The Age Curve in Retailing

Thanks to Mack Collier for pointing out this post by Thomas R. Clifford on Generation Y, called The Age Curve and Corporate Storytelling.”  It’s a review of a new book called “The Age Curve” by Ken Gronbach.  The article caught my eye because (1) I’m very interested in the subject of generational differences and (2) I just read a post the other day from a retailer who believes that Gen Y’s aren’t inclined to shop with independent retailers.

Keep in mind that Clifford is in the video production business, so his post is about using story telling in corporate videos, but there are some points that are worth our consideration here. 

Generation Y, defined as people born between 1985 and 2010 (zero-23 years old) will amount to 100 million folks by 2010.  They will be the largest generation in history, larger even than the Baby Boomers.

According to Gronbach, Gen Ys won’t just buy from you.  They’ll want to know more about you first. for example, they want to know your policies on: 


  • recycling

  • environmental responsibility

  • company iniatives

  • pollution history

  Clifford adds the following media habits and values to the mix: 


  • social networking

  • reality television

  • user-generated content

  • on-line video

  • humanitarian causes

  • honesty

  • family time

  • flexible hours

At this point in the post, Clifford moves into how Gen Ys will affect his business.  I think the challenges to retailers are even more complex.  The retail model has been fairly constant for a long, long time.  Good products + good service + fair price = sales.                                               

This new consumer wants all that too, but they also want you to show them your recycling containers.  They want to see what kind of light bulbs you use.  And they want to hear about it on Facebook and MySpace and they want to see you on YouTube.  They even want to follow you on twitter.

All of this may seem a little scary at first, but keep this in mind.  It’s much easier for you to establish a presence on the social networks than it is for Wal-Mart.  As the owner/manager of your business, you can tell your potential customers about your business without going through  corporate communications and legal departments.   

You can shoot a video with a digital video camera that sets you back less than $200.00 and have it on the web in a matter of minutes.  $100.00 spent on recycle containers and some new light bulbs and you’re “green”.

No, rather than a problem, this new retail model is a tremendous opportunity for retailers who aren’t so set in their ways that they won’t make a few changes.  For some of us there may be a bit of a learning curve to master the new social media tools, but if I can do it, you can do it.  It’s not that hard.  If you have any Gen X or Y staff, I’m sure they can teach you in a day. 

According to Gronbach, “Communicating to Gen Y = Telling a poignant story.”  Who can tell the business’ story better than the entrepreneur who started it all?

Here are some earlier MYOB posts on social media for your reference: 

Social Ice Cream?  The Common Craft blog compares social media to ice cream.  Cool!

Starbucks Ideas  Starbucks uses the web to tap into customers’ ideas. 

Getting a Clue  After nearly ten years, "The Cluetrain Manifesto" is still relevant.

Communication IS NOT Conversation  A review of Joseph Jaffee’s book "Join the Conversation." 

Tell Seven People  All about viral marketing.

Simple Explanations  In praise of the Common Craft blog.

Find more posts on social media by clicking on the "social media" category on the right. 

If you like to learn by listening, I highly recommend the Personal Branding Summit,  a series of 24 one hour presentation on the subject of personal branding that you can download to your mp3 player, and the Podcast Sisters, a weekly show that covers social media tools “for non geeks”.  Be sure to check the archives for past episodes.  Plus, it’s extremely entertaining.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing my post with your readers!

    More importantly, I’m delighted to see you captured exactly what I was going after as a corporate filmmaker: who better to tell your company’s story than the founder?

    Add your customers and employees and bingo…a story is born.

    Done properly, it’s a story that is natural, authentic, engaging and compelling to watch.

    I enjoyed your take on my thoughts.

    Nicely done.

  2. Thomas,

    Thank you for your kind words. Every business has a story and the independent business owner’s story is usually the most interesting and compelling. I wish more would use the available tools to share theirs.

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