Will Gen Y Rewrite All The Retail Rules?

Published on: 2015-02-05

Evan Schuman at Storefront Backtalk has an interesting take on the rise of so-called Generation Y:

Gen Y, a loose term for younger shoppers ranging in age from about 14 through 28, is a demographic that most retailers are unprepared for. That's partially because this is the first segment that has never not known of the Internet and also because most retail executives have such a radically different worldview.

Many Gen Y shoppers have also never known—or believed they had—any privacy, so they are dramatically more willing to give up or sell personal data in exchange for something they see of value. Their attention span is short, their multi-tasking skills are high and many find the idea of paying for software quaint and old-fashioned.

They can prioritize how they pay (Paypal's popular) over how much they pay and want to interact with businesses in as many ways as possible. Text on their phone, IM their laptop, post for them in MySpace, make a video pitch in YouTube and appear to them as an avatar in SecondLife.

Our take:

Gen Y -- and in particular the younger ones, say born after 1990 -- do introduce some unique challenges and opportunities, particularly for bricks-and-mortar retailers that still do most of their business in the real world.  We've seen numerous experiments in trying to make retail shopping more connected and more social (virtually speaking, not the easy kind of social where you actually walk into the store with other human beings), but so far they've been all flash and sparkle, with little to no substance.

We do believe that there's opportunity for innovation inside the store as well as online, of course. But retailers will need to look at innovations that offer genuine benefits to the shopper, and not just window dressing (whether literal or figurative).

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