Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Evidence of Retailers Understanding Their Customer

I first heard about this exercise a few years ago from a student who worked for a major pharmacy chain...

The Sept. 14, 2009 Wall Street Journal (Marketplace section, page 1) has an interesting feature on a program conducted by Kimberly-Clark to help product managers, executives, and retailers better understand the unique challenges faced by their aging customers.

To do this, participants wear thick leather gloves, special glasses that obscure vision, thumbs bound to hands with wrap, or placing un-popped popcorn kernals inside their shoes.

Seeing Store Shelves Through Senior Eyes

"The program, run by Kimberly-Clark Corp. and delivered to retailers including Rite Aid Corp. and Family Dollar Stores Inc., is a sign of a next frontier in retail. The number of adults aged 65 and older will reach 71.5 million people by 2030, twice their number in 2000 and representing nearly 20% of the total U.S. population, according to estimates by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics."

As the child of parents well over age 65, I am thinking more and more about the needs of seniors and their experiences with a variety of retailers, medical providers, and other day-to-day interactions.

Kimberly-Clark understands this isn't just the right thing to do; it also translates to good business:

"As baby boomers turn 65 years old beginning in 2011, they are expected to spend an additional $50 billion over the next decade on consumer products in the U.S., estimates Sean Seitzinger, senior vice president of consulting and innovation for market-research firm Information Resources Inc."

The article goes on to show changes being made by individual retailers based on better catering to this growing market: from larger type size on labeling and improved lighting to more clear shelf labels.

Very much like many accessibility design improvements, everyone ends up benefiting. Examples of this include sidewalk curbs, street crossings, wider doorways and passageways, etc. [See Accessible Sidewalks and Street Crossings: An Informational Guide (download PDF) via BikeWalk.org]. While these improvements are intended to help with wheelchair and walker access, cyclists, parents with strollers, etc. also benefit.

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