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Are you ready for the grey tsunami?

The aging boomers provide retailers with some real challenges as well as opportunities

Recently, there has been a lot of emphasis in the marketplace around how to best capture the attention of the millennial generation.

Although this group is certainly a valuable target, the Canadian population is undergoing a dramatic shift: it’s aging more rapidly than ever before. And this trend will have significant implications for grocers in the years to come.

According to Statistics Canada, aging in Canada is accelerating as the baby boomers mature with the population of those over the age of 65 surging to nearly five million over the past five years.

By 2031, all baby boomers will have reached 65, bringing the proportion of seniors to a level as high as 23%, compared to 15% in 2011.

With nearly a quarter of the Canadian population entering into this ‘golden’ age, retailers are faced with some real challenges but also great opportunities.

Those who can identify key demographic trends through their data, and then use these insights to tailor the consumer shopping experience accordingly, will be able to tap into the largest slice of the mature market pie.

Grocers looking to come out ahead amidst this inevitable demographic shift should consider the following:

Tailor the shopping experience. The physical layout of stores will play a significant role in attracting and retaining a mature consumer base. Retailers that can cater their infrastructure to their rising consumer base by lowering shelf heights to allow for accessible products, providing wide aisles and ensuring easy-to-read signs or providing on-cart magnifying glasses will encourage a loyal following.

Rethink promotions. Value promotions that encourage consumers to purchase larger quantities than they need or will use will increasingly become less effective. Think monetary discounts, not buy-one-get-one-free.

Rethink the assortment. In a similar vein to the previous point, grocers will need to re-think pack sizes.  Seniors living in households with one or two mouths to feed will not need large pack sizes, especially in categories that are perishable.  Fresh, healthy ready-made meal options with single or double portions will be ideal for seniors.

Healthcare consumerism is rising. With rapid growth in the drug store channel to accompany aging shoppers, consider bolstering pharmacy offers to meet the increasing demand for convenient health care products and services. Also, convenience is key. Over-the-phone and online prescription re-fills will be valued by customers with limited mobility.

Tap into technology. Unlike previous generations of seniors, many baby boomers have integrated the internet into their daily lives. A report last year by seniors’ services provider Revera Inc. in partnership with Leger Marketing found that more than half of online seniors older than 75 belong to a social networking site and more than one-third of them go to those sites daily. This number is only set to increase. Toss away the stigma that seniors do not understand technology and instead use it as an avenue for delivering targeted, relevant offers to increase engagement.

As the baby boom segment continues to grow and increasingly gains purchasing power, retailers must rely on their customer data to adapt and respond to these quickly approaching market changes.

By using analytics to properly tailor their offerings, grocers will appeal to this demographic and in turn, continue to foster and strengthen customer loyalty.

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