How Much of a Pivot is Needed to Market to Gen Y?

Posted by Ed Anderson on Mar 17, 2014 10:30:00 AM
Ed Anderson

The refrain, “Who are those guys?” is from the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It debuted at a time when Baby Boomers were coming of age and the question was asked over and over by the film's stars, Robert Redford and Paul Newman in reference to the unknown lawmen persistently on their heels.

It is a question that makes considerable sense again today in the retail segment, as the lion's share of purchasing power transitions from Boomers to what we now know as Gen Y.

Who are the Gen Y ers? Within the world of retail, Gen Y will be the largest U.S. buying segment in 2017. They are mostly the children of Boomers, and those two groups represent the biggest segments of the US population. The most important question, however, is not so much about the size of Boomers and Gen Y, or the date on which buying power switches from one group to the other; the bigger question is how do they differ behaviorally and how should brands and retailers pivot their marketing to appeal to Gen Y ers?



Who do you turn to, to get a better understanding of Gen Y? Baby Boomers?  I think not. You are far better off finding a Gen Y spokesman to explain his generation to you. Jason Dorsey is one of the most sought after speakers to explain Gen Y to Boomers and Gen X ers.

The Gen Y characteristics Jason sites are fairly broad, but extrememly useful when considering what media you should employ when trying to reach them and what "voice" and persona you should use when trying to connect with them and get them to embrace your products and stores. As Jason puts it: “My generation is completely up for grabs—Millennials change and adapt and learn and shop around,” he said. “But it’s not a technology solution. It’s not a payment solution. It’s not any of that. What it is…is understanding our mindset.”

Gen Y prefers smart phones over PCs and tablets


What communication media do they like?

JD: "Gen Y prefers text messaging and email, not face-to-face communication or phone calls, which Gen Y considers an “invasion of privacy.” 

Kate Freeman, in a post from Mashable: Gen Y is in love with smart phones. "The smartphone has replaced our newspaper, radio and PC, so it should come as no surprise that Gen Y'ers prefer smartphones to PCs and even tablets."

What do they think of technology?

JD: “Gen Y is not tech savvy; what we actually are is tech dependent. That’s a critical distinction. We have no idea how technology works. None. We just know that we can’t live without it.”


Who do they trust?

According to Bazaarvoice research, 84% of Gen Y rely on the opinions of other consumers. Millennials don’t really believe that companies care what they think. But they still want to have conversations with brands. Gen Y ers are 3 times as likely to turn to social media to get opinions on products they buy.


JD: "People think we're disloyal; not true. We haven't established any loyalty.” 



How do they learn?

JD: "Gen Y is a visual generation, and we learn everything on YouTube... If I’m in your aisles I don’t want to see some printed recipe ...I want a picture or text or scan and it just suddenly shows up in my phone. All free. The stuff Gen Y uses is all free.”

Gen Y wants personalization 


How do they think of themselves?

JD: "suggested tagline: As unique as you's about the experience and customization"

What about their view of price in shopping?

Logan Gallogly of RetailNet Group, "there is a segment of Gen Y that is dual-career households with significant disposable income but, at the same time, many Millennials have been unable to find full-time employment, and 36 percent of Gen Y'ers made less than $25,000 a year."

"So this income polarization has had a huge impact on spending habits, with some Millennials focused on prices, deals, comparison shopping, really focused on savings, while others prioritize convenience, new products and the latest trends."

One way to consider improving engagement by incorporating the latest trends is to use iBeacons at the shelf.

Formula for creating a winning retail strategy to Gen Y:                      iBeacon_Logo


  1. focus on smart's where they spend their time
  2. personalize offers, and engage them with new experiences while shopping
  3. make it easy to see product ratings and reviews while making the buying decision


apps become game changers  

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