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Got Registry?
Online Gift Registry is Retailers’ Secret Weapon to Capture
the Echo Boomer Consumer

Giftware Business
June, 2012
By Laura Deck

 

Meet Jennifer. She’s 27 years old, engaged to Michael and planning her dream wedding in June. They are today’s bridal registry couple. They are your store’s registry couple.

But many storeowners are not aware of them or their habits, so let’s take a tour of their culture and bring you up to speed. Since this demographic represents one-third of the U.S. population, and 30 percent of them will get married in 2012, this is a very good time to get to know the 24-million-plus of them who will be coming to your stores.

Like most of the 80 million “Echo Boomers” (also known as “Generation Y” or “Millennials”), Jennifer and Michael are tech-savvy, impatient and peer-oriented. An impressive 97 percent of them own computers and, of course, 94 percent own cell phones. They are “always on” – they tweet, yelp, text, like, flickr, tag and blog.

Did you know that, as a typical Echo Boomer, Jennifer has 337 friends on Facebook, 42 apps on her phone, and spends 11 hours a week shopping online at sites like OneKingsLane, a leading flash sales site for the home goods market?

Echo Boomers make up more than 55 percent of Facebook users. They are loyal to their favorite brands, and when it comes to voicing their opinions, likes and dislikes, they share everything with their community. The members of this influential group, aged roughly 14 to 34, spend $170 billion per year. Their digital consumer hearts and minds are up for grabs, and they are your future. They live a good portion of their lives online and expect the stores they do business with to have an online presence as well.

They believe that every consumer choice, every vote, every blog post and tweet matters. Echo Boomers come of age expecting to be heard, effect change and have it their way. They are more likely than older adults to say that technology makes life easier and brings family and friends closer together. Most of them can’t remember a time when e-commerce and social media didn’t exist. They have fused their social lives into their gadgets and expect to use technology to manage all areas of their lives, especially those once-in-a-lifetime events like weddings.

Getting to Know You

How does this affect the registry offering in your store? The numbers tell the story:

Women between the ages of 18 and 34 will enter their prime marrying years and comprise two out of every three brides by 2012, according to a 2007 survey by Conde Nast Bridal Media (Modern Bride/Bride).
The number of people turning 27 (average age of first marriage for women) will grow 30 percent between 2007 and 2018 as the Echo Boomer generation comes of age.
Total spending on U.S. weddings has increased $5 billion since 2002 to a total of $125 billion today, according to a study by The Fairchild Bridal Group.

If you don’t capture the loyalty of this exploding demographic, someone else will. Most baby boomers, the primary owners and operators of tabletop and kitchen stores, likely view Echo Boomer behavior quizzically, or perhaps don’t approve of or agree with it. If this sounds familiar, acknowledge that you might be alienating an important future customer segment.

What to do? Be a student of their habits, how they live, make decisions and perceive the world. The way Echo Boomers make wedding registry decisions is the key to your store’s future and longevity. The time is now to speak their language and invite them into your retail world.

Connecting the Dots

By now, gourmet kitchen retailers should be asking themselves, “How do I connect with these new, young, techno-centric couples and establish lifelong relationships with them?” According to Martha and Art Nading, Gourmet Catalog members and owners of Extra Ingredient, an independent kitchen and gourmet store in Greensboro, N.C., the young generation demands online registry lists. “Brides would not register with us if we didn’t offer registry online, and it would really limit our sales,” says Martha Nading.

Extra Ingredient uses an outsource wedding and gift registry service provided by Gourmet Catalog’s strategic partner, Your Registry Inc., a California-based company founded by Elsa Pinto-Melikian that assists independent stores with the setup of in-store and online registries, consulting services, and support of the Echo Boomer segment 24/7 via toll-free customer service. “The growth potential for independent retailers wanting to build their cookware and high-end category sales through wedding registries is limitless,” Pinto-Melikian notes. “In addition to increasing revenue, an online registry will help you reach a new customer base and level the playing field with big box retailers.”

Successful specialty stores in tabletop, gourmet kitchen and hardware (yes, hardware) are taking the time to learn Echo Boomer buying habits and preferences, and then offer personalized assistance to this group of potential lifelong customers.

An online registry will help establish a long-term relationship with the millennial bride and continue to pay dividends when that happy couple shares its positive experience with peers. “A very positive outcome to our member stores, as registry is such a word-of-mouth decision for the bride and groom,” adds Janis Johnson, president and founder of Dallas-based Gourmet Catalog & Buying Group. The store’s reputation will go viral very quickly. Congratulations – you’ve just expanded the reach of your marketing campaign.

Now, back to our millennial bridal couple. Jennifer and Michael have been busy designing their personal wedding Web site that will contain photos from the engagement party, details about their big day, an online guest book and a direct link to their online gift registry. To them, giving guests the ability to browse through the registry and purchase gifts online is absolutely essential. And it’s safe to say that the majority of their connected peers feel the same way. Right now, they’re likely working on writing their own vows. If only there was an app for that.

Laura Deck is a freelance writer who lives in San Carlos, Calif.

© 2012 Gourmet Business

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