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The new consumers

KALAMAZOO — Business owners will have to connect with the next generations of consumers on an experiential and emotional level if they are to be successful in the near future, says macro trend forecaster Susan Yashinsky.

There are key generational differences and you can’t assume you can do business as usual,” Yashinsky said Thursday in Kalamazoo.

She works for Waterford-based consumer and design trend consulting firm Sphere Trending. It does research that businesses and others use to help design products and adjust their services.

As dubbed by Yashinsky, the generational groups are: Digital from Birth (ages 0-13); GenNow (ages 14-35); Gen-X (ages 36-45); Zoomers (ages 46-65); and Prime Timers (ages 66 and older).

Those in Generation X or younger are into social media and online research like no group before them, said Yashinsky, who spoke during a meeting Thursday with local members of Inforum, a professional women’s alliance that has about 1,800 members throughout Michigan.

Susan Yashinsky Photograph.JPGView full sizeSusan Yashinsky

They are not looking backwards for guidance, she said. “They are at the forefront of technology.”

In spite of their need to be connected 24/7 to their technology, they also want to make emotional connections and want to be made to feel like they matter. Yashinsky said businesses that are making lasting connections with these groups are positioning their messages and product lines to provide an experience as well as meeting people’s needs and wants.

GenNow is the first generation to be brought up with digital, hand-held and computer technology. Many of them are graduating with an average of $30,000 in debt and are choosing to move back in with their parents for anywhere from three to five years. They are behind the eight ball, are marrying later and likely won’t hit their peak earning years until they turn 50, Yashinsky said.

They want to be able to access what they want 24 hours a day, but they also want comfort.

They are always touching a hard surface like a computer or a cellphone,” Yashinsky said. “If you own a bank you might want to think about whether your door has a soft touch to it.”

Such a consideration may seem trite, but it is subtle changes like that that will be noticed and appreciated, she said.

The Gen-Xer’s are all about living within a budget and paying less, which may explain the popularity of Groupon, which offers online discounts on restaurants, clothing stores and services if a large enough group of people log in for the deal.

They were not brought up pampered. Many of them are still stuck in starter homes,” Yashinsky said. “They’re trading down to trade up.”

So they may forego caffe lattes and save that money for a new pair of shoes. They may also delay remodeling rooms in favor of smaller projects such as putting new hardware on their front door.

Because storage is so critical to member of this generation — who are living in smaller spaces — companies are making more beautiful and functional storage products, Yashinsky said.

Outdoor pizza ovens are becoming a must-have for Zoomers who are mentally and physically healthy. In many instances they are supporting not only themselves, but their parents and their children, all while wrestling with issues such as high healthcare costs.

Yashinsky said pizza ovens are the most asked-for item in the Zoomer age group. They want a gourmet cooking experience to enjoy at home with friends and family.

Products that address mobility and safety issues are high on the list for the Zoomer generation, she said. Yashinsky said retailers are focusing on the build-out of smaller stores and larger online product offerings aimed at this group.

You need to imagine what the solution is for the consumer,” Yashinsky said. “It’s about comfort and selling emotion and coziness. You need to frame your business in terms of an experience.”

By 2020 Yashinsky predicts that Flash Mob management will be an actual job at many companies.

You have to surprise and delight the consumer,” she said.







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