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What different generations want from shopping

Sep 19 2017 06:30
Carin Smith

Cape Town - To be future ready retailers have to take into account the preferences, needs and common ground of six different generations, according to Trevor Hardy, CEO of British business management consultancy The Future Laboratory.

Hardy took a closer look at Generation I, Generation D, Millennials, Generation X, Generation Jones and the Flat-agers during a presentation at the recent congress of the SA Council of Shopping Centres in Cape Town.

What the different generations want:

Generation I

These are children aged between 5 and 16 who they spend more than five hours online each day, says Hardy. 

They want seamless integration between digital and physical. It is expected that R8trn in family spending will be influenced by this generation globally, and some large companies are already using these children as "think tanks".

Hardy says that Generation I (as in 'me') is interested in wellness and want "playscapes" in stores with an emphasis on creativity.

"They want spaces to allow them to create, and not just visit and passively experience a store," he says. 

A notable trend in this generation is towards gender neutrality. Generation I's outlook is not in terms of either male or female. "They are increasingly looking for a less binary experiences and, for instance, would not want men's and women's clothing in separate areas in a store," he says. 


Generation D

This is a generation of 17 to 27 year olds who spend money online across almost all channels, from desktop to mobile to physically  visiting a store.  

What characterises their shopping habits is that they like to use a single space - like Amazon for instance - as base or portal.

The social nature of shopping is important for them and often social media platforms act as inspiration for shopping. Hardy says it is no wonder then, that many from this generation actually want to buy directly from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.

While Generation D still consumes luxury goods, they do so in a different way. "They have a different code of luxury," says Hardy. "For them it is less about acquisitions and opulence and more about the experience of it."

It's a generation that wants something to be both ethical and have purpose, says Hardy, adding that they are into "phygital" or the blurring of the virtual and the physical.

"They like a physical experience to feel social and community driven in a social media environment. So their retail space must be designed for being social and using social media sharing," he says. 


By 2020 it is estimated that 30% of all annual retail sales in the US will be by millennials, says Hardy, adding that this demographic is more into the "style of life" than the "stuff of life".

They formed the first generation to opt out of a "consumer approach", he says. "They say greed is not necessarily good and acquiring more and more stuff will not necessarily make you happier."

Millenials use tailor-made services driven by a genuine ethical stance. "Being good" can, therefore, can be an astute business move.

"They have a health-conscious mindset and they love peer to peer environments with a wellness angle," says Hardy. "They prefer to borrow rather than buy and believe 'you are what you share'. They want retailers to be transparent in more radical ways. They want to see behind the curtain."

Millenials, a group born roughly between the early 1980s and early 2000s, are also looking for businesses to "step in where the state is failing", says Hardy.

In addition, they want a return to "localism" instead of being hyper-global, and are interested in finding their community roots again.

Generation X

The well-known Generation Xers are now in their mid-30s to early 50s, and have largely been "forgotten" by the retail sector.

"Yet, in Europe, for instance, they outnumber millennials," says Hardy. "They drive the design aesthetic and want items which are highly engineered, highly functional, but beautiful as well."

Hardy says Generation X is interested in "streamline shopping" – an easy shopping experience designed with consumers' needs in mind.

"They want to get in and out easily. They want no fuss service, yet great service when they want it. They don't want selling to be at them," he says. 

They are also education driven, and want to learn new things and not just lthe bare basics about a product they intend to buy.

Generation Jones

These are empty nesters with disposable income, and Hardy says they feel left out.

"In 2017 50% of US population will be over 50 and with 70% of disposable income,' he says. "Yet, little attention is paid to them by retail."

"They did not grow up with digital, but are quickly adopting it. About 51% of this generation in the UK regularly use social media.
 They are fitter than ever. In Australia 50-year olds are fitter than other generations."

Generation Jones wants luxury in new formats – not the "tired old luxury experiences". This is a demographic that want luxury mixed with sensory experiences.

"They want narratives in their product and experience.They love curated selections," says Hardy. "They want convergent spaces – spaces mixing health, wellbeing, entertainment and the ability to buy stuff – at the same time."


Flat-agers includes everyone above Generation Jones. And they know about tech says Hardy: "about 85% of them are now browsing and shopping online,"

"They have firm beliefs and do not want to be put in a box,' he says. "Yet, they don’t feel they are being catered for in the physical design of products."

This is a demographic that is interested in "non-invasive, natural beauty".

"They don’t want to be younger, just ageless. They want to defy age stereotypes," he says. "They are looking for culturally rich experiences."

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