It’s a Wednesday afternoon and your store has slowed down a bit. You’restocking the shelves and facing the products to ensure each package looks itsbest.

The door bell rings, snatching your attention from the dust falling off theshelves, and you look up. Who just walked in your door? Is it a 23-year oldrecently graduated student with a boxer at the other end of the blue leashshe’s grasping? Or is it a 72 year-old grandfather who’s kids are in town withtheir turtle?

Most pet store owners have a basic idea of who is walking into their store onany given day. Whether you did the research before opening or found out astime progressed, you can probably outline the basic characteristics of thekinds of people who come into your store. This is valuable information and,believe it or not, may be the answer to getting more customers into your storeand making purchases.

Not all customers are made equal. You know this from experience. One way tobroadly categorize your audience is by examining their generation. There arevast differences between the basic wants and needs of a Baby Boomer versus aMillennial. There’s much more to understand about the different sub-groupswithin each generation, but for the sake of simplicity, we’re just going tocover a broad overview of each age group.

Who Are Your Customers?

Take a moment and write down the basic characteristics for the people you mostcommonly see in your store. How old are they? What stage of life are they in?What kind of pet do they own? What style of clothes do they wear? What do theyeat?

You might not know all the details, but whatever you can find out will bebeneficial to helping you gain a better understanding of who your customersare. It’s most likely that you have more than one type of customer, so breakthem down into groups: your primary customer (those you service the mostoften), your secondary customer (those you service the next most often), andmaybe even your tertiary.

Now that you have that information broken down, it’s time to break downvarious marketing tactics that you can use to bring more of your primary,secondary, and tertiary customers into your store.

Baby Boomers

Do you believe Baby Boomers are phasing out of the game? Think again:Petfoodindustry.com published an article stating that “according to the AARP,36% of those in the US who are 50 or older own dogs. Twenty-four percent inthat demographic own cats, and 7% own some other pet.”

Focus on this generation has been slowly shifting away as excitement overMillennials and, more recently, Generation Z grows with their influence. Thisgeneration, however, is still very much in the game and looking to buy petproducts.

Baby Boomers, as a whole, are, in general, an affluent generation – in fact,studies have shown that, in 2014, they controlled approximately 65% of theU.S. net worth. With that said, Baby Boomers (and every generationmentioned, in fact) are simply an age group. So, this isn’t to say that allBaby Boomers who walk into your store are ready to drop some major dough on abag of dog food.

In fact, this generation was one of the most affected by 2008. After themarket crash, they became conservative with their spending. They treat everypurchase as if its an investment and are therefore much more likely to conductin-depth research on products before they hand over the cash.

Building trust is essential to getting a Baby Boomer to purchase from you. Beauthentic and transparent about your business practices and don’t overselleverything. By now, they’ve seen it all, and can sense an over-blown statementfrom a mile away.

The most effective channels to market to a Baby Boomer is found to betelevision, search engines, email marketing, and social media (with anemphasis on Facebook).

Independent pet stores and pet products alike should focus their efforts onshowing up in search engines through search engine optimization (SEO) and eveninvesting in Google AdWords. Optimizing your website for target keywordsthat they’re likely to search and spending a little money on these keywordswill go a long way toward gaining their attention.

Don’t ignore Facebook either. Everyone’s on that platform and, even thoughGeneration Z might be slowly migrating away from it, many of us remember theday when our grandma added us as a friend.

Use the platform to build trust and share plenty of in-depth content – givethem the research they’re going to conduct anyway up front! Not only will theytrust you more, but they’ll also be more likely to turn to you when they havemore questions.

In general, Baby Boomers value education, loyalty, and authenticity. Takeadvantage of these traits with your marketing activities to drive brandawareness and get them into your store.

Generation X

Generation who? Did you even know there was a generation between Baby Boomersand Millennials? Of course you did, but they’re so often overlooked thatthey’re easy to miss. Even some Generation X-ers forget they’re a part of it!

Believe it or not, this generation does exist and they are spending money ontheir pets. The thing is, their ideals are often split between those of BabyBoomers and Millennials, depending on when they were born.

Generation X-ers are not quite as conservative as their parents and not asliberal as their children. They’re somewhat in between. By now, they’restarting to get into their 50s, which means they’re reaching the height oftheir careers and are maybe even beginning to plan for retirement.

This generation has had to deal with a lot of change in a short amount oftime. They were born in an analog era and had to quickly transition into avery digital realm. They’ve also been labeled as slackers because of how theygrew up.

According to a 2011 piece in the Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business,this generation believes that “nothing is permanent … they are pessimistic,skeptical, disillusioned with almost everything and are very questioning ofconventionality.”

So, how does one market to such a generation?

  • Focus on staying authentic – The last thing you want to do is mess with a generation who is already pessimistic and skeptical about everything
  • Watch your tone – Many X-ers don’t like being told what to do. Respect is earned through time and experience, so don’t just tell them you’re the best and expect them to believe it until they learn for themselves.
  • Make it personal – This generation isn’t marketed to nearly as much as the more attractive Millennials, but even the small amount of marketing they do get should be personalized to stand out. Remember their pets names and show up with transparency and humility.

As for marketing channels, the ones that work best include direct mail, emailmarketing, video marketing, and social media (emphasis on Facebook again). Usethese channels as a tool to build trust with your customers and build respectwith your content.

Generation Y (Millennials)

The word is out: Millennial pet owners are now the number one source of buyingpower in America and they’re vastly changing the way the pet industryoperates. It’s no wonder we’re all fighting to capture their attention andkeep them coming back for more.

However, Millennials have proven to be much different – if not more difficult– than the generations that have preceded them. They’re demanding things thatwere hardly even considered just a few years ago such as sustainability andfashion products for their pets.

We recently wrote an entire article on how to win over this generation of petowners, but the basic concepts are outlined as follows:

  • Sustainably-sourced pet products at a low price
  • Natural and holistic solutions to both pet food and medication
  • Transparency in sourcing, manufacturing, and selling processes
  • Strong brand messaging with your unique purpose and values outlined
  • Showing up where they’re at and becoming a part of the conversation
  • Well-defined customer value in both products offered and the shopping experience as a whole
  • Pet products that integrate technology to make pet interactions more fun and efficient
  • Convenience is key in how they find out, purchase, and receive their products

In general, many Millennials are well-educated, willing to splurge, andbegging to show off their pets (and their products) on social media. Becausethey consider pets to be “starter children,” they want to spoil them and treatthem as if they are, actually, children.

Generation Z

Last but certainly not least is a generation that is just now starting togenerate buzz. This generation is still young – the oldest are just nowstarting to graduate college and start their careers.

They don’t have a lot of disposable income, but they do have family pets thatthey’ve either taken to college with them or influence the purchasingdecisions on for the household.

Although they currently may not be able to spend much, a study shows that by2020 Generation Z will make up about 40% of consumers. They may not bebuying truckloads of dog food quite yet, but they are buying other things, andit’s time to start considering them in your marketing strategy.

One common trait about this generation is that technology consumes every partof their life. They grew up in a digital age and are used to having all theanswers at their fingertips.

According to a study recently conducted by Response Media, they use varioussocial media channels for different purchase:

“On Instagram, they showcase their aspirational selves; on Snapchat, theyshare real-life moments; on Twitter, they get the news; and on Facebook,they glean information”

Unlike Baby Boomers, Generation Z have a short attention span. They want theiranswers and they want them now. Make your marketing messages very clearabout what you stand for and what you can offer them. You only have a fewseconds to grab their attention, so use them wisely.

Because of the political climate they’ve grown up in, they’re more likely totake part in and respond to social responsibility. They want to see realpeople and real interactions, as they’re constantly bombarded by the fake“reality” that social media presents.

This is a challenging generation for sure, but the better we can understandtheir behaviors, the more likely you can capture them early on and maybe evenkeep them coming back for years.

Source: Ashley ​Hoffman World Pet Association

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