Battling it out at Retail: Millennials vs. Boomers

Battling it out at Retail: Millennials vs. Boomers

July 1, 2015

By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

I am continually amazed by the number of articles on the Millennial generation that land in my email box on any given day. The synopsis of most of these articles is that marketers are not doing enough to reach this generation, and those who don’t will be left in the dust on the business front. But is this really true? What about the focus we’ve had for years on the Baby Boom generation? The following insights may be helpful to you in determining the balance of your focus on Millennials vs. Boomers in your healthy living programs and services.

The Basics
Baby Boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964. Population projects from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate this generation numbers 74.9 million this year. About 10,000 Boomers retire every day. Boomers are dying, meaning their numbers are continually dropping.

Millennials are those born roughly between 1981-1995, and their numbers are projected to total 75.3 million this year, surpassing the Boomer generation in size.  Growth of this generation continues, largely due to immigration. This generation is the most highly educated in the U.S., is tech-savvy, and is food-focused. At the same time, they have the highest student loan debt any generation has ever had, the highest generational unemployment rate, are likely to live at home with their parents, and are putting off having kids due to their financial situation.  

Spending Power
Today, Baby Boomers control the vast majority of spending power (70%) and wealth in the United States.  While some Boomers may be on fixed incomes, making them less appealing to marketers, many are also buying higher ticket, more indulgent items, as they are no longer raising or supporting their kids.  

Because Millennials are aged 18-34, they are perceived as moving into the stage in their lives where they are getting married, buying houses, having kids, and raising families. This is typically a high-spend life stage.  This is what marketers are banking on – not Millennials’ purchases today, but their purchases in the next 5-10 years. Marketers are running scared that if they don’t meet the needs of this generation today and secure them as brand loyalists, they will have missed the opportunity.

While retailers must always be looking towards the future, they can’t do it at the expense of current shoppers. The reality is that the current financial status of Millennials is not great, and Boomers still drive purchases at and sales for retailers today. While Millennials may be the most tech-savvy and heaviest users of technology, all generations shop and consume information digitally. The Millennial generation is just providing leading indicators of where life is headed for everyone in the future. A key point for retail dietitians is that Baby Boomers are high consumers of health care and health information, a trend that will continue as this generation ages.

Retail RD Takeaway
It’s essential to understand the demographic of your shoppers, and to build programs, services, and methods of communication based on your key audiences. Consider that programs targeted at Millennials may also resonate with other generations. A class on budget friendly meals, for example, may appeal to both Millennials and Boomers. Additionally, Boomers may be as interested in receiving healthy lifestyle texts just as much as younger cohorts. You definitely want to be inclusive of Millennials, but not cater to them at the expense of your key shopper audiences.