Consumers, with their myriad demographics, desires and demands, are the ultimate disruptor to supply chains and to commerce between now and 2030, notes David Schneider, supply chain consultant, founder of We Are The Practitioners –David K. & Schneider Company LLC and author of Roadmap 2.0’s section on consumers.
“Consumers are the dominant disrupter to the supply chain. They have been, and they’re going to get worse,” he says. “That’s because companies typically think of consumers as a single, monolithic group—and that’s a mistake. Instead, it’s critical to examine these groups and their buying profiles in terms of generations.”
Over the next decade, five different generations will impact consumer wants, needs and behaviors. They include:
- The Silent Generation, born at the end of the Great Depression and through the end of World War II.
- The Baby Boomers, born after World War II and into the early 1960s.
- Generation X, born in the late 1960s to the early 1980s.
- Millennials (sometimes called Generation Y), born in the mid-1980s until 2000.
- iGen (sometimes called Generation Z), born after 2000.
While Millennials have been getting most of the mainstream media’s attention lately, it’s the influence that iGen consumers will have on traditional retail models that Schneider believes will ultimately be the most impactful to supply chains.
“In 2025, iGen will account for 29% of the total U.S. population, and outnumber Millennials by more than 3 million,” he explains. “They’re the first generation to be born into households with personal computers and Internet connections. They’ll be more educated coming out of high school than any generation before them, and they’ll be more interested in self-employed, ‘gig economy’ freelance work instead of traditional 9 to 5 jobs because that supports their desire for flexibility and freedom.”
In Schneider’s view, iGen consumers—who are fully steeped in the use of technology to comparison shop before buying (among other things)—will be far more likely to buy online from sellers they trust, whether that’s a brand, a retailer or a highly-reviewed third-party seller with excellent, peer-regulated feedback.
“iGen is still going to ask the same traditional questions that all consumers ask: Do you have what I want? How much is it? When can I get it? And, how do I get it?” he continues. “The bonus question now is, ‘Can I trust you?’ With the recent spate of brick-and-mortar retailer closures, those peer-to-peer e-marketplace platforms—and the iGen’s comfort with them—is what will disrupt traditional commerce supply chains.”
How else will consumers challenge the supply chain between now and 2030? The consumer section of Roadmap 2.0 starts on page 28. Download the free report here.