A Summary and Review of Gen Buy: How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-somethings are Revolutionizing Retail by Kit Yarrow and Jayne O’deonnell for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One

This summary and review of the book, Gen BuY; How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail, was prepared by Amanda Lemoine while an MBA student in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Executive Summary

Gen BuY is an extremely eye-opening book about the whys of Generation Y. It provides insights into the buying nature and fundamental make-up of the generation. Generation Y has been built upon different values than any other previous generation. Through the help of their parents and technology, Generation Y has been given unique opportunities. The use of technology and the internet has developed the minds of the generation to process information at a faster rate. This makes advertising more difficult or say more noticeable. With this development, marketers have had to change advertisements to be more a part of the scenery rather than the front line of visuals. Generation Y’s parents have also had a huge impact. The relationship built between this generation and their parents is one of closeness and reliability. No longer are the children lock-key, they are loved and respected for their opinions and knowledge. Due to the heavy reliance on technology, Generation Yers are extremely educated. Research is performed on the internet before they buy items and they are up-to-date on what the new trends are. They are also far savvier in electronics than their parents and past generations so their knowledge is often used to contribute to family decisions. The book goes on to explain how rather than trying to improve their knowledge themselves, oftentimes parents will take the word of their children. These changes have had an impact on the retail world and how products are marketed. For instance, when selling cars in the past, salesmen would go to the man of the household and ask him what qualities he was looking for in a vehicle. After that, women started to be the main focus as they began to be valued for their spending power and opinions. The book mentions with Generation Y it is important to find out what qualities impress the children as well because they have a large impact on what qualities are effective and valued for the family. The book discusses other techniques of marketers such as lighting and setting the mood within stores. Children of this generation know what they want and have very high expectations. It’s the responsibility of the stores to cater to their desires if they want to make the sale. Rather than functionality, it is important for marketers to respond to trends of the generation and always be on top of the latest technology. The use of traditional advertisements has also changed. Television, radio, and newspaper advertisements are becoming a thing of the past. The way to advertise to Generation Y is through technology. Whether it be websites, text-messages, emails, or pop-up ads the way to get through to Generation Y is web-based technology. Overall Gen BuY provides a well-rounded perspective of Generation Y. They have done their research to get to the heart and whys of Generation Y.

The Ten Things Managers Need to Know from Gen BuY

1. In order to market to Generation Y, you must get really close to them. This kind of closeness for the generation only comes from empathy.

2. Suspend judgment on the generation. They are unique individuals, and judging them will not make a sale.

3. Throw out the rule-book. There is no one specific way to market to Generation Y.

4. Make Generation Y customers part of the transaction and process. Engage and inspire them.

5. Use technology to appeal to Generation Y. They aren’t going to go without technology, so use it to your advantage.

6. If you want to understand Generation Y, employ them. No one from an outside generation will be able to provide you with insight into their minds like someone of their own generation can.

7. Be honest and transparent when advertising to Generation Y. Use samples when possible.

8. Use celebrity endorsements. This collaboration will influence the generation.

9. Generation Y wants to make a difference. Using causes to attract this generation can have a large impact.

10. Finally, Generation Yers are some of the most mature, high-income purchases of the future. You must get to know them to be able to appeal to them.

Full Summary of Gen BuY

Chapter 1: Generation Y is from Mercury

Chapter one starts off by giving the logistics and a description of what Generation Y is. It goes on to explain how their motivations are different than any generation before them. After that description, the book gives a short quiz to test the knowledge of the reader of Generation Y aspects. As a member of Generation Y, I found this quiz to be extremely interesting. I was able to answer almost all of the questions with extreme certainty, but I also learned a few things I didn’t know before. After taking the quiz, the book goes into details about the two largest influences upon this generation; their parents and the digital world. According to the book, the parents of Generation Y have had an extremely large influence upon them. Some parents were at the extremes of course, but for the most part they were portrayed as warm and nurturing towards the generation. The second factor; the digital world, discussed the dependency that Generation Y has towards electronics of all types and the communication that they receive between these devices. For many in this generation there is more than a strong impulse to check their emails. Some children of this age will have panic attacks if they can’t get to their phone and communicate with their friends. This has become the new social norm. They can be sitting right next to each other and instead of talking they will send a text message. Communication is changing. In many instances, the two subjects have combined. Due to the abundance of tech-savvy Generation Y children, parents are asking for electronic support and insight from their children. In many cases, the children will have a stronger knowledge on such items, and it becomes harder for parents to discount their ideas. This has enhanced the relationship between the generations like never before.

The chapter moves on to discuss the four characteristics of Generation Y. They include; confidence, connection, choice, and speed. Children of this generation are incredibly confident, and many times arrogant. This comes from years of being told they can do anything they set their mind to. Their expectations of themselves are inflated, and often children feel as if they must be more than perfect. These expectations also come from the speed at which information can be obtained. Children’s minds have evolved to accept more information at faster rates. This has only been enhanced by the amount of technology at their fingertips.

Chapter 2: They shop like they’re from a different planet from their parents, too

Chapter two discusses how Generation Y shops compared to other generations. It goes into details of how the generation has shaped retailing. With the digital world at their fingertips, and the strong reliance of their parents and friends, it’s no wonder that Generation Y has highly influenced the way marketers market products from the past. It lists one of the highest pet peeves of this generation is website speed. If it takes too long for a browser to load then the users will simply go to another website. This also plays a large part in customer satisfaction. Another pet peeve is shipping time. In order for the online retail world to be successful, retailers must offer fast shipping. Users won’t purchase if they know they can’t get immediate satisfaction from their purchase. That’s why it has become almost standard for online retailers to offer over-night or free two-day shipping. The chapter then moves on to discuss the generation’s love of brands. Members of this generation are extremely loyal to brands, but only if they’re authentic. If the brand leads with any sort of manipulation then their image has been clouded, this will almost immediately cancel any draw that they may have held before. So much of this generation’s focus is set on what their friends and parents thinks. They will only want brands that present the image that will make them appear sexier to their friends, and still present an image that is acceptable to their parents. This generation of children is moving away from rebellion of their parents and is seeking their approval. Another large aspect of how this generation is marketed to is celebrities. Celebrities are looked upon as role models. Their advertisements and endorsements of certain brands have made them a spectacle that Generation Y yearns to follow.

Chapter 3: The whys behind the buys

Chapter three discusses why Generation Y buys what they do. It discusses the root behind their need to shop. For the most part, Generation Y does not actually have a need for many of the products that they buy. Their reasons are based more on social and emotional aspects. Shopping is more of a social aspect of people’s lives than ever before. Instead of talking about sports or the weather, often times people discuss where they went shopping and their latest experience of tearing down the sale racks. It’s also social because it’s the thing to do with friends. It’s the new activity. Instead of playing sports or going to a movie, Generation Y goes shopping. It creates community and bonding on a whole new level. Plus many times shopping is more about the hunt than actually buying anything. The strong need that they have to stay connected to their parents and friends is brought together by shopping. They can spend time with each other as well as get approval on whether or not that pair of jeans makes their butt look big. Besides, they won’t buy an item of clothing without first seeing how their friends will react. It’s just made simpler by completing the activity together. They receive instant gratification and they aren’t forced to make a return when they realize the shirt they just purchased doesn’t fit in with their friend’s ideals. For many of this generation shopping is more than just the chance to purchase an item. It provides a mental break from the day-to-day troubles. Shopping was referenced as a mindless activity. You can either interact with others or not, take your time, or speed through the process. It’s up to the shopper of what experience they choose to have. There are many occasions that this generation uses as an “excuse” to go shopping. Key stepping stones in one’s life such as prom, weddings, and new additions to the family often require celebrations and therefore gifts. That means it’s time to go shopping.

Chapter 4: The lives, minds, and hearts of today’s tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings

Chapter four discusses the gap that has been created between generations. Much like the common used phrase of, “back when I was a teenager…,” Generation Y has gaps between themselves and the generation before and soon to come after them. People will not spend money unless it’s going to change or improve their life in some way. Generation Y looks for solutions to their problems in the marketplace. While their families and friends might not understand them, a retailer will. The marketing techniques that are used to catch Generation Y in a web of sales are much more sophisticated than those used to grab the attention of the previous generations. There are unique undertones that appeal to Generation Y’s nature. For girls especially, the desire to look sexy is very strong. What exactly is sexy though? It’s more of how they explore the roles that they want for themselves than actually having sex. Even the titles of magazines that read, “The Sex He Craves,” is more about how women can please men. Some things may never change. Even though it is accomplished in completely different ways than the past, women still seek ways to attract males to form a couple.

The changes in technology have empowered this nation. Facebook.com, a social network that is a great way to meet friends and keep up on what they are doing, has been evolving through Generation Y’s entire childhood (personalweb.com 1). The use of text-messages to maintain friendships is probably mind-boggling for Baby-Boomers and some members of Generation X. They didn’t grow up with internet connection and having a computer in their bedroom. They didn’t have their own cell phones, and the thought of them Twittering, or sending tweets- short messages of 140 characters or less, is completely baffling (twitter.com 1). According to the book, “Forty-seven percent of teens say that their social life would end without texting, approximately four hours of each school day is devoted to technology-related activities, and nearly half of teen’s activities are driven by technology.” How is this link to technology affecting this generation? These high levels of internet and technology use can be linked to social disorders such as loneliness and depression. It’s uncommon for humans to go without physical contact and interaction with one another. The electronic form of these exchanges is simply not enough. Technology has replaced time spent with actual human beings. Micro facial expressions, or the conscious and unconscious facial movements that humans make when interacting determine a lot about how a person feels. This information discovered by Mark Frank has offered insight into the human mind (news.softpedia.com). Without interactions with others in a physical sense, these movements cannot be observed. Technology is depriving our generations from unspoken body language. Simply put, you cannot observe someone’s movements through a text message, and intimacy is deprived or removed altogether.

Chapter four also discusses the higher level of thinking skills that Generation Y has acquired. Due to faster technological influences, Generation Y’s minds think at a faster pace. They have, or are developing, higher levels of reasoning skills, the ability to be more logical, and to think in the abstract sense. The use of these newfound skills comes at a high price however. Generation Yers tend to be more judgmental, perfectionists, and idealistic. They are experiencing large volumes of high-impact simulations through the use of cell phones, video games, and of course the internet. This large volume of stimulations has also made them numb to horrific events. Games that encourage the use of weapons and warfare have made children numb to the effects of war and death. They look at it simply as a game, however seeing someone murdered, or even doing the murdering themselves on the TV screen has no emotional impact on them. If this generation is already numb to these events, what does that mean for their future, or better yet future generations? Generation Y’s minds have had to adapt to these changes as will future generations. This use of technology is leading children through a field of unknown information, advertisements, and new experiences.

Chapter 5: Sex, love, and shopping

As the times change, so do the tastes of the generation. Chapter five discusses these changes. For men’s clothing, that is especially the case. While women’s clothing still has four times the sales, men’s apparel is slowly outpacing women in increased apparel spending. The differences between how men and women shop is openly apparent. Women spend more time in stores and buy more items while men go in to a store and come out with exactly what they set out to purchase. Their shopping time is significantly less, and they are not drawn in to nearly as many sales tactics as women.

Shopping malls have become more than a center to get the newest line of clothes. They have become social hubs of entertainment. Now instead of just going in when the seasons change for a new wardrobe, people are making malls their shopping playground. Outside play areas, food courts, and the draw of a good sale have made shopping malls the place to be socially. Children as well as parents of all ages go to malls as a social scene. Generation Y has grown up around shopping malls. It’s where they meet their friends, discuss new ideas, and talk about the latest boy or girl that they are crushing on. They have become much more than the weekend sale. Everyone is a customer, and why not start young? By drawing in crowds of parents that are bringing their toddlers for play-dates, retailers are setting themselves up for future customers. By getting people associated with their brands early they are much more likely to influence them into buying something in the future. Children may not know it, but they are the future of the brands that they see in front of them. Generation Yers are especially idealistic. They do not simply ask for a computer or a new pair of jeans. They are specific. They know what they want, and they have more than likely done their homework as to which brand they will benefit most from. They have looked at reviews online, asked peers, and on occasion asked their parents’ opinions. They will accept no substitutes. This has strongly been influenced by a little item called a gift card. It’s the perfect gift for Generation Yers because it means freedom. They do not need permission to get something if they have their own method of payment. It guarantees that the right purchase will be made because they will be making it.

Chapter 6: Influence: the force that is Gen Y

Chapter six discusses the large influence that Generation Y has had on their parents, shopping, and retail in general. Now more than ever, Generation Y’s opinions weigh heavily on buying decisions for themselves and their parents as well. Parents are no longer doing the research themselves about a product or service; they are seeking the help of their children. As this trend has expanded, retailers have taken note of the changes and tried to identify with the evolving times. Instead of offering products to the parents directly, many retailers are achieving their goals through the children of Generation Y. They achieve this in very unique ways. For example, in the past shopping outlets would offer couches and TV screens to keep men entertained while their wives shopped. Now stores are offering video game consoles that entertain the children. The longer and more entertained children are the more time the families have to shop and spend time together. This has become a very important part of family life in Generation Y. While in the past many children wanted nothing more than to escape their parents and family, now it is important and even enjoyable for the families to spend time together doing activities.

This generation has also had a large impact on clothing choices for themselves and their parents. Many times the children will have a large say in what their parents wear, oftentimes even shopping for them. This is a giant leap from the previous generation where the wives and mothers did the shopping for their spouses and male children. Now the change behind shopping goes way farther than clothes. Children are influencing and in some cases picking out vehicles for the parents. This is a hard pill to swallow for past generations, but children of Generation Y are more educated on vehicles and have a better grasp on how to research them. Since the children of Generation Y know how to research, their opinions matter to their parents, and they have a strong hold on marketers. It would make sense for them to impact the way a family buys a vehicle.

All over the world Generation Y is using their influences on marketers, their parents, and technology to impact the way day-to-day business is completed. As they grow older, this trend will only increase, forcing the market to change with them.

Chapter 7: What works with Gen Y

Chapter seven is extremely interesting because it discusses what advertising techniques work for Generation Y. They cannot simply be taken in by a radio or television advertisement. No, in order to bring in Generation Y’s business and pocket books, marketers must be extremely cunning and use technology. According to the book, a skillful marketer must get to the consumers without them knowing. Advertisements and suggestions must be in place but not obvious. For instance, American Idol contestants wear clothes from associated brands of the show. Watchers of the show that like contestants outfits will go out of the way to find what they were wearing and purchase those items. It’s all about setting the stage without shoppers know that it has been set.

Another example is stores using the power of smell to make a sale. Individual stores use smells that will serve their interests. For instance a store whose main location lies on a beach strip may mist a beach scent through their national chain of stores. This helps associate an image to the store. Lighting is also used in these manners to keep people in the stores. High levels of light are used to put emphasis on certain products and low levels of light are meant to be a retreat for the eyes. This relaxation and stimulation technique helps keep shoppers in the stores without exhausting them. Additional techniques have also been specially manufactured for Generation Y. By adding the use of fresh colognes, dark lighting, and loud music, stores become more like night clubs. This becomes extremely annoying to the parents of Generation Y, and makes the shopping experience all the more appealing to tweens and teens of the generation.

A third technique that has been used to attract Generation Y is the limit to supply. By limiting the supply and timing the release of certain products marketers have created a rampant demand for products. A frenzy is created over the products, and the generation that is so used to getting what they want is put to the test. They want the products, and they want it three days ago. Waiting isn’t exactly in Generation Y’s vocabulary. The use of mobile technology has only increased this feeling. By making products available by the touch of a fingertip, Generation Y has tapped into a whole new way to blow their own and their parents’ cash.

Chapter 8: Adapting to Gen Y’s shopping preferences and power: Views from our experts

Chapter eight is kind of a wrap up for some of the concepts taught throughout the book. One concept was to be true to your cool. For this generation, the word cool takes on a whole new meaning. When something is said to be cool, they want it. For instance saying someone has a cool job could mean that they want to work there. Another concept mentioned in this chapter was how to reel Generation Y consumers in. There are no rules when it comes to Generation Y. They go with the flow, and their trends change daily, if not by the hour. For that reason, there is no one direct way to reach them. They have a very unique talent to evolve quickly. What worked last week will probably not work this week. Something else mentioned was that Generation Y can be best reached through technology. Whether it is mobile, viral marketing, pop-up advertisements, or just websites, the more online it is the better. Retailers wanting to get Generation Y in their grasp must realize how to appeal to them. This also includes engaging them as employees. There’s no point in using someone from another generation to appeal to Yers. They were brought up differently and have completely values. These techniques have made Generation Y a very reactive and adaptive generation. While history has still impacted them like any other human, they are better able to recover and move past their problems.

The Video Lounge

This video is interesting because it shows the author’s excitement of the release of her book. It gave insight into her thought processes behind the making of the book. She also discusses the differences in generations for shopping.

Personal Insights

Why I think:

  • The authors are some of the most brilliant people around because they did a really good job researching their topic. They did hundreds of one-on-one interviews, conducted over a 2000 person questionnaire, and spent countless hours in stores/ shopping environments to conduct their research. It wasn’t just opinion based. They knew their facts.
  • With business conditions today, what the author wrote is true because they made contact with their markets. They got to the bottom of their issues and what makes them complete a purchase. They didn’t settle for surface reasons of why Generation Y buys what they do. They got to the heart of their purchases and explored the differences between past generations and themselves.

If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:

  • I would have used more comparisons between the generations. The comparisons that were used were from the perspective of people from Generation Y. It would have been interesting to have more from the Baby-Boomer Generation to compare with that of Generation Y.
  • Secondly, I would have shown more illustrations. They took so many forms of data but they didn’t show any of it through pictures. Some of the audience for the book could be visual learners.
  • Lastly, I would have included who will be using their future research. They completed a lot of interviews and questionnaires, but I’m not really sure who their research will directly benefit.

Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:

  • I didn’t realize how complex the buying patterns for a generation could be. Instead of thinking that people buy based off of needs, it seems more that they buy because of wants. Those wants could be any multitude of things.

  • After reading this book I can’t help but feel that eventually all traditional forms of advertisement will become obsolete. Advertisement will be technology and web-based.

  • Generation Y is way more of an influence than I realized. In their buying power alone they control a significant part of worldly markets.

I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:

  • As a marketer myself, I will use the techniques from this book to understand my audience. Just knowing that I have to get the inside details before making an advertisement helps.
  • When trying to advertise to Generation Y, I will use the internet. The majority of Generation Y’s time is spent on some kind of technological device that’s connected to the internet. It only makes sense to use this to my advantage.
  • When setting up a store to market to Generation Y, I will find some way to engage them in the process. This way they can feel that they are involved, and I can gain their input at the same time.

Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its author:

“Thanks to extensive research, including one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and a national online survey, the authors offer an astute look at the motivations and influence of these powerful consumers. This enlightening book is a must-read for all who hope to keep their companies relevant and viable.”
- Publishers Weekly Review of Gen BuY

“Technology, research and psychographics combine to give us an excellent primer on the honesty and transparency needed to motivate and reach the Millennials. Yarrow and O’Donnell merge two streams of thinking to effectively build the case that Gen Yers are savvy to every tactic in the marketing equation. To bring them into our customer base, we must respect them every step of the way.”
- Peter Stringham, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Young & Rubicam Brands
“Compelling and important reading, especially in today’s economy. The headlines tell you the numbers. This book tells you how to make them better.”
- Ben Stein, economist, actor and New York Times columnist
“An insightful trip into the heart of consumption. I read the book with fascinated horror.”
- Paco Underhill, author Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
“Technically savvy (with the world at their keyboards!) and more privileged than previous generations, today’s teens and twenty-somethings are the driving force behind our consumer culture. Gen BuY is an insightful and fascinating look at how this generation is transforming the retail landscape.”
- Meredith Barnett, founder and CEO, StoreAdore.com
“This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to appeal to the most powerful consumers of all time. Yarrow and O’Donnell capture the essence of a generation that, fortunately for retailers, really loves to shop!”
- Tracy Mullin, President and CEO, National Retail Federation


Yarrow, & O’ Donnell, (2009). Gen BuY. , CA: Jossey-Bass.






Contact Info

To contact the author of this article, “A Summary and Review of Gen BuY; How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail by Kit Yarrow and Jayne O’Deonnell,” please email Amanda.lemoine@selu.edu.


David C. Wyld (dwyld.kwu@gmail.com) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also serves as the Director of the Reverse Auction Research Center (http://reverseauctionresearch.com/), a hub of research and news in the expanding world of competitive bidding. Dr. Wyld also maintains compilations of works he has helped his students to turn into editorially-reviewed publications at the following sites:

Liked it
Liked this? Share it!
Tweet this! StumbleUpon Reddit Digg This! Bookmark on Delicious Share on Facebook
1 Comment
  1. Posted April 7, 2011 at 2:19 am

    And,U make my heart happy!^
    Nomos perfect clone watches

Leave a Reply
comments powered by Disqus