While economic predictions for the coming year vary widely according to the source, certain trends that emerged during 2023 will become larger and more important. Small business owners, in particular, should consider incorporating a way to capitalize on some or all of these trends in their business model to keep pace with the competition. Integrating some or all of today’s business trends also offers customers a dynamic of relevancy and currency and can offer distinction in today’s highly competitive business world.
Over the past decade, an increasing paradigm shift surrounding aging has occurred. People of all generations are strongly interested in increasing their life expectancy. Books abound about living in blue zones or adopting a blue zone lifestyle, and the internet is replete with supplements, nutritional advice, beauty and other kinds of products, body improvement programs, and more, all focused on increasing your life expectancy.
We are investing in the idea that we can impact our life expectancy and live a vital and robust life for more years than our parents and certainly our grandparents did. Boutique medical practices focused on healthy aging are springing up everywhere. We see people we would formerly have considered “too old” appearing in films – Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Anthony Hopkins –and performing strenuous concert tours – Mick Jagger, Elton John, Rod Stewart, and even going into space – William Shatner at age 90. At a much younger age, a greater percent of today’s population focuses on planning and shaping their physical, mental, and emotional health to ensure a robust and meaningful quality of life for their later years.
The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1944 and 1964, are the oldest of the estimated 73 million Boomers in the U.S. and are in their late 70s. The annual death rate of the generation is 5,300 per 100,000, demonstrating they as well are likely living longer than their parents. Census data shows that Boomers hold a whopping 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income. Products aimed at this generation will find a potential buyer with money to spend, particularly if it improves their quality of life.
How Can You Bring Consumer Interest in Longevity Into Your Own Business?
If you are a bookstore, consider creating a section on healthy aging. You might offer author-led seminars on some of the fundamentals, such as movement and nutrition. Don’t be surprised if your customers include persons in their 30s and 40s.
Create a meetup walking group sponsored by your business for seniors, which also provides many an opportunity to meet peers at a time of life when many have lost friends, family, and spouses and welcome the opportunity to make new friends. But it also demonstrates your interest in and support of this generation.
If you own a spa, offer special senior skin and hair care treatments, offer seminars about caring for aging hair and skin, and carry a line of products intended for that demographic.
Have a yoga studio? Why not offer yoga or chair yoga classes only for seniors who might feel shy or alienated working out next to an ultra-fit Spandex-clad person in their 20s?
Coffee shops could offer a non-exclusive seating section where seniors could meet and chat with others of their age, encouraging them to come again and again to spend time with new friends.
Ensure your employees are trained to be culturally and generationally appropriate when serving senior customers by being polite and patient, listening meaningfully to their requests, and recognizing their economic viewpoint – think coupons. Some store owners should consider offering training about how to treat senior customers with respect, compassion, kindness, and without condescension. This change alone can quickly reflect in your bottom line.
A bit of creative thinking will produce ways for any business to tap into the general market interest in longevity. Remember: longevity-focused products and services are not just for seniors but also finding interest and acceptance in those already planning for their senior years at a relatively young age.
There is no longer any denying that the Earth is getting warmer. According to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, July 2023 was hotter than any other month in the global temperature record. Climate change is impacting people, economies, and ecosystems and changing life on Earth at a faster than anticipated rate. Climate change has fueled interest in sustainability in business, which cuts across nearly every sector and is a global rather than merely a first-world trend. Forbes Magazine stated, “A desire to help the environment was found to be the primary reason consumers purchase sustainable products and brands. Almost 30% say they want to improve the environment, 23% wish to reduce production waste, 22% wish to reduce their carbon footprint, and 17% are concerned with animal welfare.”
This trend will continue to feel ‘up close and personal’ for many if not most of us. When it comes to sustainability and sustainable shopping, the Gen Z consumer in particular has an outsized influence on not only their Gen X parents but even their Boomer grandparents when it comes to sustainable shopping. Gen Z members are born between 1997 and 2012 and are currently between 9 and 24 years old (nearly 68 million in the U.S.) We’ll talk more about Gen Z consumers below.
How Should Your Small Businesses Respond to The Trend Toward Sustainability?
Offer at least some sustainably made, sustainably sourced, and fair trade produced items and advertise that fact at your point of sale or product displays. This means strong ethical, social, and environmental performance standards that are employed wherever possible for your line of products.
Focus on sustainability as a marketing message in your customer newsletters, social media, and other marketing and advertising forms.
Be transparent with your customer base and in your store regarding the sustainable business practices you employ, e.g., reducing the use of paper, recycling paper and other products, offering a bike rack to reduce driving to your business, offering eco-friendly packaging, using solar power if possible and encouraging a responsible use of water. Use a ‘green’ host for your website, such as GreenGeeks.com, which also offers a seal you can put right on your site. Sustainability helps everyone, and your customers will thank you.
According to an analysis by Deloitte, 80% of consumers are more likely to get their product from a company that offers them a hyper-personalized customer experience. But what is hyper-personalization? This is the marketing approach to customer interaction in every form and in every channel that taps into their most basic human needs. This is the 2024 version of relationship or database marketing, which began to gain ground in the 80s. This often involves a company’s ability to manage its marketing to tap into the needs of an individual at a deeply personal level.
In very large businesses, AI is often used to accomplish this. AI engines can gather your internet searches and recent purchases, record your affinity for brand or generic purchasing, coupons, and more. The location feature on your phone can sometimes track your movements. How often have you searched for something through a Google browser only to see an ad for that thing pop up on a different site a short time later? Amazon is both a pioneer and a master at hyper-personalization. It is foundational to their business model. You might think it’s unnerving and it certainly can be, but it is a ‘today’ dynamic that will likely grow even stronger in 2024.
How Can Small Businesses Without AI or the Desire for AI Capability Still Provide a Hyper-Personalized Experience for Their Customers?
Start a database-supported customer loyalty program that records and tracks customer purchases at the individual level. Make your loyalty program easy to benefit from through the easy earning of dollars off future purchases. But don’t stop there. Use your sales and customer database to find customers with a propensity to purchase certain types of products and offer them private sales, notices of related events, and more. A key component of this is your desire to build an individual relationship with your customers and offer them more of what they like and want.
Ensure your employees learn to recognize and greet your reoccurring customers by name, perhaps remembering (or quickly looking up) their most recent purchases and asking them how they enjoyed what they had purchased. Customer service of this type ‘sews’ your brand into the customer’s awareness with a visceral remembrance of having their needs met at a deeper level. Customers who have received this kind of personal service and attention are most likely to return often, giving your business the customer loyalty – you have earned.
Brainstorm other ways to provide your customers with an individual and personal experience according to your business type. Some studies demonstrate that adding this dynamic to your business model can increase sales by an average of 22%.
4. Gen Z Customer Segment
The Gen Z population segment is powerfully influential. Their spending power is on the rise, commanding, according to Bloomberg, an estimated $360 billion in disposable income. But their purchasing and spending habits are quite different than generations before them. I referenced above their strong interest in products, services, and businesses that transparently offer sustainable products and a sustainable business model – they will quickly boycott businesses that don’t ‘check any of the boxes’ regarding sustainability. But there is more to know about Gen Z consumers.
They are highly influenced by social media, often deciding to purchase from that channel alone. This includes individual posts and especially advertising that appears within the context of a channel, targeted by AI to the individual. Therefore, advertising to this generation at the place where they ‘live’ is crucial. Social media also spawns influencers and brand ambassadors who have the ear of their followers and substantially impact their purchasing preferences.
Members are highly aware and self-aware, socially and/or environmentally responsible, value diversity and equality, family, and success, and worry about terrorism, gun violence, and the economy. As such, they tend to gravitate toward brands that align with similar beliefs and will offer their loyalty as consumers to those with which they resonate.
Members of Gen Z are less likely to fall for clickbait, having emerged from the world of online pandemic shopping into more careful and thoughtful spenders. They are also highly adept online shoppers more conversant with newer payment methods such as Venmo and Apple Pay.
What Does This Mean for Small Businesses?
First, don’t discount Gen Z consumers if they don’t currently make up a large percentage of your customer base. They are there, and they are already an important economic segment. They will be coming, and sooner than you might think. To earn the business of a Gen Z consumer, be highly transparent about offering sustainable business practices and products at an individual product ad level.
Sales and coupons hold less appeal for Gen Z consumers. Instead, offer them the personal and ethical experience of your products and services. Offer inclusivity in your marketing language and explain your brand promise and what it offers in terms of authenticity. Think of Nike, which advertises shoes named after elite sports stars, as shoes being worn by the common man rather than a product line for a few.
Maintaining a robust and active social media presence includes many of the above elements. To earn the Gen Z dollar, you will need to meet them where they live.
If you are a business owner, consider choosing at least one of these trends to add to your business model and marketing mix for 2024. This will help your business be fresh, relevant, cross-generational, and caring in a rapidly changing world.