Multigenerational Households Are Influencing North American Retail Trends Marketing strategies need to include families with adult kids and grandparents under the same roof.

By Sharon Vinderine

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images

The average family home looks very different today than in years past. According to recent data, a record 64 million Americans and 2.2 million Canadians are currently living in multigenerational homes, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down.

As the cost of living in most major cities increases, populations continue to live longer and the ethnocultural composition in both countries steadily shifts, various industries are making the necessary adjustments to accommodate the related societal changes. For example, real estate developers are adapting their home designs to create more appropriate living spaces to accommodate grandparents, parents and children, but what does having more generations under one roof mean for retailers?

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New household shopping trends are emerging.

Living with parents was the most common living arrangement for Americans aged 18-34 in 2016, and this trend showed an increase across all racial groups. Additionally, 10 percent of children under 18 were growing up with a grandparent in the house at that time. Similar trends have been reported in Canada, where 34.7 percent of young adults aged 20 to 34 were living with at least one parent in 2016, and independent living rates continue to drop.

As a result, buying patterns are no longer as predictable as they used to be. The "traditional family unit" is not the same as it was 50 years ago and this implies three things:

  1. Household figureheads are fluid and moms may be relinquishing some of the shopping responsibility and therefore decision-making power.
  2. Parents are no longer the sole influencers of their children's future shopping behavior.
  3. The kinds of products people buy for their homes will start to reflect the needs and interests of baby boomers through gen Z.

Related: 3 Touch Points to Better Engage a Multigenerational Workforce

What retailers will need to consider.

There is a natural set of behavioral differences that define consumers on a generational level and that guide their shopping habits: generally speaking, baby boomers value high morals and equal opportunities, gen Xers regard strong work ethic and pragmatism, and millennials appreciate tech savviness and cultural diversity. Moving forward, brands will need to take note of how multigenerational living might impact these differences and explore how to connect successfully with the various audiences now living under one roof.

Further, the shopping behaviors that children learn at a young age are now being shaped by parents and grandparents. Now more than ever, children are exposed to the purchasing habits of older caretakers, which could have long-term effects on their own mindsets as consumers. Consequently, brand loyalty, price sensitivity and the perception of value may shift as children watch and mimic the habits of this new group of direct influencers.

In the years ahead, household brand engagement could hinge on more inclusive marketing; for instance, by 2035 one out of three U.S. households will be headed by someone over 65. As grandparents are now feeding into buying decisions, retailers should examine how traditional versus modern lifestyle attitudes will influence shopping trends, as well as expect a wider range of items to be purchased per household to meet the needs of all inhabitants.

Finally, financial responsibility often lies with those who have the most disposable income. As such, millennials living with their parents may not have the final say on what or how to buy. Retailers wishing to target this group should keep in mind that millennials who live on their own likely approach shopping differently, and should tailor their efforts accordingly.

Related: 3 Ways Technology Influences Generational Divides at Work

Successful brands will take a fresh approach

The spike in multigenerational households presents an exciting challenge for retailers; the shift that is taking place requires a fresh take on how to reach target audiences, as well as a closer look at whom those audiences actually are.

So, moving forward, retailers must find a way to appeal to multiple generations at once while also providing a consistent brand experience for all. In order to do so, they not only have to embrace their similarities, but they must reconcile and address some pretty significant generational differences as well.

Wavy Line
Sharon Vinderine

Founder & CEO

Sharon Vinderine is the founder of Parent Tested Parent Approved and the recipient of the RBC Women Entrepreneur award. Vinderine has been featured on more than 200 television shows nationally.

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