to be a slippery surface. When it comes time to
replace your flooring, consider one made from non-slip material.
• Heavy doors are a problem, so
are doorknobs. A high percentage of Zoomers will have some sort of
arthritis; it's much easier for them to operate a handle versus a
Making your store comfortable
for all generations means throwing away the stereotypes. And it
requires more than a "build it and they will come" mentality.
Today's consumers prefer to do business with retailers who create
and nourish collaborative customer experiences. In other words, they
want to be as important to your store as you are to them. Isn’t
that what you want, too?
KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
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103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206,
St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone: 630-513-8020 | 24/7 Mobile: 708-347-2682 Fax: 630-513-8098
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