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Monday, January 24, 2011

Book review - "GenBuY: How tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings are revolutionizing retail"


By Terri Schlichenmeyer
by Kit Yarrow, PhD and Jayne O’Donnell
c. 2009, Jossey-Bass $24.95 / $29.95 Canada 250 pages, includes index

You’re not an old fogey.

Far from it, but the young man walking in front of you at the mall the other day personified the words “generation gap”: specifically, a gap of five inches of fabric between the top of his jeans and the waistband of his drawers and there are two things you don’t understand.

First, why can’t he pull up his pants? Secondly, why didn’t he buy those pants from you?

You try to market to teens and twenty-somethings, but they walk in packs past your door without a glance and it doesn’t make sense. But when you read “GenBuY” by Kit Yarrow, PhD and Jayne O’Donnell, it will.

No doubt, you’ve already noticed a dearth of youth in the aisles of your store, and that’s a problem. According to Yarrow and O’Donnell, your “problem” is deeper than you think: Generation Y (everyone born between 1978 and 2000) is positioned to revolutionize the way shopping is done.

And, in a way, Baby Boomers gave them a push to do it.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, Gen Yers are confident, the authors say, perhaps because they’ve been doted on by those same elders. They’ve never known a world without computers, so they’re incredibly “connected” and global. And because they’ve rarely had to wait for anything, they’re easily bored. “New” isn’t new enough.

These factors mean that Gen Yers don’t shop like anyone else in history. Shopping, for a tween, teen, or twenty-something is a way of relaxation, a “vacation of the mind”. Gen Yers rarely shop alone. And because they’ve grown up with brands, they’re fiercely loyal to their favorite ones.

But that doesn’t mean Gen Y won’t value individual style, and it doesn’t mean they won’t shop with budget in mind. Gen Yers love sales - and, by the way, if your store champions a social cause, they’ll love that, too.

So what can you do to attract Generation Buy? First, fully embrace technology; Gen Yers can’t live without it. Recruit a peer champion; it’s better than advertising directly to Gen Y. Understand that what you did at that age is not even remotely like what Gen Y is experiencing. Keep things new. Get “real” and don’t force yourself on them. Suspend judgment. Engage and inspire.

Remember when we were told to “never trust anyone over thirty”? Well, guess what ...

Using one-on-one interviews, mall visits, surveys, personal observations and expert opinions, authors Kit Yarrow and Jayne O’Donnell pulled together an eye-opening, light but informative marketing atlas for retailers wanting to tap into this emerging dynamic of shoppers.

I was fascinated by what the authors had to say, and very surprised. This tribe of consumers has already unobtrusively (yet, not-so-quietly) changed shopping, almost without the realization of the average Boomer or Gen Xer.

And there’s more to come.

This book is a shout to retailers wanting to stay in business and if that means you, then you need a copy of it. “GenBuY” will make you want to pull up your sleeves and make change.

-- Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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