‘How to attract six generations of consumers’

Ken Hughes, Consumer & Shopper Behaviourist

The retail experience is constantly changing and must be curated and tailored very accurately to each different group, from pensioners to baby boomers and from Millennials to Gen Z, Ken Hughes, Consumer & Shopper Behaviourist, told Real Estate Day.

‘The question is how does retail stay relevant, and the problem with relevance is that every consumer generation changes what that is,’ he said. ‘Now you have everything, from traditional consumers aged 80 to baby boomers with a huge chunk disposable income and a lot of time and you’ve got the Gen X you’ve got the Millennials you go up to Gen Z you got Alpha generation, so there’s six generations of consumers to think about’.

They all have different value systems which need to be understood in order to tailor the experience. 

‘For Gen Z the main value is instant,’ Hughes said. ‘They want everything instant, seamless and frictionless, in contrast to baby boomers who were used to things not working first time and trying again. This doesn’t wash with Gen Z, so if you’re selling technologies, for example, it has to work first time’.

All consumers now want a digital experience and expect to be able to buy online, but the new generations also ‘expect the sales assistant to recognise them when they walk in store,’ he said. ‘So the system should pick up they were on the website and bought something yesterday, maybe facial recognition technology will come in so the information can be fed to the sales assistant and they can recognise the person and tell them to buy the shoes that go well with the jeans they bought yesterday. This might seem amazing to a babyboomer but it is what Gen Xers expect’.

Retail experts’ task is to create and curate the experience in order to stay relevant, while investors will focus on the bottom line and might worry about profitability and about who is going to pay the rent, but the two things are connected. 

‘Of course there’s a path to purchase somewhere along the way,’ Hughes said. ‘But in order to be successful the retailer must reflect on what the function of the store is. Selling can be done online, so why open a shop? Is it a marketing communication platform for the brand, is it a centre of experience for the product or service, is it a way to plug into the community of consumers you are trying to reach, these are all big questions’.

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