Are Boomers being ignored by retailers?
Boomers, long showered with affection by marketers, are feeling overlooked and under-rewarded by retailers, according to a survey from ICLP, the loyalty marketing agency.
The survey found that less than 40 percent of Boomers who consider themselves “regular customers” feel appreciated by those brands. Just 12 percent expect brands will spend the time to get to know them and understand what they want. More than three out of four (77 percent) feel they are not rewarded with offers that are specifically tailored to them.
ICLP asserts retailers, whose online and mobile marketing efforts are largely directed at Millennials, are most out of step. Boomers remain affluent, “highly influential,” and are shifting more of their shopping online. Phil Seward, regional director, Americas at ICLP, said in a statement, “It’s important that retailers give this extremely important customer base what they want and need — a personalized customer experience that is responsive and communicative.”
COLLOQUY’s “Shopping by Generation” report similarly finds Millennials grabbing most of the attention from brand marketers while Boomers have greater disposable income and far more purchasing clout.
According to the LoyaltyOne survey findings in the report:
- Shopping isn’t relaxing for Boomers. Just 27 percent agreed with the statement: “I think shopping is a great way to relax.” The Boomer score is well below the other age groups.
- Boomers want convenience. Boomers place higher value than all other age groups on an easy-access location, an easy-to-navigate store and a clear return policy.
- At 84 percent, Baby Boomers easily topped all survey groups in saying they prefer to shop in-store.
- Boomers scored higher than all the younger demographics for having a good idea of how much they pay for food and packaged goods.
- Boomers aren’t stuck in the good old days. They are the only generation that doesn’t prioritize buying the brands they used while growing up.
COLLOQUY Editor-in-Chief Jeff Berry, said in a statement. “Retailers who fail to recognize issues uniquely important to baby Boomers (age 52 to 65) could watch those shoppers walk out the door empty-handed.”
- Retailers At Risk Of Losing Valuable Baby Boomers: 93 percent Of Age 55+ Us Consumers Would Shop At Competitor Brands – ICLP
- How We Shop: It Differs By Generation – COLLOQUY
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is it wise for retailers and brand marketers to shower more attention on younger generations than Boomers? Do you feel Boomers are being neglected? If so, what steps should marketers take to ingratiate themselves with Boomers?
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24 Comments on "Are Boomers being ignored by retailers?"
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Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Boomers represent a significant market opportunity that many marketers and retailers have forgotten. As noted, the Boomer market is affluent and has an abundance of discretionary income and time. Marketers and retailers need to re-engage with this important demographic, and look to adjust their offerings and service levels to match their needs. Department stores are a good example. To most Millennials it seems department stores are old, tired and essentially irrelevant, however, the Boomer generation grew up shopping at department stores and I suspect many still do today. Marketers need to follow the money and Boomers are a very good demographic to focus on.
Principal, Retail Technology Group
While it may not be “wise” for retailers to ignore Baby Boomers, us Baby Boomers may have to accept the fact that we don’t run these companies anymore for the most part and those who do may have a diminished affinity for our generation. Sad but true.
Global Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit
Well, all people that know me just know that I love attention. I do think the press (retail and general news) is absorbed with the Millennials and Generation Z. Especially the retail press. Smart retailers are making sure that they define their target markets to include the Baby Boomers and in the Boomers’ way.
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have offerings targeted for Boomers, so why shouldn’t retailers? These are not seniors — they are Boomers. They gave kids Ted Nugent, The Rolling Stones, etc. The are still hip but have less cell phone messaging neck damage and more back damage — we carried around big bags full of work material instead of little phones or tablets.
Retailers: re-think the plan and if Boomers do not know or like you then change that. You need us, especially after Millennials have their first few babies.
President, Max Goldberg & Associates
The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. Retailers should target the demographic groups that account for the greatest volume of sales in their stores. For some retailers, particularly trendy fashion, that might mean Millennials. For others, it may be Boomers. Targeting those groups means accommodating their unique needs and desires: product assortment, physical store layout, loyalty programs, etc. It’s incumbent for retailers to know who is shopping their stores and go out of their way to please their customers.
President/CEO, The Retail Doctor
As I wrote in this blog last year, Millennials, He Wrote: How Retailers Are Paying The Price For Ignoring Baby Boomer Customers the answer is a resounding yes.
Product selection is one key. Trim-fit shirts and suits might look good on paper but older guys like me who can actually afford them don’t like them. Next look at the sale pages of most retailers and you’ll find them there, unable to fetch the premium price.
Look at the quality of materials too. I can wash an $80 polo shirt at home in cold water and it looks like a midriff blouse in a couple washes.
The herd instinct to follow anyone but the ones who most likely shop at brick-and-mortar stores — the Boomers — needs to change.
Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates
I’ll dissent here. We Boomers have already set up our households and have all the furniture, housewares and clothing we need. We’re in replenish mode only. It makes much more sense to appeal to younger consumers who will spend more than we will.
Vice President of Marketing, OrderDynamics
Agree with you Cathy. Boomers are no longer in the build and high-spend mode that people hit in their 30s, which continues strong into their 40s (growing family) and starts tapering off after the mid-50s. It is still an important demographic due to its size … but not as exciting as the generations going into the spend phase or those just before it.
Professor, International Business, Guizhou University of Finance & Economics and University of Sanya, China.
The simple answer is if you want longevity in your business, pay attention to the customers who are going to be around awhile and have money to spend. That doesn’t include Boomers. Even the most well off Boomers don’t spend at the same rate as they did a decade ago.
On the other side of it, retailers and CPG companies’ marketing mindset is still very much in the mass market, which was successful when Boomers were young. They have to change that mindset to get out of the mass marketing. It no longer works. Today’s maturing consumer looks at shopping in a very different way than my generation did.
Strategy & Operations Transformation Leader
In some cases yes, the Boomer generation has been neglected, however, that generation has evolved and changed their brand loyalties over the years. While, the retail companies and marketing agencies have invested millions in better understanding the Millennial and Generation Z segments, it is the Baby Boomer generation that has had to evolve and adapt to new technologies and in-store experiences over the past 40 years.
It’s clear that Millennials are the clear leaders as inherent digital natives. However, it’s also clear that there is an emerging group known as “perennials” who are up to speed on the latest mobile, social and commerce channels. They embrace change and desire a compelling in-store shopping experience. There are plenty of Boomers that are part of this segment and they simply should not be ignored.
I thoroughly agree that Boomers (with more disposable income than other generations) are being ignored at retail. In part, the wave of young digital marketers have jumped to bad assumptions about them. (In a project targeted at grandparents, the young digital teams kept hauling up images of the very, very old. I had to continually remind them that grandparents today were raised on Metallica.)
That said, this article’s emphasis on personalizing to Boomers is a misdirection. We must choose merchandise, price it, advertise it and display it in ways that are meaningful to Boomers and which lead to a shopping experience they like. Personalization might be interesting icing on the cake, but it’s not the core problem.
Managing Partner, Deeb MacDonald & Associates, L.L.C.
Spending more time and attention on customers who will be around longer and will pass through various purchasing stages makes sense for both retailers and manufacturers. However, Boomers have the most disposable income and no business should minimize the opportunities that they have to attract these consumers, particularly with their propensity to shop brick-and-mortar. These shoppers are helping to keep the doors open while retailers figure out the balance between in-store and online shopping.
Editor Emeritus & Co-Founder, Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer
It is wise for retailers to shower more attention on younger consumers to attract and keep future long-standing customers among Millennials. As a 69-year-old Boomer, I don’t feel neglected — I can find what I need online for clothing, hardware and such because there’s a wider selection and less hassle. Food is the exception — I still want to pick out my own stuff in the supermarket and, unlike (from what I read) 99 percent of Millennials, I don’t buy my groceries using my cell phone while tweeting. I will be genuinely surprised if I’m still here in 20 years. But I expect my kids and grandkids to be around, spending happily. So spend your marketing dollars on the younger people. We Boomers are just fine.
Global Retail & CPG Sales Strategist, IBM
Of course today’s news is all around the younger generations, however to say that retailers are ignoring Boomers is a stretch, I think. I still get hung up on the fact that not all Millennials are alike, and the same is true for Boomers, Gen Zers, etc. Retail (and CPG) marketers need to stay true to their intended audience(s) and provide goods and services that satisfy their shopping missions.
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
The answer really depends on the merchandise the retailer sells and, frankly, is yet another indicator that retailers need to focus on understanding who their customer is. Not every brand is selling merchandise that targets EVERY demographic. For retailers that do (yes, department stores, that means you!) marketing needs to remember to speak to each audience demographic in a way that resonates with them. The data is there for retailers to know who their best customers are and what they are and are not buying so they should make adjustments to their messaging.
When it comes to in-store experience, this is more challenging. The same great in-store experience for a Boomer may be completely different for a Millennial or Generation Z customer. Plus, associates need to be trained in how to deliver that personalized experience based on the customer. Generalizing here won’t provide the level of interaction each customer demographic wants to have.
This question without context can get a retail brand lost. You don’t have to focus on Boomers unless your product type is made for this group. Ignore no customer. Learn what they need, but focus forward.
J.C. Penney didn’t focus forward a few years back and they lost share, panicked and brought in new leadership and lost a third of their revenue trying to change everything at once.
Retailers, like any other business, have limited ability to successfully focus on too many things. Service, innovation, value. You have to be good at two of these and great at the third to grow your business and move forward with your customer.
CEO, President- American Retail Consultants
This is clearly a confused study. Boomers are buying, and buying lots of products. Cars, houses and large purchases are primarily driven by Boomers. Perhaps this changes for some electronics, but the dollar spend is with Boomers. Retailers simply need to target their markets and differentiate their products for each market segment.
Global Managing Director, Prosper Business Development
Retailers and CPG firms need to think broadly about segmentation for their goods and services. Segmentation analysis based on regular consumer behavior (“System 1”) has to be explored and understood by marketing and sales. Not all Boomers, Generation X or Millennials are alike.
If retailers, service providers and CPG firms are to maximize market potential, they need to commit to reach beyond broad demographics, data mining the core behaviors and attitudes of their best customers and most promising prospects.
Co-Founder and CMO, Seeonic, Inc.
Ignoring a segment of a retailer’s market makes growth a bigger challenge. Fast fashion and other categories for Millennials may be the mainstay of some retailers, but others have products that reach across several demographics including Boomers. Time and energy should be spent by marketeers in understanding the wants and demands of Boomers to attract them to products which build on the sales for Millennials. Us Boomers still have money to spend and efforts to reach out for our dollars will be fruitful.
Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC
If I had to choose one word to describe the strategy needed to manage the generations, it is “balance.” While we must remain relevant to a new and trending customer base (or risk being left behind), we also cannot afford to ignore current customers, who you could say “brought us to the dance.”
Some businesses shift to keep up with trends, and that appeals to a certain customer base — Boomer or Millennial and anyone in between. But when it comes to marketing, you must make important decisions that will either keep existing customers happy or alienate them as you pick up new customers. So there has to be a balance in the marketing strategy. All that said, it’s okay to turn a focus on a new generation of customers. Just be aware of the customers you may lose in the process, and if that fits into the model, the sales plan and the vision for the brand.
Chief Data Officer, CaringBridge
If Boomers feel that retailers do not recognize them and do not provide them with personalized offers, that is a frequent complaint for all customer segments. In general, retailers fail on these attributes. Boomers may have higher expectations for customer experience and attention, but every segment has those needs.
Since the majority of retailers are run by Boomers who tend to put themselves in the customer’s shoes (sometimes to a detriment), I do not feel that Boomers are neglected. But special attention must be paid to positioning and imagery to ensure that retail brands do not “run away” from the core Boomer audience.
CFO, Weisner Steel
Oh please! If “showing attention” means obsessing over on online forums, then Millennials, Xers and other curiously named age groups are definitely hogging the spotlight, but where the action really is — the spending of marketing dollars — I suspect Boomers are doing just fine.
Of course retailers/brands are going to target disproportionately those whose loyalties are still undecided, and logically this is likely to be younger rather than older consumers. But that makes sense. Beyond that, the attention will go to where the spending is … and (for many products) there’s a whole lot more from the 50-69 year old set, than 20 year-olds.
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
While the number of Millennials has surpassed Baby Boomers, the total spending volume of Baby Boomers reigns. Much of the media attention has focused on Millennials and younger generations because their shopping preferences are quite different than Baby Boomers. The always connected, digital lifestyle of Millennials has forced retailers to learn how to market and service differently.
Has this caused retailer to lose a little focus on Baby Boomers? Probably a little bit. However, savvy retailers are customizing the shopping experience for multiple demographics and that makes things complex. For example, print FSIs in the Sunday newspapers won’t be read by most younger shoppers, but it is still relevant to many Baby Boomers — so they still linger on. To appeal to Millennials, retailers are shifting marketing campaign focus to mobile and social experiences.
While times are changing and retailers need to adapt, they can’t lose sight of who butters their bread. And in many cases, it is Baby Boomers.
Retail Solutions Executive, Teradata
No, but they are for the Generation Xers. I feel like the middle child in a dysfunctional family.
Boomers have sadly accepted that they are no longer the target market for the most part. It’s just the way things work. But ignoring Boomers and focusing solely on Millennials isn’t wise either. Boomers still hold the bulk of the wealth and are still spending more than Millennials. The largest wealth transfer in history is starting to happen but ignoring one demographic could be a large mistake.
Retailers need to use a more “future forward” lens on their activities for the younger generations, but if everyone is running to attract Millennials, doesn’t that create a great opportunity for a retailer who can satisfy and attract all generations with buying power? Data-driven customer experiences that leverage technology are available right now for the retailers who will invest in the right shopper strategy. Smart retailers will leverage today’s insights to delight tomorrow’s customer, using an ecosystem that adapts for the generations in the future.