Age is just a number

Everyone is trying to figure out millennials. What do they like? How do they communicate? How do I reach them? How do I make them loyal?

Almost every day I come across an article or study focused on reaching this demographic.

Millennials represent approximately 27% of the population in Canada and are said to be more diverse than any other generation. They are the most-educated generation, the first to grow up with the internet and are known to start their families later in life.

Marketing teams across the country are developing highly segmented campaigns and new format stores designed to capture this group.

But is it possible that what is important to millennials is not that different from everybody else? I am not saying ignore the data on this group—but can it be that their interests as a consumer are not that different from other generations?

While I strongly believe we as retailers need to understand this generation, I also think important not to get hung up on the demographics.

The biggest question in any marketing proposal is, “who are we targeting?” Is it possible that we should demographics out of the equation to start and instead focus first on psychographics and consumer needs? What are the customers interested in and what is important to them regardless of their age group?

Focusing on demographics can make it easy to assume that all people in a demographic group are different from other age cohorts, but this assumption can be dangerous. I am a member of the millennial generation and have much in common in terms of my consumer interests and needs with family and friends who are part of the Gen X and Boomer generations. I also take a very different approach to grocery shopping than my fellow millennial friends, or my husband for that matter.

Research says millennials are more in tune with social and environmental. While this is important to understand, it does not mean that the previous generations do not find these areas increasingly important, as well. Instead of focusing solely on the percentage of millennials who find these areas important, I suggest we look at the percentage of our total consumers who find these areas important. Their ages may range from 25-70.

In today’s highly customized world, can it be that age is no longer appropriate to segment your customers?

What demographics can do is aid in how the message is communicated to customers. Understand the interests and needs of your customers regardless of their age and then use demographics to guide your marketing and communications strategy.

I will take the example of canning (a common interest among many demographics). For the traditionalist canner:

  • — Send her a weekly print flyer with a sale on canning products.
  • — Interact with her in the store by directing her to the canning section and carrying out her groceries.

For the next generation of canners:

  • — Communicate with them through social media offering unique and trending canning inspiration and tips on how to can.
  • — Send them a mobile app coupon for discounts on canning products and personalized offers to decorate their cans after completed.
  • — Feature local produce and showcase the story behind the cucumber.

It is the same interest and overarching message regardless of age or generation but communicated a little differently.

Read the research, understand it and learn about your customers to better target them, but do not get lost in the ‘demographics’ of the different generational groups. Instead focus on consumer needs and segment consumers based on these needs. From there, try to understand how to communicate and engage with them most effectively. Whenever possible, look at your customers as individuals and speak to them in the most customized approach you can with the tools you have.