Who Are Your Consumers?

In the past few years, much has been made of the divisions among age groups as buyers. Mollie Carmichael, principal, advisory, Meyers Research LLC, who spoke at the recent Housing Innovation Alliance Summit in New Orleans said that while those divisions can be helpful, what’s more important is to break groups down into “actionable segments.”

“The hard part about talking about generations is that it’s not actionable when you’re talking about huge, wide spans of age groups. For example, some say Gen Y are 17 today, some say 23 today or 25 today. What’s the answer?” she said. “What you really want to look at is life stage. Millennials who are married with children need a very different housing solution than singles or couples.”

When Carmichael works with builders she helps them look at consumers’ life stage and what that group could afford and then she layers in lifestyle, which, she said does have “some generational impact on swaths of generations.”

The typical segments have become known as the Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y. Carmichael has segmented the terms further to Mature Boomers, Young Boomers, Gen X, and then created a “Tweener” category, which, she said, is a gray area.

The silent generation is fully retired, she said. Mature boomers are mostly not working today – 70 percent are retired. For young boomers, 70 percent are working. “How these groups spend their money is very different.”

Gen X are the most diverse when it comes to family. They’re the most likely to have multi-generations living together, and the younger they are, the more ethnically diverse their households will be. As for her category of “Tweeners,” Carmichael says, “about 90 percent are shopping for a home today and are all-family.”

Young Gen Y are mostly non-family up to age 32. “Thirty-two plus is when they convert to family. Gen Z, they’re 13 to 22. Only 1 percent of people under 25 are shopping for a home today. This is a nice way to take the generations and make some sense out of it and tie it to life stage.”

Combining this data with geography and ethnicity can help builders really define who is purchasing and what their needs and wants are.

Regardless, of how you segment and think about the generations and add in consumer purchasing data, the overriding issue builders should be thinking about, Carmichael said, are the 1,440 minutes that make up a day. Time is the thing most consumers want more of. “Anything you build, every product, every process, every experience should be about making every one of those 1,440 minutes of every day of a consumer’s life better.”