Brainy Secrets: Gen Y, Boomers Shop Differently

by , Nov 14, 2012, 12:42 PM
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Brain-Scan-BWhen it comes to catering to different age groups, stores are generally pretty savvy: You probably won’t hear the Black Keys playing at Talbot’s, and it’s not likely Abercrombie & Fitch will be blaring the Eagles, either.

But a new report from Nielsen NeuroFocus says that by studying consumers’ brains, it is uncovering deeper generational and gender divides, which marketers and retailers can use to better position their brands. “A big issue is that we all tend to feel overwhelmed when we step into a store or see a Web site. There’s just an avalanche of stuff out there, and there’s more every day,” Caroline Winnett, CMO of Nielsen NeuroFocus, tells Marketing Daily

And surprisingly, for all the bad press Gen Y gets about multitasking, they are much more focused shoppers; Boomers are the ones with the distraction problem.  

“The brain undergoes big changes in the 50s that marketers need to understand. While it improves its ability to understand a message holistically, it needs a simpler delivery. It slows down in its ability to process fast-moving, cluttered information,” she says. “And older brains have to work much harder to suppress distractions.” 

That means stores should aim for messages that are distraction-free, “without simultaneous stimuli like animation, multiple sounds and scrolling screens. They like things that seem calmer. And smoother.”

Millennials, on the other hand, are highly skilled at turning out distractions to focus on something that intrigues them. “But they respond better to simpler messages, with a complex delivery. When they switch tasks or attention, they really are able to tune things out.”

Gender is also key. Women, in general, are more likely to respond to merchandising displays that use faces, which they process more quickly than men, and merchandising that appeals to social and emotional connections.

“Men, on the other hand, really respond better to store displays with geometric patterns, and images of objects rather than people. And they are much more interested in plain old data. It is interesting to them how many pixels a TV has; that information is only interesting to women when it’s given in a context that shows why it’s better.” 

But despite those differences, she says, it helps to think about all consumers as so many overstimulated toddlers, she says. “Anything stores can do to deliver information in ways that are less overwhelming is helpful,” she says, noting that the trend toward QR codes and kiosks all help control sensory chaos. “All brains love order and simplicity.”

1 comment on "Brainy Secrets: Gen Y, Boomers Shop Differently ".

  1. David Gutting from Barkley
    commented on: November 15, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.
    Here is my issue with brain scan research: how do I know I can trust whoever is reading the brain scans? Are they board certified radiologists? This sort of stuff strikes me as the worst paint-by-number marketing.

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