The Continued Evolution of Today’s Consumer

The Continued Evolution of Today’s Consumer


Okay, so the control has clearly shifted to the consumer today. The cultural make-up of the U.S. population has changed and will continue to change, dramatically. For the past seven years, 40 percent of U.S. population growth has come from immigration.

The current economic climate has potentially forever changed their buying habits. 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.

That’s a ton of information to swallow, but if you’re running a retail location today, it’s all pretty pertinent. How do you continue to connect with your customers when these types of changes are constantly reshaping who they are?

The “I” in Individual
Individuality is key today. Letting your customers know that the imaging solutions you offer in your location will work for them specifically is vital. Simply announcing that you offer a photo book service might get someone in their 20s excited, but it is also likely your older customers might not have a clue what a photo book even is or they might assume they would never be able to actually create one.

“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. Attempting to get this type of information through other means is getting more difficult each passing year.”

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.

Census Info
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.

The most recent report was done late last year, so the info that follows was based on data gathered earlier in the year (2008).

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 percent) of total U.S. consumer spending through the early part of 2008. The Census Bureau tells us they don’t expect those numbers to change much for 2009, 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 boomer population will add over one 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.

Aged to Perfection
While it’s certainly not news that the nation is aging, the fact that the average U.S. head of household is just six months shy of 50 is a startling statistic. And for those of you that have been getting a little youth obsessed, more than 80 percent of the growth in the number of households in the next five years will be among those headed by people 55 and older. It’s also important to note that this group spends much more on services than they do on goods, an interesting notion for imaging retailers to fully understand.

The gap will only continue to widen among various consumer groups when it comes to attitudes and behavior. The forever-connected consumer lives in a completely different world from the older, untethered ones. Consumers who were born into today’s digital/connected world are obviously far more comfortable in it than most in the older demographics. But those that have had to adapt and adjust their lives to now begin to accept technology are indeed doing so and truly beginning to grasp it.

“Confronting older consumers’ strongly held beliefs and off-handedly forcing new technology on them is a sure way to alienate this group forever,” Refik added. “I think resolutely opinionated consumers maybe don’t want to admit that their minds might be a bit closed, and they resent it when anyone suggests they’re not willing to consider a new idea or a new way of doing things.”

With regard to how you are presenting the new imaging products and services that are available today, a full-frontal assault on a closed mind has little chance of success. Non-threatening, even humorous approaches have a far better chance of opening a locked mind and perhaps getting a previously inflexible consumer to at least consider trying a new product or service.

Above all, it’s time to rethink your marketing strategies as the one-size-fits-all mentality of yesteryear is gone forever. Consumers today are looking to have their specific needs tended to and those retailers that provide this kind of service will have a strong leg up on the rest of the field. The new “I” in Imaging stands for Individuality.