From The Co-Founders


Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts

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Explaining Trends by Lifestages. You Can!

Just this morning we saw yet another article speculating about the staying power of online shopping, in this instance, grocery shopping. 

  • "Right now, the direction is … unclear," admitted the reporter.* "I have been scouring data on online grocery shopping in the U.S., and I will be humble and say that I don’t have a clear picture."
  • "My wishy-washy analysis is that Americans haven’t fallen head over heels for buying bananas over the internet, but we aren’t rejecting it, either."

Of course, it's not just media pundits who are looking for answers to this question about online versus in-store shopping. Retailers are living with this issue, and they have to make decisions. 

Add technology? Remodel? Hire employees with new or different skills? Whether? What? When? All with major strategic and financial implications. 

How can a retailer best make "customer driven decisions?" By using the concept of Lifestages.

Lifestages recognize that our shopping behaviors are driven more by our "stage of life" than by demographics. That is, parents of pre-schoolers (a Lifestage) tend to have the same shopping needs for their households, whether the parents themselves are 18 or 38 years old (demographics).

Here are the major Lifestages that impact shopping behaviors:

  • SINKs and DINKs
    Single Income, No Kids; Dual Income, No Kids. On their own, and spending for themselves.
  • Households With Children age 12 & under
    Clearly a different Lifestage once kids are in the picture. New obligations and responsibilities, reflected in new shopping behaviors.
  • Households with Teenagers
    Onsite teenagers definitely impacts shopping behaviors of households.
  • "Empty Nesters" 
    Once the kids have left the nest, some of these Empty Nesters are really “Reborn SINKs and DINKs!” They can once again spend on their favorite subject... themselves! 
  • Retirees; Widows/Widowers 
    Or as some have described them, "Left Alone Singles." Again, the retailer's focus is on how Lifestages affect shopping behaviors.

Now, use data available online or from your public library to see how Lifestages apply to your local market. And be prepared for some surprises! 

  • That is, does your market area have a preponderance of aging retirees? Lots of young SINKs and DINKs working in technology areas? Young families?
  • Which Lifestage groups are "over-represented?"

Next, of these Lifestage groups, which two (maybe three) have historically been the most important customer groups for your stores? 
Think about it. Don't worry about being precise; we're talking Big Picture here. Maybe involve some of your key staff people too, to get their ideas. 

  • It's likely that you will discover that your store and merchandise appeal particularly to just one Lifestage.
  • Now, redouble your research efforts. 

Finally, where is the opportunity? That is, YOUR opportunity?
Don't be distracted by the "conventional wisdom" of "emerging growth markets." What are the opportunities in your particular markets? 

👀 To get started, here's an important idea: in addition to all the personal customer data you might be capturing, try adding a Lifestage code into your POS system, so you can track sales results by Lifestages. This is far more useful for your strategic financial decisions than all that "granular data."

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the future of online shopping. Each Lifestage will have different reasons to embrace it (or not.)

Knowing more about the Lifestages of your customers will enable you to make decisions with much more confidence. 

We can't predict the grocery future. Shira Ovide, The New York Times; 4.18.22.

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