Baby Boomers typically defined as those folks born between 1946 and 1964 are the largest buying group in America. They have tremendous purchasing power, active lifestyles and well-defined tastes.
These are the kids who were raised with the instant gratification of television and the advent of fast food. They broke with conventional norms in their music and dress. They came of age during decades of prosperity. They are the children of the Greatest Generation the World War II vets who came back and went to school on the GI Bill and the grandchildren of the stalwarts of the Great Depression. With their unique history and high expectations, they present a great opportunity and challenge for today's retailers.
Thousands of Baby Boomers turn 50 every day. Most of them live in two-income households. Because of good health care, many Boomers plan to continue working into their retirement years, so they will have more to spend and longer to spend it than any group before them.
Baby Boomers are worried about staying young looking well, eating well and living well. They are interested in getting their children through college and paying for a high quality of life. They work long, hard days. They are concerned about their health and their fitness. They seek convenience, speed and quality for a reasonable cost. They are at the peak of their personal and professional lives and at the peak of their spending habits. With retirement looming on their horizons, they seek retailers and service providers who can meet their demands for customer service, ease of purchase, flexibility, high performance and efficiency.
The way to the heart of a Baby Boomer is through customer service. Implement strategies that will save them time, money and aggravation. Feature custom orders, gift wrapping, personal shopping and shipping. Another key to pleasing Baby Boomers is to please their children or grandchildren. Have cookies, candy, toys or books on hand to occupy the children while you serve the parents. Treat them special. Create preferred buyers' clubs, hold special sales or establish private buying hours for them. Afterward, write notes to thank them for attending.
Baby Boomers are Internet-savvy. They use technology in their work, and they have learned to use it for pleasure as well. They shop online (although the majority still prefers mail order catalogs when they purchase from home), book their travel online, communicate online and read online. They own large screen televisions, fax and copy machines, cell phones and pagers. They eat out at least three times a week.
And at the same time they are leaping into the future, many Baby Boomers are longing for the past. They like nostalgic music the kind they listened to growing up. According to some consumer profiles, these folks make up nearly one-third of the music buying market, but they won't download it. They'll go to your store to buy it and listen to it in their cars.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the average American home was 1,470 square feet and only 15 percent of the homes had more than one bathroom. Today the average home is 2,100 square feet and has at least 2 baths, usually more. When Baby Boomers buy an older home, they typically add on by enlarging the kitchen and adding bathrooms. That means they buy new appliances, lots of paint, cabinets and home décor.
Keep in mind that many Baby Boomers are empty-nesters, and some are grandparents. It is anticipated that they will spend nearly $40 million in the next year on goods and services for the children in their lives. And many Boomers are also members of the "Sandwich Generation," caught between caring for their children and grandchildren AND their parents. With their children out of the home, empty-nesters have more discretionary money to spend on themselves. And their spending covers the spectrum from the more upscale discount houses to the designer boutiques.
Whatever your product, you should carefully consider its appeal to this huge market and determine how you can deliver it when they want it, where they want it and at a reasonable price. Find a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors and appeal to the Boomers' desire to stay young, act young, think young and feel young! Do that, and you'll have a customer for life!
For help exploring your business ideas, contact a business specialist at a Small Business & Technology Development Center. Visit our calendar of events for a listing of business training events in Missouri.
- Mary Paulsell, Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers, 1/13/09