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Roger Blackwell stresses importance of Millennials

Roger BlackwellRoger Blackwell, left, author, professor, marketing expert and keynote speaker at Furniture/Today’s Leadership Conference, autographs his book “Brands That Rock” for Willie Diaz of Zuo.
NAPLES, Fla. - Retailers and suppliers that don't plan for the needs of young consumers could soon be facing their own demise.
     That was the message from Roger Blackwell, the keynote speaker at the Furniture/Today Leadership Conference held here.
     In his presentation "Furniture Marketing for the Future: Changing Organizations to Have What Millennials Will Buy," Blackwell used the analogy of the frog in the pot of water: It will immediately jump out of a pot of boiling water, but will stay put in if the water is heated up slowly.
     Like the frog at rest in the slowly warming pot of water, companies that don't plan for the needs of Millennials won't notice they are in trouble until it's too late, he said. Companies should plan ahead based on population and demographic shifts.
     "You cannot talk about the future without talking about demographics," he said, noting that Hispanics, for example, are growing faster than white or black segments of the population and that women under 30 who finish college are becoming higher earners than their male counterparts. He added that 12 of the 15 fastest growing professions also are dominated by women.
     "We know how many people will be in each age group - it is as predictable as tommorrow's sunrise," said Blackwell.
     His presentation was full of facts and figures highlighting the shifting demographic trends involving the segment of the population born between 1980 and 2000. While these projected 58 million Millennials are not as big a group as the 74 million Baby Boomers, they are the next largest population segment, which makes them important to the furniture business.
     "They are the only hope to replace aging Baby Boomers who won't be here too much longer," he said.
     Millennials, he noted, also are shaped by generational experiences ranging from 9/11 and the Great Recession to the prevalence of computers and social networking that make information gathering and shopping a different experience than what Baby Boomers or Gen X consumers grew up with.
     Also critical to an organization's success, he said, is to understand its values, which in turn will help shape its strategy.
     "It is extremely important to be clear about the causes of success," he said. "Can you write down your values? If you can't write down your values, you don't know them. And more importantly, do other people in the organization know them?"
     He also urged attendees to recognize and adapt to fast growing channels of distribution such as e-commerce, which grew 14.8% in 2010 compared with overall retail sales growth of 7.7%.
     Organizations, he said, must be able to get into the minds of consumers and understand their wants and needs in order to effectively serve those customers. He added that companies also must engage in marketing, which he defined as manipulating the organization to have what customers will buy at a profit.
     Companies that understand their core values and change with the times to effectively market their organization will likely succeed, he said. Those that don't could end up like the frog in the slowly boiling pot of water.

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