Generational Shoppers: Are you Selling To Them The Right Way?

by Brandon Wright November 08, 2018
Shoppers Lined up With Their Shopping Bags

The best salespeople know who their customers are and how to communicate with them. I’ve written about this before but it’s worth repeating. As a store owner, you are continuously training your salespeople to create the best experience for the customers. That starts and ends with knowing your customer.

The bigger you get as a brand, the more customers you will get (at least that’s the goal, right?). That means you can’t really completely individualize your store layout or advertisements for every individual customer.

So you create types of customers and bulk them into different areas.

Researchers have done the same thing when looking at the world population over the years. That’s why generations were created. Defining a generation allows us to see how they were affected by certain historical events and technological changes. A little Black Mirror for you.

More and more research shows that generations prefer shopping in different ways. So, who are your shoppers? Millennials? Baby Boomers? Gen X? Gen Z?

Shopping Through the Generations

Let’s quickly define the generations:

Silent: (1928-1945) Ages 73-90

Boomers: (1946-1964) Ages 54-72

Generation X: (1965-1980) Ages 38-53

Millennials: (1981-1996) Ages 22-37

Postmillennial/Generation Z: No precise date but typically mid-1990s to mid-2000s

Let me point out some key dates in time:

No Date: Brick and Mortar locations have existed since the first towns when vendors set up stalls.

1936: The first programmable computer is created.

1981: The first laptop is invented.

1991: The World Wide Web goes live around the world.

1993: The first few hundred websites begin.

1995: Amazon was founded.

1998: Google is started in a garage.

2000’s: Hundreds of e-commerce services emerge.

The Silent Generation Shoppers

The Silent Generation consists of children who grew up during America’s worst economic periods: the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. So, it’s understandable why this generation is known to be conservative and cautious.

Marketing to the Silent Gen means proving your value and earning their trust. Conservative by nature means they aren’t buying for fun, they are buying for a purpose.

Don’t assume that they aren’t using the internet just because they have a few years on us. According to the Pew Research Center, 66% of U.S. adults ages 65+ use the internet but many of them do not own a mobile phone.

Best Ways To Reach Them: Put your money in print media (hard copy lovers), television ads and avoid mobile ads. Don’t pressure them, just be patient and helpful.

Baby Boomer Shoppers

Baby Boomer’s were nicknamed the “me generation”. This is due to their perceived narcissism. Tons of health and exercise fads, discos, self-help parties, and the New Age Spirituality emerged during their time. Lots of people would argue that Millennials are really the “me generation”.

Baby Boomers are also known to drop a retailer if they have a bad shopping experience. They look for a pleasant, simple shopping experience. They will shop in brick and mortar locations but like to do research online as well.

They are still largely influenced by print media as well.

Best Ways To Reach Them: Comfort is everything. They like to shop at retailers that are familiar to them. You can reach them with mobile ads as well as print ads.

Generation X Shoppers

Generation X’s population is around 65 million, which is smaller compared to Baby Boomers (83 million) and Millennials (77 million).

Gen X is sometimes overlooked between Boomers and Millennials but they are a force to be reckoned with. Gen X grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s when civil rights and women’s rights were fought for.

That means dual-income houses meant more money to spend. But they also had to suffer through recession and job loss in the early ‘80s.

Best Ways To Reach Them: You need to be straight-shooter when selling to Gen X. They appreciate products and messaging to fit their problems and lifestyle.

Millennial Shoppers

“Millenials are more than twice as likely than Boomers and Gen X to say that interacting with knowledgeable sales staff influences their purchasing decisions.” This comes from Retail Dives’ article, “Two-Thirds of Millennials Shop In Stores Every Week”.

Millennials don’t have the best reputation according to the media and that’s probably because they can be hard to please.

Millennials enjoy shopping but they expect a fast, convenient, and elevated experience. Also, they don’t like being “sold”. So, good luck with that!

The spending power that Millennials hold is in the billions (around $200 billion), so they cannot be ignored.

Best Ways To Reach Them: It’s all about the experience. Millennials expect it, plain and simple. They look for three things: Authenticity, Impact, and Cool-Factor. They might hate ads, but they like interacting in-store with knowledgeable sales associates.

Postmillennial/Generation Z Shoppers

The latest and greatest generation has arrived, Gen Z. If you thought Millennials were hard to please then just wait until you deal with a Gen Z’er!

This generation grew up with a technology-run world. They have shorter attention spans, multi-task like a pro, and are the most global generation to date.

Gen Z’ers seek interactive shopping experiences. They want to shop quickly and they won’t put up with slow loadings on apps and websites.

Best Ways To Reach Them: Gen Z’ers aren’t watching live TV anymore, so don’t waste your money on TV ads. Do spend money on ads on streaming devices, apps, and websites. But make sure that they load fast. And contrary to popular belief, Gen Z’ers like shopping in-store just don’t keep them waiting!

Are you Reaching Your Generational Shopper?

Now that you’ve gotten a little glimpse into the past, do you feel like you really know your customer? Shoppers have been shaped by the historical events they’ve endured and the technological changes they’ve experienced.

Knowing a little bit about generational shoppers can mean making or break a sale. Empathy and unique experiences are what get sales.

Are you ready for the next generation?

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Brandon Wright

Brandon is the Founder and CEO of Clientbook (a clienteling tool for retailers that increases in-store foot traffic and sales).

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