Mind the Gap When It Comes to Connecting with Customers

Millennials account for 31 percent of all luxury goods purchased online, compared to 23 percent of gen-Xers.

Demographics, or the study of human populations, are an important tool that helps businesses understand the impact different generations have on the economy—how sales and spending have been affected in the past and what is in store for the future of service in this industry. Shifts in demographics and the characteristics of those populations have a profound effect on how a business should market itself to the consumer. That being said, there is a new group in town the pool and hot tub industry must now market its services to as a shift is taking place, moving from the focus on baby boomers to Generation Xers and millennials.

For years, the industry has focused on the postwar baby boomer generation (ages 48 to 68) who have had the income and desire to invest in nesting, raising families, and improving their home, which included the addition of pools and hot tubs. As many of the older baby boomers are now considering retirement, their attention is turning to simplifying their lives and downsizing into smaller homes.

The generation X factor

Generation X, the children of baby boomers, born after 1964, possess a different mindset when it comes to purchasing homes and amenities. David Foot, an economist and demographer at the University of Toronto, refers to generation X as the baby busters. According to Foot, the population base is undergoing a major transformation, a swing from a predominately young to a prominently middle-aged society. Because of this, pool service professionals must brand their offerings with more quality and service, while placing less emphasis on price.

Why is this important to the swimming pool and hot tub industry? For a business to effectively plan its marketing techniques for the future, it is important it understands what drives this generation as it is much different from those prior. Generation Xers are attracted to affordable, quality products and services; they are also focused on the environment, and thus, are influenced by sustainable products and services. They are strong believers in treating the earth with respect and are interested in recycling, hybrid cars, and saving energy. Therefore, when marketing to this demographic, industry professionals should emphasize the energy efficiencies of the products they are selling.

Building a rapport is important, too as it will take them longer to make a decision because trusting where they do business is a priority. They are not the flexible generation—so selling to this group requires the ability to not only prove product quality, but also the superiority of the business and what it stands for. Generation Xers listen closely to their peers rather than take advice from older generations such as baby boomers. Therefore, referrals and references are important to share, including online referrals, which are extremely important in this age of social media. This also reveals the value they place on other people’s opinions more so than what the mass media has to say.

This generation is also turned off by sales people who double-talk and are manipulative. Forget the hard sell as it is interpreted as harsh, rude, and obnoxious, which comes across as a poor selling technique.

The good news is, new brands and innovative technology are appealing to this generation as they have an open mind and are willing to try something different; therefore, it is important to emphasize affordability, payback on investing in energy efficient products, and quality.

A whole new generation Y

Following close behind gen-Xers are gen-Ys (also known as the millennial generation, or millennials). Those included in this group were born between 1980 and 2000 and are known as power purchasers. Households in this demographic typically have one stay-at-home parent who drives an SUV and lives in suburbia. As they are in their 20s to early 30s, most have their finger on the pulse of technology; with mobility on their minds, they are attracted to the newest gadgets. In this case, pool professionals can reach their hearts by offering them products such as controllers and automation systems, which will allow them to adjust the water temperature in their pool and hot tub, as well as operate many other functions, via an app on their smartphone.

Millennials lean toward trendy service-based businesses and luxury goods. When marketing to this elite league of inherited wealth, it is important to know they are focused on entertainment and experiences rather than products or price. Pool builders should provide computer-automated drawings (CAD) of projects, or even encourage this generation of customers to design their own pools, or portions of the project, by providing the customer with the tools to do so. As millennials are engaged with technology, pool professionals can push their buttons with these interactive tools. Creating an emotional experience around products or services are crucial to winning them over; therefore, it is important to present a clear vision to these customers about how the company’s services will impact or improve their daily lives.

The pool and hot tub industry’s challenge with this group, however, will be keeping them home as they like to travel. But, when they return to their home, they are all about the experience a pool or hot tub will provide.

Not much of a generation gap

Unlike the gap that exists between most baby boomer and gen-Xers, the latter and millennials share a common ground—quality over quantity. Both demographics rely heavily on social networking and in some cases will actually mimic their friends’ spending and purchasing habits—often buying the same brands. Therefore, similar to gen-Xers, it is important for pool professionals to provide numerous references from their previous clients.

Since millennials account for 31 percent of all luxury goods purchased online, compared to 23 percent of gen-Xers, be sure customers are writing rave reviews about the business. It is also important to keep in mind that millennials will collect data on desired products and do their online homework prior to shopping for a new pool, hot tub, or even accessories. In fact, many in this group are taking educational degrees online, so they are much more comfortable using the Internet than earlier generations. Therefore, a pool company’s website must be attractive, informative (with blogs) and provide emotional marketing. The success of the business will depend on creating a powerful connection between the products being offered in addition to the ultimate experience of owning a swimming pool or hot tub.

To take a business to the next level it requires a clear understanding of what motivates not only current customers but also prospective clients. When it comes to prospects, look at their address and research the demographics of their subdivision, then prepare a strategy based on the findings. On the initial sales call, ask a lot of questions; do not plan to have the contract signed on the first visit. Instead of having a pool plan ready, provide plenty of photos and schematics to share with the client. Use ideas such as larger decking, outside entertainment centers, and creative environments to appeal to their amusement-oriented demographics.

Look at these potential sales as fact-finding missions; gen-Xers and millennials are research oriented and slow to make a purchase decision until all the particulars are understood. Therefore, when communicating with these customers, do so via text and e-mail because phones may not always be answered. When it comes to pool equipment and other peripheral accessories, offer products with high energy efficiency ratings and provide the supportive data along with it. The more bells and whistles that are offered (e.g. controllers and remote operation capabilities) will spark their imagination as well as influence their decision. Finally, it is also imperative to appeal to the emotional side of these generations as they rely on relationship referrals and other peer opinions—in the end, it is all about trust.

This article was written by Connie Sue Centrella and originally appeared on Pool & Spa Marketing [link].