Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A Peek Into EN.Gen and The Future Shopper

Since 1982, the company TRU has been studying each new generation of young people from their early years into their 20s.  Now part of The Futures Company, TRU has christened the generation born since the millennium, including my grandsons as “EN.Gens.”

Following after “Millenials,” it is “EN.Gens” who will probably finish off traditional advertising entirely.  They have grown up not only with the Internet but interactive.  In an interview, TRU’s “director of insights, Rob Callender notes that “EN.Gens” are not used to having to sit through commercials.

Not only are “EN.Gens” growing up in a world where the Internet is fragmenting traditional print, radio and television, they are, in turn, fueling fragmentation of the Internet itself – Facebook, you’re next!

Shaped by this generation, this fragmentation “is going to be deeper and more powerful, and it going to happen faster than it used to.”

Callender graduated with a degree in journalism just as the first “EN.Gens” were being born.  His career began as a newspaper reporter.  Giving insight found in TRU’s ongoing syndicated studies of “EN.Gens”, Callender notes that today’s preconceived notions, including those driving political dialog, just won’t make sense.

Of course, they don’t make sense now to this aging “boomer.”

A take-away from the interview is that the world is going to get even more turbulent, especially for conservative societies.

Shunning advertising doesn’t mean “EN.Gens” are naïve when it comes to media and brands.  Callender notes from the report that they are in fact more “media and brand-savvy.” But even more than Millenials, they will be circumspect about debt and other fiscal matters while being more socially liberal.

Globally, “the average size of shopping baskets is getting smaller and the average number of weekly shopping trips is falling.”  According to a report entitled The Future Shopper.The Future Shopper

Already, NASA has given a research grant to an Austin-based company developing 3-D printed food.

Slow food is fine but regardless of proximity for centuries we’ve been breeding the nutrition out of our food according to a New York Times op-ed by Jo Robinson, the author of the new book entitled, Eating on the Wild Side.

Robinson is an investigative journalist who came to my attention this spring with this very informative video on how to buy produce in the grocery store when it still has nutrients.  This includes eating carrots that are purple.

Apparently all carrots were purple four hundred years ago and we bred them to be orange.  Similarly the sweet corn we covet now was novel at the end of the 1700s.  Darkly colored varieties of corn were and still can be much more nutritious.

Sales of goods through social channels much more direct than Robinson’s video on produce selection was for me is on track to grow from $5 billion two years ago to $30 billion by the year after next according to The Future Shopper.

With trust in advertising now at 25% and falling faster for media such as destructive outdoor roadside billboards, EN.Gens will bring an even deeper skepticism about promises and claims by businesses as they become retail consumers on their own.

Not only are shopping baskets getting smaller and shopping trips less frequent, but across the globe, while the number of households is increasing, they are decreasing in size.  More people are living alone, more children, especially “En.Gens” are being brought up in single-person households.

TRU analysis finds that “En.Gens” are particularly close to their mothers.  I am amazed that my grandsons, ages 7 and 9 are not only far more aware of sports celebrities than I was at their age but across more sports and across past generations.

They are as familiar with Johnny Unitas, Steve Young and Magic Johnson as they are RGIII, Tom Brady or Tim Tebow.

However, “EN.Gens” are more focused on sports celebrities who are inspiring by the way they live their lives.  The 2013 Athlete TRU Scores are topped by 17-year-old Gabby Douglas.  There are as many soccer players in the top 19 as NBA players.

This new generation is projected to accelerate the fast growing trend by consumers to simplify their lives by shedding products and retail experiences that create additional complexity or emotional clutter.  Yet, large chains are beginning to devolve in favor of specialty retailers.

It is probably too early to tell if “En.Gen” will continue the long-term march of consumers toward a genuine and authentic experience.  My guess is they will.  This first generation of truly post PC “digital natives” could be the one that fuses the convenience of online with the connectedness of “buy local.”

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