It seems that there has been a lot of good information for retailers about the millennials, or Generation Y, and how to be prepared to serve them. As their ascendancy to a major position in the economy is timed to take place as the large and influential baby boomers become less of an economic force, they have received much, probably well-deserved, attention. I wrote about it in this blog.
There is, however, a generation between the boomers and millennials. It is called Generation X or just Gen X. It is smaller than the ones that it is sandwiched between, but it is too large for marketers and retailers to ignore as we develop new products, store formats and marketing messages.
It was a welcome article to me, albeit a small one, that Nielsen Wire came out with a couple of weeks ago entitled “Reaching Generation X.” You can read the article here. The article focuses primarily on TV advertising but does reference messaging that Gen X-ers respond well to. A few key points for those marketing natural products:
- This group of people, roughly aged 35-54, is affluent, technologically savvy and brand loyal. That is a great combination. X-ers draw some major traits from their parents but also have some in common with their children.
- They aren't as deep into technology as Generation Y but are not going to be turned off or confused by it. The delivery systems that you are developing for Gen Y will work for Gen X.
- They will need different messaging than Gen Y, even if the same systems work. They, however, have brand loyalty as a major factor, more like the boomers. (Messaging for Gen Y needs to be more feature-driven than brand-driven.)
- Gen X members respond well to calm, safe approaches to advertising. Gen Y prefers high-energy, extreme scenarios. (Again, this report focuses primarily on TV advertising.)
I personally wonder how much the early indicators of millennials behaviors as customers are going to change as they age, take on more adult responsibilities, and deal with having higher levels of both income and responsibility. Right now, we are taking the behavior of the oldest few in this generation and extrapolating this not only to how the rest of them will behave as they enter adulthood, but also how they will behave when well into careers, parenthood, etc. I suspect that 20 years from now, we will evaluate their actual behavior against our predictions and find some areas where we missed it!
The purchasing and consuming behaviors of Gen Y merit scrutiny and, as trends emerge, products and retail formats need to adjust to stay (or become) relevant to this major demographic group. Many businesses have their entire focus on the Boomers and, if they don’t adjust, they are not going to appeal to Gen Y.
In the mean time, however, Gen X is here serving as a good transition from the boomers to the millennials. The boomer characteristics of family focus and brand and product loyalty meshed with the Millennial penchant for technology allows marketers to have a smooth shift. Going directly from boomers to millennials would not only be an abrupt change but would also leave out a whole generation, those currently at or entering into the peak of their earning years.
If you have identified various generational groups as shoppers in your store, what have you done to engage them? I’d love to hear what methods and message have worked well for you.