Design Solutions for Like-Minded Lifestyles: Merchandising for Millennial and Boomer Buyers

With the buying power of Millennials pushing to its peak and Boomers still maintaining a strong consumer presence, the demands and desires of these two generations are hot topics in home building. The Boomer population is predicted to fall from 74.9 million to 16 million by midcentury and the Millennial market is currently at 83 million and entering into their peak consumption years. So, these are two groups to pay big time attention to.

The good news, these dominant generations have very similar needs! Highlighted below are four influential factors that impact the lifestyles and buying choices of both Millennials and Boomers.

Factor One: Ease of Living

Millennials and Boomers are at a stage in their lives where they want to focus less on “stuff” and more on themselves. This minimalistic approach has changed the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality to a lifestyle that allows them to “have more fun than the Joneses.” To address this desire, here are ease of living features to consider when building homes for Millennials and Boomers:
• Quality over quantity. These demanding generations are looking for a home that has a smaller foot print with well-designed spaces.
• It’s important that the “lifestyle triangle” of a home is thoughtfully designed. This is the flow and function from the kitchen, dining and great room.
• Have you pre-planned for space customization? Instead of a pantry off of the kitchen these buyers may want to have the flexibility of putting in a scullery or tech center. Providing them with the ability to modify a floor plan is a standout selling feature for both Millennials and Boomers.
• Low maintenance selections are a must! Think solid surfaces countertops that won’t chip or stain (quartz, quartzite), large format tiles and easy-to-maintain floors (luxury vinyl, laminate, wood-look tile).
• Natural lighting, produced by strategically placed, large windows, allows a smaller space to appear larger and provides ample light.
• By layering artificial light sources (overhead, recessed, lamps, under/over cabinet), Millennials and Boomers have well-lit spaces even on cloudy days or at night.

Factor Two: Experiences

As Boomers are proving to be healthier and wealthier than previous generations they are gravitating towards spending their hard earned money on experiences rather than material goods – much like today’s Millennials. Because this “experience era” is driving the demands of these two generations, home builders must rethink their products to highlight this growing lifestyle trend. To satisfy the desire for “experiences over stuff,” address the following when home building for Millennials and Boomers.
• For these two target markets, the kitchen has become THE place to experience food, drinks, entertainment and friends. Create a kitchen that Millennials and Boomers are sure to devour with features such as a large island with seating (possibly a double island), a “messy kitchen” and storage ideas such as beverage centers, wine cabinets, pantries and cabinet systems.
• Millennials and Boomers crave the experience of an outdoor space where they can relax, retreat and entertain. (Notice the entertainment theme?) Thoughtfully merchandise outdoor areas as “liveable” square footage with additions that cater to cooking/dining, lounging and entertainment. Window walls, as well as a continuation of flooring and style, create a seamless flow from indoor to outdoor spaces.
• A home, as well as a community, needs to address technology as a key demand for Millennials and Boomers. After all, they want to be able to “post” their countless experiences!
• A spa-like master bathroom is a homeowner’s haven for relaxation and retreat. It’s all about the shower, storage and potential added elements such a spa glass, a no step entry, linear drain, hand held and rain shower heads, as well as ample amounts of natural and artificial light.
• For these dominant generations, community amenities are just as important as the actual home. Features such as location, catering kitchens, fitness, public and private spaces, outdoor living and community activities produce a social setting where experiences can thrive.

Factor Three: Organization

The saying “smaller, but smarter” has never been more true for these buyer profiles as they gravitate towards a home with thoughtful function and ample amounts of storage. These buyers are drawn to the “experiences era,” and organization helps allow them to fully embrace this adventurous trend. To fulfill the desire for organization, it’s important to consider the following features.
• The more storage, the better! Features such as walk-in closets, pantries and attic and garage storage allow these homeowners to hide their “stuff” and focus on themselves. Cabinet systems, as well as plenty of shelving, within these spaces create a variety of smart storage capabilities.
• Millennials and Boomers want no wasted space. When it comes to additional storage, it’s important not to overlook unused nooks and crannies. Whether it’s an under-the-stairs bookcase or even a small pull-out cabinet to store spices, these attentive design details are standout selling items that truly resonate with these buyers. Places to focus on these creative storage ideas are high “drop zone” locations such as the owner’s entry and laundry room as well as kitchens and bathrooms.
• Mops, vacuums, blenders, juicers, tennis rackets, bikes – Millennials and Boomers have a ton of items that need a “place to call home.” Even designating an area for four legged friends to sleep, bathe and eat is a unique selling element that appeals to these dominating target markets. Be sure to think through how they live when determining storage spaces.

Factor Four: Individuality

Millennials and Boomers do not want to miss out on the opportunity to showcase their unique taste and savvy style, especially when hosting friends and family. It’s important to keep abreast of current trends, and offer them to these buyers. See how individuality can be achieved by focusing on the following features.
• In a consumer world dominated by the designs seen on Houzz, Pinterest and HGTV, Millennial and Boomer buyers are drawn to an updated and wide variety of selections. As trends continue to rapidly change, these demanding demographics are wanting the next “cool” thing. With this in mind, builders need to be more style savvy than their consumers and reevaluate selections every year.
• Today’s dream for Millennials and Boomers is a relaxed, but stylish, sanctuary that speaks to efficiency of space and livability. Multipurpose flex spaces can cater to the various priorities of these two generations while allowing them to highlight their preferences and personality. Whether a man cave in the basement, a craft room in the loft space or just an added room that can act as both a den or guest suite, flex spaces highly appeal to these buyers’ aspiration for individuality.
• Thoughtful merchandising can truly “sell the dream.” By understanding the Millennial and Boomers’ desires, the location of the project and the overall budget, interior merchandisers can create a home design that excites potential buyers. These target markets want clean and simple with added pops of color. And, by highlighting flow, function and flexibility with furnishings, merchandising a model may be the standout selling feature that allows these buyers to envision how the home meets and exceeds their expectations.

As Millennials enter the market in significant numbers and Boomers continue to spend big housing bucks, the comparable needs of these dominant demographics are major motives in home building. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to address these two generation’s demands by recognizing and acting on the four guiding factors – ease of living, experiences, organization and individuality.

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