Creating merchandising and marketing strategies that attracts baby boomers

The cover story of December’s The Economist was entitled “The Joy of Growing Old (or why life begins at 46)” and explores the subject of the increasing level of happiness as people age, particularly as they enter their mid-50’s.  And happiness perpetuates good health.

In addition, according to a July 2010 Nielsen Wire article, this aging population is not behaving like some might expect: “Born between the years 1946-1964, the oldest of the Boomers are beginning to retire. But today’s middle aged and older consumers are different than their predecessors. The conventional wisdom that they spend little, resist technology and are slow to adopt new products needs to be re-assessed. Boomers are an affluent group who adopt technology with enthusiasm (think about the number of parents or grandparents who regularly send e-mails or upload photos to Facebook and other sites). They have also shown a willingness to try new brands and products.”  Baby boomers account for 50% of discretionary spending.

What does this mean to you and your retail organization?  Well, clearly the baby boomer generation represents an enormous opportunity for any company hoping to grow market share.  You cannot afford to forget about them.  The key is not only awareness, but how you can reach this population.

Savvy business owners recognize that the old ways of doing business are no longer relevant in today’s environment.  Even though the economy is showing signs of picking up, this does not mean that we are going back to the ways of old.  The rules have been rewritten and innovation remains the name of the game. 

To ignore this powerful segment of the population and only focus on a youth-oriented culture would be akin to ignoring all we have learned during the recession. This would not just be a missed business opportunity because of the loss in sales, but is also a lost opportunity by leaving out an entire generation that is ready to explore and enjoy the great outdoors

The subject of baby boomers and marketing is too dense to be fully explored in this blog entry, but I would like to leave you with a few thoughts as you begin to ponder what this means to your business:

  • Your merchandising and marketing plan should be evaluated to include both the younger generation and the baby boomer population.  It need not be mutually exclusive; it just needs to be mindful and well-executed.
  • Men and women over the age of 45 are not ‘seniors’ and will be insulted by this terminology!  I’m not sure what well-meaning marketing genius decided to use this term, but they missed the boat by a mile.  The word senior connotes ‘senior citizen,’ and most 40, 50, 60 and 70 year olds do not identify with that phrase.
  • Do not let your 20 something marketing guru put together a plan for reaching the boomer generation.  This population will not be an easy target, and will require a deeper level of awareness about what it means to be 50, 60 and 70 in today’s consumer world.
  • When a man or woman comes into your store, do not make assumptions about their skills on the trail or slope because of an ageist judgment.
  • The boomer population is smart, technically savvy, and ready to try new tricks.  They may not yet appreciate the potential of finely spun merino wool or know that layering is the way to go for many outdoor activities, but they are ready to learn.  Regardless, don’t speak to them like they are customers you need to endure.  Educate respectfully if you are fortunate enough to draw them to your store.

I will continue to explore the subject of effectively reaching the baby boomer generation in future posts.  I’d enjoy knowing what you think. E-mail your thoughts to [email protected]

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