Millennials & Boomers: How to Please These Powerful Consumers

March 25, 2014

Boomers and Millennials:  two generations separated by a 20-year gap, a massive technological boom, and highly contrasting lifestyles — yet they have significantly more in common than you might think.  Millennials and Boomers are two major consumer markets in the cannabis industry that wield considerable buying power.  Taking a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two can help us understand what motivates them to purchase and provide us with a greater understanding of how to earn their loyalty for years to come.

The common ground between boomers and millennials

One primary similarity between Millennials and Boomers is a desire for social connectionWhile Generation X is more focused on their immediate life (family, work, close friends), both Boomers and Millennials tend to have a greater concern for society as a whole.  They are both communication-oriented in our modern media-saturated world, but not always for the same reasons.  Boomers love being a part of a large network of friends and family in order to remain “up to date” and informed about current events.  While Millennials do as well, their desire for connection stems more from a need to be heard and to share their thoughts and experiences, especially online.

Another synonymous desire of Boomers and Millennials is that of growth and improvement.  On a personal level, this translates to wellness and healthy living; on a much broader scale, this manifests as a deep concern for the well-being of the community and society as a whole.  Boomers and Millennials both love buying products that align with their ethics and personal values.  In a 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study, a whopping 85% of Millennials were willing to switch brands — assuming price and quality were equal — if the second brand supported a good cause.


A study conducted by WD Partners in 2012 also has several interesting findings on the contrast between Boomer and Millennial consumer habits in the marketplace.  For example, Millennials often make purchases that they feel will enhance and solidify their identity.  They have a strong need to be cool and to fit in with peer groups, using brands as a way to construct self-identity more than any generation before them ever has.  We see this in Boomers as well, but it is to a much lesser degree than Millennials.  Rather, Boomers prefer making purchases based on whether it will make their lives easier and if it is useful and relevant to them.  Millennials will also seek out a unique, high-energy environment that creates a fun experience, while Boomers tend to put a greater value on customer service, organization, and ease while they shop.

However, there are two factors that matter more (generation and marketing aside) than any other.  The first is quality: consumers will always want high quality products and will seek out the best that they can find that meets their price range.  The second is a genuine care and compassion for both customers and society in general.  Companies that can boast a life span of more than one generation and still remain relevant — such as Levi, Starbucks, Nike and Apple — have all found ways to evolve with the changing times.  Yet one thing remains steadfast: their brand essence and core that made them truly great in the first place, and an ongoing care for the communities that they are a part of.  This is the secret to longevity in the business world.

So what does all of this mean for your cannabis business?

In a competitive and fast-growing industry like this ours, understanding your patients’ and customers’ needs and desires is the key to growing and sustaining your business.  Simply opening your doors and selling products does not guarantee success.

Millennials are more likely to show you loyalty if you can provide a fun, fast-paced environment where they can make a connection and feel heard.  Boomers are more likely to return to your location if your staff is knowledgeable and focuses on providing excellent customer service.  But there are other things that you can do that will help improve sales and customer retention across the board.

To speak to these two massive groups of consumers, cannabis businesses need to ask a few questions of themselves:  What do we stand for?  What are we contributing back to society?  How are we making a positive and lasting connection to different demographics and consumer markets?

Five tips for attracting and retaining millennials and boomers in our cannabis business

1. Engage: Find ways to get your patients and customers talking.  Millennials especially love social interaction and sharing their opinions.

Ask patients for feedback and suggestions — find out what they think about you and why they keep coming back.  Engage on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Leafly, and Weedmaps, and don’t be afraid to ask regulars to share their experiences online.  Millennials love to research online before they make in-person purchases, so they are more likely to take a chance on your business based off of what other patients are saying about you — even with a few negative reviews mixed in.  Millennials are shrewd, savvy shoppers that value honesty and know that not everyone has a perfect experience every time.

2. Quality control:  In any industry, quality product is always going to be at the top of the list.  But in the cannabis industry especially, it is of critical importance to make sure that your price-to-value ratio is consistent and fair.  Patients will gravitate to where they can find quality medicine– period.


3. Reinvest in the community:  Find a way to give back to your community somehow.  Whether it’s donation-based or involves organizing volunteering or fundraising events, find a way to care — because your patients care, too.  Be environmentally conscious in whatever ways you can, and then toot your own horn!  Be proud of the fact that you have solar panels, use LED lighting, buy only recycled materials, find unique ways to reuse items, or use only natural and organic ingredients.  Whatever it is you can do, do it, and then do it even more.  The cannabis industry is founded in health, wellness, and natural medicine, so reinvesting in similar causes is an easy way to emphasize your brand and elevate our industry’s reputation.  Not to mention it’s just plain good karma!

4. Educate:  Find a way to educate your patients about the cannabis industry and your products. Boomers especially love staying informed about the products they engage with. Believe it or not, but patients can feel intimidated by their own limited cannabis knowledge, especially if they are new the medicine or have never purchased through a dispensary before. Budtenders are already educating patients while interacting with them in the dispensary by answering questions and making product suggestions, but there are other ways of extending this education to have more reach.  Host events for patients to learn about cannabis.  Offer product samples in order to encourage patients to try new options and learn about new ways of medicating.  Social media and online newsletters are another tactic, which — when well written and constructed — can also result in good publicity.  If you find fun ways to inform and educate patients, they feel more involved.  They also might discover new products they want and need, which directly impacts your bottom line.

5. Care:  If you do nothing else, make this your priority.  Care about your business and your products.  Care about your community and the future of that community.  Care about your employees.  And most importantly, care about your patients.  They are the life blood of your business and our industry, and if they are not your first priority, your dispensary will not survive.  Their experience in your store is what will determine whether they return and how they talk about your business to others.  Everything from interior design, layout and functionality, to their interactions with budtenders and your product all contribute to this experience.  Make every touch point a patient or customer has with your business as helpful and pleasing as possible.