Editor’s note: Not all that different

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Editor’s note: Not all that different

By Seth Mendelson - 08/25/2019
Have millennials and Generations X, Y and Z been fooling the rest of us all along?

For probably more than a decade, industry consultants and gurus have made a lot of money by telling the rest of us that as these younger, cooler and more tech-savvy consumers age, they will purchase products much differently than their parents did. That, the experts said, has the potential to completely change the way retailers go to market and, in the extreme case, cause the end of retailing as we know it.

But several recently released reports say that these younger consumers are, in the end, not that much different than older shoppers when it comes right down to it. In fact, there is more and more proof that as these much-discussed and much-desired consumers start to age and start their own families, they will demand pretty much the same benefits that older shoppers have been asking about for decades.

Oh, what a relief. If these reports are true — and I bet there is a lot of truth here — retailers can go back to their basic strategies to win shoppers over. That means, of course, focusing on a healthy combination of product assortment, pricing and, more than ever, convenience to get these and all shoppers to walk in the door.

Where the experts seem to have missed something is looking at shoppers in their teens and into their mid-20s; the consensus has been that these people will always be looking for a better and more convenient way to get the job done. But many gurus failed to understand that around age 30 or so, most of these same people have given up on finding a better routine and have returned to the tried-and-true one for the same reasons that their forefathers did: There is simply no time to do it any other way.

That’s right. As these shoppers age and likely start families of their own, time becomes the most important issue in shopping. First, they do not have the time to go shopping, and second, they need what they need right away. It happened to me when my kids were born 20-something years ago, so there is no reason to believe it will not happen to these younger shoppers, as well.

That’s not to say that things have not changed over the years. The dawn of the digital age and Internet shopping, in particular, have completely changed the rules of merchandising and marketing. Consumers of all ages have a lot more choices today, and younger shoppers are a lot savvier in terms of using shopping apps to their advantage — meaning they will get a better price and find a more convenient way to purchase products than we did a decade or two ago.

Like the baby boomer generation of 20 or 30 years ago, these younger shoppers have more disposable income, and they seem willing to spend it on what they need and what they want. Retailers need to react, but the good news is that maybe they just need to take a page or two from their existing playbooks to win these shoppers over.