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Monday, August 08, 2011

Physiological ageing and the consumer – a coffee shop is a good place to start

The Economist had a fascinating article about how a couple of Japanese stores are adapting to exploit the older customer (Paywall). The chart explains why, even to the dimmest marketer, this might be a good idea.

Next time I visit Japan I must have a look at the Ueshima coffee shops where, according to the Economist, the aisles are wider, the chairs sturdier and the tables lower. The food is mostly mushy rather than crunchy: sandwiches, salads, bananas—nothing too hard to chew. Helpful staff carry items to customers’ tables. The name and menu are written in Japanese kanji rather than Western letters, in a large, easy-to-read font.

Interestingly, in a Ueshima store a medium-sized coffee is ¥380, about 10% more than at Starbucks.

Another example quoted is the Keio department store where there are are chairs for weary shoppers.

Signs are in large fonts and many salespeople are in their 50s and 60s. The food hall promotes old-fashioned Japanese noodles rather than modern Western imported convenience food.

The shelves are lower, so older people can reach them. (Because of wartime food shortages, the elderly are much shorter than today's young Japanese.) Loyalty cards at Keio award points not according to what you buy, but according to how often you visit.

Even today, these examples are companies responding to older consumers are rare, when you consider the enormity of the change in the demographic profile of developed countries.

How companies respond to the physiological ageing of their customers will be as big a challenge as sustainability/climate change. Dick Stroud

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