Practicality Divide: Boomers More Focused on Price, Gen Y Values Social Experience

For Boomers, the ideal shopping experience is about getting a good deal on a decent product. For Gen Y, it’s more about a stimulating, sensual, “sharable” experience, according to new research from Brodeur Partners.  Gen Y, those between the ages of 18 and 34, are more likely to wonder “What does this brand say about me?” and “How can I share this with people I know?” Boomers, on the other hand, are much more focused on practicalities, such as price and quality. 

The study included 2,000 adults, and asked people to name their favorite stores, and then explain what they liked best about the experience. Brodeur found that all types of sensory experiences made more of an impression on younger shoppers, and are key to their buying decisions. The study asked people about 12 different statements to help establish how relevant a given retail brand is to them, and how they connect with them. For example, they may primarily excite (Apple, Target and Red Bull) or communicate shared values (Ford) or stand for dependability (Wal-​Mart).

Those values fell into four categories, explains Jerry Johnson, EVP/​Strategic planning for Brodeur's: Functional, social, values and sensory. “For the older group, 88% fell in the functional category. For the Gen Y group, functional was also the most popular, with 50% choosing it as No. 1. But the remainder was equally split among social, values and sensory.


Put simply, younger shoppers view their ideal shopping experience as less functional and much more social, expressive and sensory-​driven,” said Johnson. “Retail shopping is probably more intertwined with social networking than we’ve realized. When a Gen Y consumer checks in to a retailer on Foursquare or ‘likes’ a retailer on Facebook, that’s very valuable to a retailer. Peers by nature are ready to have the experience their friends just did.”

And though sensory experiences clearly matter, Johnson warns retailers that they can’t simply barrage the Gen Y consumer with loud music, seductive smells and images of beautiful bodies: the research indicates retailers need to focus equally on the social aspects of the experience, and be a brand with which a consumer would want to associate.

Despite the differences between the Boomers and Gen Y consumers, Johnson says, “self-​identification with a retail brand, the 'I shop there because that’s where people like me shop’ thinking, is consistent across all age groups.”

[Source:  "Brodeur Partners' Retail Revelance 2012 Study."  Brodeur Partners.  13 Mar. 2012.  Web.  29 Mar. 2012.]