When Rich Reinwald, owner of Reinwald's Bakery and president of the Retail Bakers of America, was in college, he consulted his advisor about careers. The advisor noticed a mathematical proclivity, and mentioned that he'd be a prime candidate for a new field of study that the college was planning on introducing; the first program like it in the country, in fact. But Reinwald thought better of it — maybe because Computer Science sounded like science fiction.
The opposite is true of Generation Y (Gen Y), a demographic group represented by people born after 1980. This group is composed of digital natives — people who essentially grew up without physical newspapers, maps, catalogues or phone books.
To Gen Y, the first and only place to go for information is online. And the web is no longer limited to a desktop in the home — countless handheld devices exist that can access information in a myriad ways. Further, social networking tools, especially Facebook, MySpace and, recently, Twitter, allow users to closely follow whatever they're interested in. MySpace and Facebook work like personal homepages for individuals, while Twitter allows a user to broadcast frequent, short updates to anyone interested in subscribing. This type of consumer is the future of retail shopping. Is your bakery ready for Gen Y?
“I won't say I was ahead of the curve, more like I'm riding the wave,” Reinwald says, whose oldest son was born in 1980. Like most any other retail bakery, Reinwald's Bakery has it's own webpage, and just having a functional site is half the battle. But customer interaction is the next step. Reinwald encourages site visitors to sign up for his e-club, consisting of a newsletter, which he emails weekly to advertise promotions, offer special deals and present new products or seasonal items.
“That has been building by roughly 5 to 10 percent per month. We don't do conventional advertising so much anymore,” Reinwald says. “Very often in a local paper, I'll put in a small add, a couple enticing words, and my website. The function of my advertising now is to drive people to the website. Once there, they find what they are looking for.”
Because they grew up in the digital environment, Gen Y lacks older generations' distrust of computers. According to John Hiraoka, chief marketing officer at retail software company EpiCor, privacy is a concept they don't understand in the traditional sense. Members are more likely than previous generations to provide personal information in exchange for something they see as having value. That might be a special event or new product at your bakery.
“I understand the importance of the new technology, even though I'm not comfortable doing it myself,” Reinwald says. “In my shop, I'm not the best at anything. I can make pastry, but I have folks who do it all day long — they better be better at it than me. In that way, I'm the driving force behind the web. The messages comes from me, even though I hand write the message and give it to someone else to broadcast or publish on Facebook.”