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GENERATION NEXT: YOUR NEW CUSTOMER

Every Monday I drop my boys off at their bus stop.  It’s a weekly ritual that allows me some father and son time before I often hit the road for the remainder of the week. What I’ve observed at the bus stop, however, has got me thinking about business (surprise!).
There are usually five teenagers who also go to the same bus stop, ranging in age from eleven to fifteen. What I’ve observed is that three out of these five teenagers have a smart phone AND have at least one ear bud in their ear the entire time (while walking to the bus stop, conversing with their friends, and boarding the bus). Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I asked my boys what the older boys say while on the bus. “Nothing,” was my oldest son’s response. They all have earphones in and are staring out the window.

You may be wondering why I think this unsurprising observation is important to business… Well, if you fast-forward ten years, these teenagers will be your future employees (ear buds and all). More importantly, they will likely be a consumer of your product or service, if they aren’t already.

Herein lies my point. Your New Customer, only ten short years away, has some very unique characteristics compared to your customers today, namely:

  • They live online – not during lunch break or after work, but all the time.
  • They communicate differently – sharing most anything about themselves online but less likely to do so in person.
  • They’ve become accustomed to hiding behind technology (I’ll only show you what I want you to see).
  • They are more comfortable with purchasing online than in person (Cash… What’s that?)
  • Money is no longer something to be amassed, but to be used anytime it’s needed.
  • They are neutralized to debt, many coming out of school with enough debt to cover a small mortgage.

I could go on.

What I want you to think about is not the distinctions in the generation, but the timeframe I mentioned above. It’s very realistic to think that in ten years (or fewer!), this next generation could be asking you for a job, or more importantly be buying your products or services… or not.

Here’s a little activity for you this week. Consider the people who support you in your department, business, or team. How will the habits, needs, and desires of this next generation influence their demands and desires of you or your team? What are you doing to prepare? How will you adapt?

It’s your prerogative of course to ignore my questions and continue on as if nothing will change, and possibly it won’t. Then again that’s likely what North American car giants like Ford and General Motors said about Tesla, or what Chapters or Indigo said about Amazon.

If you want a competitive edge, think about tomorrow’s customer as much as you think about today’s customer.

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