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'Practicality divide' for boomers and Gen Y shoppers

March 15, 2012 Written by  Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery
Mar. 15, 2012, Boston — For boomers, the ideal shopping experience is about getting a good deal on a decent product. For Gen Y, it's more about a stimulating, sensual, "sharable" experience.


Think sensible shoes vs. smart phones.

This practicality divide is among the many discoveries in a new in-depth study on retail by Brodeur Partners. The Brodeur Partners' Retail Relevance 2012 Study used maximum difference scaling methodology to precisely identify what is most and least relevant in a shopping experience.

The study asked 2,000 American consumers to think of their favorite place to shop and identify those elements that were most and least relevant.
  • Sharability of the experience and "association" are twice as important to Gen Y (18-34) as to boomers (55-plus).
  • Sensory appeal and the ability of a retailer to "make me smile" are one-third more important to Gen Y than to boomers.
  • Practical decisions drive choice of retailers for eight out of 10 boomers, but only half of the Gen Y respondents.
"Put simply, younger shoppers view their ideal shopping experience as less functional and much more social, expressive and sensory-driven," said Jerry Johnson, Brodeur's executive vice-president of strategic planning. "Retail shopping is probably more intertwined with social networking than we've realized. When a Gen Y consumer checks in to a retailer on Foursquare or likes a retailer on Facebook, that's very valuable to a retailer. Peers by nature are ready to have the experience their friends just did."

Though sensory experiences clearly matter, Johnson warned retailers that they can't simply barrage the Gen Y consumer with loud music, seductive smells and images of beautiful bodies. The research indicates retailers need to focus equally on the social aspects of the experience, and be a brand with which a consumer would want to associate.

The survey builds upon relevance research Brodeur released a year ago, which found that many companies have "leading relevance indicators," or main ways consumers connect. For example, they may primarily excite (Apple, Target and Red Bull) or communicate shared values (Ford) or stand for dependability (Wal-Mart). High relevance scores correlate with superior growth and performance, according to that research, even when a company is dwarfed by industry juggernauts.

"Our agency focuses on relevance because it's unequivocally the most important consideration for brands in our increasingly busy communications environment," said Brodeur CEO Andy Coville.

Brodeur defines relevance as the full experience of an idea, product, brand, candidate or cause, one that not only changes minds, but also changes behavior. Although logic is part of it, relevance is equally a function of values, sensory experiences and community impulses. Brodeur helps clients improve their own relevance through quantitative and qualitative research on these relevance components, and through controlled trials of various communications approaches.

"Although we change the way our clients' audiences think," said Coville, "we're ultimately focused more on changing what they do."

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