Let’s rethink generations in 2019
There’s a generation gap that could get bigger in 2019.
It’s not about disagreements between different age groups. Rather, it’s a gap in terms of how generations are perceived versus the reality.
This is a crucial topic for retailers because they have worked hard to understand shoppers. However, there’s a temptation to make broad assumptions about how shoppers will act based on generational trends. Those insights only go so far. They can be too general, and often don’t account for ongoing consumer behavior shifts.
This will become a bigger concern as we move into 2019. That’s because retailers increasingly are counting on personalization strategies to address individual customer needs. Technology will enable personalization more and more. Nevertheless, getting to that point will be challenging if we’re relying on outdated assumptions about consumers and generations.
Recent consumer research from the Food Marketing Institute helps to underscore how quickly consumers are changing, and why we need to stay on top of generational realities. The findings are relevant to many types of retail channels. Here are a few key examples based on FMI’s “2018 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends Report:”
- Online shopping: If you think millennials lead the charge for growth in online shopping, you’d be right. That is, until now. Gen Xers and older consumers are driving growth for the first time, according to the report. It’s important to adjust thinking to realize how this trend is broadening to older generations. It’s likely that millennial behaviors have influenced older shoppers, who are taking the ball and running with it.
- Transparency: There’s a general assumption that younger consumers are the most interested in transparency. However, the report data shows that baby boomers and Gen Xers also demand transparency from retailers and brands. In fact, these older shoppers are the most focused on at least one aspect of transparency: how honest and open companies are about business practices. The fact is, consumers across generations and other demographic markers are interested in transparency. This was corroborated by earlier industry research. “In this information age, consumers expect they should be able to find anything,” said David Fikes, FMI’s vice president of communications and community/consumer affairs. “Maybe this has been led by millennials, but everyone is adapting.”
- Checkout experience: I tend to think younger shoppers are the ones populating store self-checkout lines, while older folks are willing to wait for cashiers. However, that assumption is not true. Shoppers overall are now prioritizing easy checkout, including through self-checkout or smartphone assistance, according to the report data. Consider that even matures, the oldest generation measured, have jumped on the self-checkout bandwagon.
I recently came across a clever way of looking at the generational topic. FMI’s Melaina Lewis, the association’s manager of communications, wrote a blog post called “I’m a 25-year-Old-Grocery-Shopping Boomer?”
The piece leverages gamification with a chart that takes readers through a number of questions and steps to determine, “Do you grocery shop like your generation?” The answers are calculated using the report’s data and insights, and the chart explains each user’s findings.
In Melaina’s case, she has shopped more like a baby boomer over the past year, compared to the millennial she is. That’s because her preference is to grocery shop in stores rather than online, even as she makes use of grocery store apps. This lines up with typical boomer patterns. The point is that consumers do not always walk in step with their own generations.
That’s why we should resolve to rethink generational perceptions in the coming year. This requires digging deeper into consumer data and better understanding which insights are relevant, and which aren’t. The best approach is to combine generational insights with more segmented or personalized data.
Retailers will find this to be a competitive differentiator. It will keep the focus on generations — not generalizations.
David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker. He currently is the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries. To read last month’s column, click here.
Editor’s note: Sears’ troubles mark end of an era
Sears, once the nation’s largest retailer, filed for bankruptcy in mid-October.
It was a long time coming. Sears has been the retail version of a dead man walking for the better part of a generation, and even its much-questioned purchase of the equally struggling Kmart chain more than a decade ago did little to change the perception that this was a big chain in big trouble.
The gurus who run this chain said they will keep it going with a loan or two from some high-risk investors, though they plan to close about 142 stores later this year. This is just corporate-speak that really means they have no clue what to do with the remaining stores, and they will probably close these 500 or so units in the near future too.
So, for all intents and purposes, Sears is dead, and it died because its corporate leadership — over the last 20-to-25 years and maybe longer — failed to realize that consumer-shopping behavior was quickly changing and they needed to change with it or fail. Even the decision to close the famous Sears catalog in 1993 now seems like a mistake, given the fact that a digital version of it could probably have been successful nowadays.
Instead of reading the consumer tea leaves, Sears did its best to dismantle its retail assets, selling off many of its most popular brands and doing little to keep up with changing fashion trends that could have kept the company at the forefront of the industry. Meanwhile, the company seemed to pay a great deal of attention to its real estate portfolio, which may have made its top executives rich, but did nothing for its retail operation.
Can other retailers benefit from Sears’ decline? Unlike the Toys “R” Us liquidation a few months ago, there is not much to go after if Sears completely closes down. Consumers got the message years ago that this was not a chain that carried the most sought-after merchandise, and they stayed away in growing numbers. Suppliers did not want to help either, fearful that when a bankruptcy filing did take place, they would be left holding the bag.
In the end, Sears will join the growing list of retailers that failed. The problem here might be that no one really cared anymore.
Denture care brands use TV to get a grip on consumers
I brush my teeth twice a day. I floss too. I also go for regular check-ups with my dentist. This is all in an effort to maintain good dental care — and keep my teeth in top condition. But, even with preventive care, our teeth and gums deteriorate with age.
Between an aging Baby Boomer generation base of 79 million in the United States and greater life expectancy, it is no surprise that Market Research Future predicts that the need for dental prosthetics will increase exponentially over the next few years. What are P&G’s Fixodent, GSK Consumer Healthcare’s Polident/Poligrip, Prestige Brand’s Efferdent, and Combe’s Sea-Guard doing to ensure that they are secure in the minds of consumers?
According to Alphonso TV data, Fixodent unquestionably took the largest bite of the denture care brands’ television spend in October. The adhesive spent $1.2 million against one piece of creative—a commercial for its Ultra Max Hold product that featured the brand’s catchy slogan: “Fixodent and forget it!” Networks such as TLC, Investigation Discovery, TV Land, and Lifetime Movies were included in the buy, with shows that ranged from “My 600-Lb. Life,” and “Unsolved Mysteries” to reruns of “M*A*S*H” and “A Haunting” garnering the most airings.
GSK Consumer Healthcare spent a little less than half that amount on TV advertising for its Polident and Poligrip line of products, with the lion’s share of budget going to National Geographic Wild and Fox Business. True crime was similarly in the show mix, this time with “Forensic Files” airing, the majority of the brand’s series of ads for its adhesive and cleaning solutions. The reward for spending on murder and mayhem? Over-indexing on reach to the 50-plus viewer.
SeaBond took another tact to get to the older audience, with a major part of its October TV investment of $226K being made on GSN and the game show “Family Feud.” Pick an answer? 50-plus!
In sharp contrast, Efferdent just purchased nearly $73K for television advertising in October, with daytime TV on CBS and the CW landing the biggest piece of the pie.
Except for P&G’s Fixodent, it is clear that TV dollars are low among denture care brands. But, let me give denture adhesive and cleaner marketers something to chew on: TV is a proven vehicle for reaching older audiences, and as the need for dentures increase, so will the fight for market share — and TV ad time — that reaches the target consumer.
TS Kelly is senior vice president of research for Alphonso, a TV data company that provides real-time TV campaign analytics, one-to-one TV ad retargeting, and closed-loop attribution for brands and agencies. In his role at Alphonso, Kelly deep dives into television data and insights, giving clients guidance on how to optimize their TV spend.