Professional Jeweler Archive: Meet Your Future Customers

February 2005

Cover Focus / Gen Y

Meet Your Future Customers

Connect with youthful customers now to begin a lifelong relationship

By Ellen Fruchtman

Gen Y, the vaunted demographic group that’s starting to shop in your store, will be anywhere from 11 to 26 years old this year, give or take a few years because demographers use slightly different dates.

I’m not sure how you generalize about an age group this diverse. But the older ones can clearly remember the O.J. Simpson trial, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Clinton/ Lewinsky scandal, the Columbine school massacre and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Each of these events had a social or emotional impact on them.

Gen Y is coming of age as their parents are earning more than ever and sharing it with their offspring. Consequently, this generation is spending lots of money. (A member of Gen Y wrote in Professional Jeweler in October 2004 that she and her mother wear each other’s jewelry and like to shop at Tiffany & Co.’s website, but guess who takes out her credit card when it’s time to buy?)

Gen Y consumers are edgy, smart and interactive. Overall, they’re optimistic and upbeat. According to a survey by the American Savings Education Council, half the people ages 16-22 save a portion of their money. They’re not frugal, just more financially savvy than their parents were at the same ages. This generation has the greatest number of parents who both work – which may make them more responsible and more self-reliant.

However, they often consult with their parents on important decisions. Many have a greater interest in family, community and religion than the generation before them. They’re also the first generation to grow up with the Internet as a part of their daily lives. They are communication addicts.

What does all this mean to you?

From a marketing perspective, consider the importance of having a good website. This generation uses media. They’ll talk on the phone, send an instant message and watch TV at the same time. It’s difficult to get their undivided attention and to make them remember your message. To connect, your message will need to stand out. If your advertising looks like your competitor’s, you’re wasting money and effort when it comes to reaching Gen Y.

As communication addicts, these consumers readily pass on positive and negative brand experiences to their peers. If their experience in your store is good, they’ll tell everyone they know. If they have a bad experience, they’ll tell everyone they know. Got that message?

Remember the Blair Witch Project phenomenon? This film grossed millions of dollars, all through peer-to-peer marketing on the web.

To retain Gen Y customers, communicate with them through e-mail. Have a referral program that allows them to forward your e-mail on to a friend for a possible reward. Consider an e-mail contest, with more chances to win with every e-mail sent. In the biz, this strategy is called viral marketing. Sounds like a disease, but viral marketing encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for more exposure and influence.

Great viral marketing starts with a robust list of e-mail addresses. How good is yours? To reach Gen Y, you better know where they’re @. If you need help getting in touch with them, try their parents – they do keep in touch.

Members of Gen Y are staying closer to their parents than previous generations did. This can result in greater buying power and ongoing influence between the generations. These two ads are part of a Cartier portfolio celebrating family relationships. Emmy award winner Amber Tamblyn from TV’s “Joan of Arcadia” poses with her father, Russ Tamblyn, who played Riff in the 1960s film version of West Side Story and was on TV’s “Twin Peaks” in the early 1990s.
Mother/daughter actresses Kate and Jessica Capshaw leave readers wondering who’s older. Such generational blurring is becoming more common.

Marketing to Gen Y

Consider these as you communicate with Gen Y:

High-pressure selling is a no-no. These consumers are already used to buying without pressure online.

They research products on the web. Understand transparency in prices and technical information, especially in diamonds.

Uninformed sales associates will turn them off. Associates need to know more than Gen Y consumers have already learned about a product on the Internet.

Make sure your marketing reaches the parents of Gen Y. They are close to their children and still buy things for them.

Non-profit sponsorships and other cause marketing efforts will get a response. The 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship study showed Americans ages 18-25 are significantly more likely than older people to consider a retailer’s citizenship practices when making buying decisions.

Ellen Fruchtman is partner and founder of Fruchtman Marketing, a full-service agency headquartered in Toledo, OH, representing independent jewelers, jewelry manufacturers and diamond distributors throughout the U.S. Contact her at (419) 539-2770, or

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications