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Do you have a picture of YOUR customer?

I was recently working with a retail client and was discussing their merchandise strategy with their display manager. I asked the person about two products on the same display and who would buy them. The display manager mentioned that one of the products would, in their view, be purchased by 65 year-old woman, whilst the product next to it would be purchased by a 25 year-old woman.

Was the display working? Iím afraid not. Why wasn't it working? Because the person building the display did not start with a picture of the consumer in mind.

Generational marketing
In recent months there have been number of articles in the press about generational marketing. What does this mean? It means that as a retailer you need to consider who to target. Is it Generation Y (15-25 year-olds), Generation X (25-35 year-olds), the Jonesí Generation (35-49 year-olds), Baby Boomers (50-65 year-olds), or Greying Tigers (over 65 years-old).

A flick through a glossy magazine will soon reveal that marketers are very defined on who their target is and present the pictorial or promotion accordingly. But, itís more than marketers getting the message across, itís display teams understanding the message and merchandising accordingly.

The challenges
This does present some challenges. Traditionally, merchandisers have presented products to consumers based on specific categories i.e. placing all of one series of products together. But is this the answer in the future?

Some retailers have an easy task. They have refined their retailing to already attract one specific age group and can merchandise accordingly. The real challenge occurs when you are a retailer who needs to attract customers from across a wide band of age groups.

If you fall into this latter category, then there is a real argument for splitting up product categories based on target age groups.

In the scenario mentioned at the beginning of this article, the merchandiser had built the display based on an overall product category. The result, in my opinion, was that all age groups were put off, because the display did not appeal to any specific age group.

The display manager would have had more success if she had built a display based on a specific age group.

One of my clients, a German gift company, now segments its product range based on age. Each segmented display is supported by a promotional board that features a person enjoying the product experience from the selected age group. The result is displays in store target selected age groups to specific areas in the store. This does mean that more space is required in store to ďsell the pictureĒ but the end result is increased sales per square metre.

Where do you start?
Start with the customer in mind, not the product. Have a defined age group in your mind when youíre building a display and then build the display with that age group in mind.

Let me give you a simple example based on my observations when it comes to signage on displays. Generation X (I prefer to call them IKEA Babies) know what the trends are and what is fashionable. If you sign a product to tell them what is new and trendy, they could feel you are talking down to them and this may resist purchasing.

The next generation up, the Jonesí Generation, want to be trendy and fashionable, but they need to be told whatís new. If you donít tell them whatís new, they may never discover it.

The Baby Boomers tend to pick up trends later. Tell them itís new and they will often wait while itís accepted by the Jonesí Generation. Greying Tigers may resist new products completely as they look on the product as a new gadget which they donít understand and that will quickly go out of fashion anyway.

Segmentation opportunities
Some retailers will go to considerable expense to get the formulae right. Wetherbyís in South Africa have divided their store into two. One half is targeted at Baby Boomers and the other half at Generation X. Both groups walk through the same entrance, but are then split into two, Baby Boomers turn left into the store, whilst Generation X turn right. Both sections of the store have their own coffee shop to ensure both consumer segments Ďlinger longerí in the comfort of their own generational group.

Become a maven of retail generational marketing
Encourage your retail team to become ďmavensĒ or leaders of a trend. Make sure that the business subscribes to magazines that target each generational group you are targeting. Get the team to produce Ďstoryboardsí on trends from those magazines that can help them build appropriate displays.

One display will not serve allFind Article, start with the customer in mind and build displays that a generation can relate to.

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John Stanley is a conference speaker and retail consultant with over 20 years experience in 15 countries. John works with retailers around the world assisting them with their merchandising, staff and management training, customer flow, customer service and image. If you would like to receive Johnís monthly newsletter please visit or email us on

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