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Research: Boomers and Gen Y divided on retail sensory experiences

Boston -- New research released by Brodeur Partners uncovered that Baby Boomers and Generation Y’ers think differently about the shopping experience.

According to The Brodeur Partners’ Retail Relevance Study, Boomers see the ideal shopping experience as getting a good deal on a decent product. For Gen Y, it’s more about a stimulating, sensual, “sharable” experience.

The study used maximum difference scaling methodology to identify what is most and least relevant in a shopping experience. The study asked 2,000 American consumers to think of their favorite place to shop and identify those elements that were most and least relevant.

Among the key findings, twice as many Gen Y’ers (18 to 34) are “okay if people know I am associated with a retailer” than Baby Boomers (55-plus).

Sensory appeal and the ability of a retailer to “make me smile” are one-third more important to Gen Y than to Boomers. Practical decisions drive choice of retailers for 8-out-of-10 Boomers, but only half of the Gen Y respondents.

“Put simply, younger shoppers view their ideal shopping experience as less functional and much more social, expressive and sensory-driven,” said Jerry Johnson, Brodeur’s executive VP strategic planning. “Retail shopping is probably more intertwined with social networking than we’ve realized. When a Gen Y consumer checks in to a retailer on Foursquare or ‘likes’ a retailer on Facebook, that’s very valuable to a retailer. Peers by nature are ready to have the experience their friends just did.”

And though sensory experiences clearly matter, Johnson warned retailers that they can’t simply barrage the Gen Y consumer with loud music, seductive smells and images of beautiful bodies: the research indicated that retailers need to focus equally on the social aspects of the experience, and be a brand with which a consumer would want to associate.