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Create a Community: Ideas for Attracting GenY

Connecting online and store environments with in-store events will bring in GenY shoppers



This is the second of a four-part series by MulvannyG2 Architecture that offers marketing, store design, and development strategies to help retailers leverage Gen X’s spending peak and GenY’s rise, into the next decade.

Why? Demographics point to the potential of a longer-term economic funk: GenY, while large in numbers, is today youthful and will not hit peak spending until around 2027. And GenX, at about half the size of both GenY and Boomers, is known for more conservative spending habits.

Combine GenY’s youth, GenX’s small numbers, and Boomers’ waning economic impact, and it could point to the beginning of a 17-year spending slump for retailers.

To anticipate this, we’re presenting ideas for creating retail experiences that play to GenY’s penchant for community building, both online and in-person.

GenY expects social media, as well as community building, to be integrated into the retail experience. Retailers who take the lead in using it to drive shoppers to stores now will appeal to greater numbers of GenY as this age group progresses into its peak spending years.

So, how do you do this?


Converge channels

Stores that consistently present a compatible feel and experience among their online and bricks-and-mortar presences can appeal to the technology-savvy GenY. Does your store reference the same look and information that your online site does? What news or other information is tangential to information about your store online? Is that apparent in your store location?

For example, J.Crew is clever at integrating its website and its promotions, both online and in stores. The strategy leads consumers from one J.Crew experience to another, making them more rapt with the brand at every turn: Become the store’s fan on Facebook where a link will let you listen to the song that’s the backdrop to a video for the J.Crew Collection (and composed just for J.Crew). Check out the latest sale via an email prompt. Go to the store at the mall to consider the fabric and cut of items you’re interested in. Go back online to double check the styling of the items in the catalog. Order your size in the color you want at Each experience – and channel – supports and leads to the next.

Hold Events

A retail store will become not only a place to purchase goods, but a meeting place where local readers and contributors to a blog or Facebook page can meet, greet, drink and shop.

EVO, a store in Seattle’s trendy Fremont neighborhood, connects with those into skate- and snow-boarding with a blog, art shows and social events. Wine tastings become an excuse to invite customers to the EVO store, which not only sells gear and clothing, but becomes the place where the store’s online community – its fan base – gathers. The result is an increase in foot traffic to the store, as well as hits to its web site.


Or take Lululemon, a purveyor of yoga gear. Lululemon holds yoga classes in its stores about once a week. The furniture and fixtures are on casters and designed to be moved, jigsaw-style, into the dressing room corridor. This allows a large portion of floor space to be opened up to accommodate upward of 35 downward facing dogs. The store then becomes a conduit to local yoga instructors and vice versa, an expert in the delivery of national-caliber yoga expertise through classes and seminars, and a means for yogis to meet one another.

Building community, through the convergence of channels and in-store events, builds consumer loyalty and a fan base. This sense of belonging is crucial to attracting GenY. Make it happen by connecting online and store environments with design techniques and events.

Brian Fleener is a senior principal at MulvannyG2 Architecture. The ideas published here will be discussed at IRDC, Oct. 13 to 15, in Toronto during MulvannyG2’s panel discussion, “GenX’s Peak and the Rise of GenY.” For more information on IRDC sessions, visit

For part I in this series, click here.






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