Connecting with Gen Y

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Do youngsters mega-tasking at lightning speeds irritate you? These tweens to 20-somethings could be called the Constant Stimulation Generation. They're pulsating and wiggling their way through life seemingly with little focus on any one thing for more than 20 seconds. Is your store connected to these customers?

Bombarded by rapidly changing technology, baby boomers resist as their aging brains are pushed to new limits of data absorption. The growing Gen Y consumer sector grew up with MTV, video games, computers, iPods and cell phones — this generation's tools for differentiation. My tools in the '70s were motorcycles, rock 'n' roll, lava lamps and Chevy vans. Hell, we had to get off the couch to change the channel.

The new addiction to individual accessibility can be termed connectivity. E-mail, voice mail, texting, MySpace.com, podcasts and digi-cameras are all part of normal life nowadays. Groups don't have to cluster for poker night anymore — they hang out in cyberspace. Gen Yers do their gossiping, product recommending and shopping 24/7.

Begin looking at how both macro and micro views of your business can be communicated faster over creative electronic media to this new customer base. Constant stimulation to keep their attention and capture their memory will be key. Your competition for attention in the rest of techno-society is steep. Here is a little direction to get your "older thinking" along the more modern track.

Your website. This is your first line of attack. It's at least as important as your storefront. Does your site make an incredible first impression? Does it feature staff bios? Does it offer virtual tours of your store as realtors offer for their houses? Do you post a gallery of customer action videos along with photos? Do you have a service cam or race cam or some other sort of human interest camera operating semi-live on your site?

Advertising. If it's on TV, then it better have quick cuts and fast music like a music video. If it's in print, then it had better create curiosity and enough intrigue to force the reader to want to discover more on your website. The very point of print is to generate website visitors. Use it as bait. Even now I see superhip brands not printing their URL in advertising, forcing the reader to discover it by Googling them. The discovery after following the breadcrumb trail is more rewarding and cool. It seems weird, but it works.

Selling tactics. Get to the point quickly and don't spend too much time on the features. The Gen Y shopper has already learned them, on the Internet. They may know more than the salesperson, in fact. Jump to the benefits and sell the experience — the cool factor, the appearance, the durability. But be ready to get technical, because they love to test their Internet-acquired knowledge with trained salespeople.

I recommend your staff Google every brand of units and accessories you carry in your store so they can see what many of your customers have already seen. Follow threads to forums to see what people think of your brands.

Merchandising and displays. Interactivity and motion attract the customer with a short attention span. Lights. Color. Touchy-feely displays.

Provide collections of common products pre-assembled together. Gen Yers have little imagination for putting together disparate combos. Everything in their life is pre-packed, combo'd or value-meal'd. They cannot imagine what the chrome kit or exhaust package looks like installed unless they have seen images online, on the bike or on paper. With apparel, use mannequins to display pre-coordinated outfits, short-cutting the tedious process of upselling one item at a time, rack to rack.

Getting connected may feel foreign to many of you, but is necessary to gain the attention and respect of this growing and maturing customer base. Look at life through their eyes, and don't be afraid. They have the money, which makes it your job to understand them better.

Eric Anderson is the self-proclaimed "Big Stinger" of Scorpion Sports. Contact him at eric@scorpionusa.com.