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It’s a West Coast Thing


Understanding Regional Customer Differences Can Provide Retailers an Edge


I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Retail Council of Canada’s ‘Retail West’ conference in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.


While the focus of my presentation was to highlight some of the generational differences between B.C. shoppers, I was surprised to see some regional differences as well.


There’s a lesson here for retailers. But first, here’s the B.C.-specific customer data I shared, along with some additional tidbits that time didn’t permit:


B.C. Baby Boomers are a forgiving bunch. Only two in five Boomers (1944-1964) reported that they experienced a problem with their last shopping trip. Gen-X (1965-1979) and Millennials (1979-1986), on the other hand, reported a much high incidence of problems — one in two.


What didn’t you hear at Retail West? While Baby Boomers in B.C. have fewer problem experiences compared to other B.C. Shoppers, those on the west coast experience slightly more problems compared to Canadian shoppers overall. Gen Xers are the pickiest – 50% of B.C Gen Xers experienced a problem on their last shopping trip compared to 44% of Gen Xers in Canada overall.


Not all Millennials shop for kale the same way. Or carrots, for that matter. Younger millennials were more than twice as likely to report having found ‘the same quality produce was available somewhere else for less’ than their older Millennial counterparts.


What didn’t you hear at Retail West? While B.C. shoppers experience more problems overall, the opposite is true for grocery in B.C.; grocery shoppers in B.C. experience less friction than Canada grocery shoppers overall. A particular strength of west coast grocery stores is store atmosphere. For all age groups, grocery shoppers in B.C. report that "the store atmosphere was unappealing" far less Canada overall.


Millennials want better service in the drugstore. Drugstore shoppers were asked to comment on the issue of ‘the sales associate did not give me any advice, offer any choices, or make a recommendation.’ It turns out that older Millennials in B.C. are more than three times more likely to experience this problem than Baby Boomers.


What didn’t you hear at Retail West? This pattern is far from the case in Canada overall. The discrepancy between older Millennials and Baby Boomers is so prominent in B.C. because it is a more frequent issue among the former, and a less frequent issue among the ladder.


Regional differences — a competitive advantage?

Retailers already know that the wants and needs of shoppers vary across the country. That’s why, even for the same banner, you’ll often see a different product assortment and different promotions between a store in Vancouver and a store Winnipeg.


They also know that to keep shoppers of different ages engaged, different tactics are required. If not, we’d see a lot fewer articles about how best to engage Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen Z.


Good retailers are already dialed into these differences independently – but rarely do they consider the compound effect.


Retailers must be mindful of both regional and generational differences in shopper’s expectations, even when small. In particular, it is important to understand how those differences influence the perception of friction and resulting customer experience. Understanding and leveraging those differences may provide an edge in the highly competitive retail arena.


Paula Courtney is a WisePlum Contributor

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