Physical retail will long be gone by 2050. That’s in our lifetime!
Legacy institutions such as high retail rents and the operational cost of running stores will certainly play their part in this demise, but the instrumental blow will be the future generations’ interest in real shops and shopping. It is very possible that the next two generations, Alpha and Beta, will be the last of their kind before an explosion in artificial intelligence and virtual experience that rapidly reduce interest in physical stores and products. But just as profoundly, Boomers, Gen X, Y and Z might well be the last consumer generations to place any value on real shops and stores.
Generations that shop is a series of six short articles that aim to explore and consider what opportunities remain for brands and retailers to maximise the shopping landscape now and for the relatively short-term future.
The buy now, pay later generation.
Responsible for more than half of consumer spending and over 40% of global wealth, baby boomers are often ignored by marketeers in favour of the perceived tech savvy, PR friendly younger millennials’ counterparts.
Baby boomers were, after all, the first generation that really embraced and made the most of credit and the endless possibilities that it offered. Single-handedly, they put consumerism back on the map in the hedonistic post war years.
Today, an estimated 10,000 baby boomers retire every day, and as they do, they turn to their tablets and mobile devices to stay connected, entertained and to shop. Yes, it is very likely that you’ll see more of the older shoppers in-store more often, as 89% of them told us they still like to take to the high street and get tactile with the products they want, but don’t be fooled by this, over 90% also seek new deals and promotional vouchers online from their PC or laptop at home.
Even if you do see them active on their smart phones in-store, it’s more likely because they’re checking Facebook for social updates, rather than skimming through customer reviews and comparison sites. Baby boomers are very tech immersed but are the least likely to multi-platform on their devices when in-store or use their smartphones for shopping.
They are a demanding customer too, with over 75% more likely to abandon a brand or retailer if they have a poor experience, whereas younger shoppers are less punishing.
Baby boomers tell us that they would prefer to buy experience over product, but how they actually behave in-store reveals something different. In fact, over 80% tend to shop physical stores with precision, they seek helpful colleagues, clutter free environments, easy to navigate and an efficient shelf-to-till experiences. They overlook sensorial engagements, and perceived invasive marketing techniques. This is reflected in their online journeys too as they demand clear and concise page layouts, clear pricing and highly intuitive navigation. Baby boomers are 4 times more likely to abandon an online journey if brands and retailers do not meet these criteria.
Convenience continues to dominate how Boomers shop. The accessible high street has, for many years, provided this desire hands down, but as physical stores continues to struggle and the high street offers far less choice, marketplace retailers such as Amazon have helped close the gap. Now, over 55% of older shoppers turn to Amazon as their first choice for convenience, simplicity and range. That’s a YOY growth of 9% since 2017.
This older generation also tell us (78%) that their shopping habits are increasingly influenced by their younger family members, so increasingly we see them interacting with voice activated marketing and online channels such as YouTube and Podcasts.
Collectively, voice, YouTube and Podcasting are forecast to increase as shopping channels by 18% in 2022. So, there is a huge opportunity to reach this wealthy shopping demographic using innovative and immediate content that replaces the steady decline of the physical store and high street experience.
We cannot underestimate the purchasing power this generation presents. Yes, they do demand more traditional shopping values such as service, availability and choice, but they also remain affluent and active, price aware and increasingly, shop anywhere, anytime.
The original labelled teenagers, the post war liberalists and space racers – baby boomers remain the ‘super shopper’, with traditional values, human centric expectations, higher disposable income and as active in clicks as they are in bricks.
Perhaps, in the context of shopping, we will remember them as the ‘halcyon’ generation. They are for now, the shoppers that progressively utilise all shopping channels equally, or with huge potential. They’re happy in-store and online harmoniously.
By Martin Fawcett, Managing Director, The Shopper Agency