U.S. Consumers – Many Moving Targets

U.S. Consumers – Many Moving Targets


Okay – so the control has shifted to the consumer; they don’t all look the same anymore; the places that money used to be has changed (and seems to keep changing); the country is aging, yet the younger demographic now holds a lot of the power with regard to anything tech-related; and even regional demographics are diverging more than ever before.

Letting your customers know that the imaging solutions you offer in your location will work for them individually is vital. Simply announcing that you offer a photobook service might get someone in their 20’s excited but it is also likely your older customers might not have a clue what a photobook is or they might assume they would never be able to actually create one.

The U.S. Census Bureau regularly releases information on the U.S. population, demographic and general household income statistics. While this stuff has always been fun to peruse, a closer look might reveal how marketing efforts need to be far more flexible today and point-of-sale research has never been more vital.

“When retailers chat with their customers the conversations often reveal much about how many in a particular demographic feel about a given product or service,” began Martha Refik, a Connecticut-based retail analyst. “The problem is those conversations too often become fleeting moments and that data is never really properly mined.”

This type of feedback from your customers – both new and old – can provide invaluable insights into overall attitudes and the reasons for product/service acceptance or rejection. While this next thought certainly isn’t a “news flash” every retailer has a far better chance to overcome a customer’s objections if they know more about the real reasons behind those objections.

As you’ll see in the chart titled Household Composition, there are two age groups today (35 to 44 and 45 to 54) that are essentially holding the U.S. economy together right now (such as it is). These two groups combined equal about 47 million households and include the highest number of dual-earner married couples. As a result, and this is no surprise, they accounted for almost half (49%) of total U.S. consumer spending in 2007. The Census Bureau tells us they don’t expect those numbers to change much for 2008, despite the fact this segment is also the nation’s slowest growing segment.

And if you’ve begun to ignore the baby boomers, you might want to rethink that strategy. In the next five years, the aging baby boom population will add over 1 million consumers per year to the 65-and-older segment — increasing its number at more than twice the rate of the past five years. As digital technology continues getting easier to grasp and this segment gets even more comfortable with it, they will become a hugely important demographic.

The gap will only continue to widen among consumers when it comes to attitudes and behavior. The forever-connected consumer lives in a completely different world from the older, untethered ones. Your college-educated customers with white-collar jobs have constant access to the wired world while your high-school-educated, blue-collar ones might not. Your sales people need to pick up on these differences and adjust their pitches and banter accordingly. They all want the products – they just need be walked through the purchase in different ways.