Every year, Charles Porteous attends Business Aviation events that allow him to see first-hand the changes he often hears about when conducting marketing research interviews and surveys for Seefeld Group's international Business Aviation clients. Following, he discusses a generational change within the industry...
Over the years, I have seen the emergence (and disappearance) of new OEMs, rapid growth in international markets and the rise in prominence of e-commerce and connectivity providers, among many other developments. Looking back, while Business Aviation is a relatively conservative industry, its evolution since my entry in 1998 is still breathtaking.
A new trend, which is undeniable and now very visible, is the rise in prominence of new generational cohorts in our industry. They are now regular users of business aircraft and are solidly installed in management positions among Business Aviation providers.
Baby Boomers (born 1946-64), while continuing to play key senior decision-making roles, are now retiring in greater numbers and thus passing the torch to younger generations, such as Generation X (born 1965-80) and Millennials (born after 1980).
You only have to walk the floor at NBAA-BACE to see generational change playing out in real time, where the booths of companies offering new service innovations and technology are filled with younger managers, while more established businesses have a more familiar balance of young and old. Attendance at general information sessions and press events held at shows also highlight these generational differences.
Why Does This Matter?
We see in our research that buying preferences, ways of doing business and even ways of accessing and using business aircraft often differ among generational cohorts. The differences are profound.
For example, younger generations value the “experience” of Business Aviation and tend to derive less pleasure from ownership itself. Being relatively new to our industry, they place a high emphasis on leveraging technology and rely less on personal relationships when flying or doing business.
Even pilot interfaces, such as avionics, and the operational tools used by flight departments, now need to reflect a “touch and toggle” interface. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The list is endless, and the changes are happening now.
The key to successfully navigating this new multi-generational reality is to listen carefully to the needs of all your customers and ensure generational viewpoints are part of your business planning and product development.
Those who understand different age segments are best positioned to capitalize on the ever expanding opportunities generational change provides.
Ignoring them increases business risk and long-term obsolescence resulting from an overreliance on the belief that what sells today will continue to sell in the future. Don’t forget, because generational change is gradual, you may not realize it is upon your business until it is too late.
The good news for seasoned Business Aviation professionals is that younger cohorts highly value what earlier generations have built, and they covet the good judgement possessed by those who have come before them. Both are extremely valuable as new entrants to Business Aviation “learn the ropes” - albeit on their own terms.
Furthermore, the buying power and market influence of mature generations on Business Aviation will continue to be significant for the foreseeable future.
Embrace Change Before it Embraces You
While demographic change is inevitable, it need not be scary. Pro-active listening to customer needs, excellent business planning and organizational adaptability can make these important industry developments work in your favor.
Of course, shouldn’t you be doing this anyway, even if major demographic change was not on the horizon?
About our Guest Columnist
Charles Porteous is founder and president of Seefeld Group, a “voice of the customer” consultancy dedicated to assisting Business Aviation providers make better decisions by gathering objective and measurable feedback from their clients and the market place.
More from www.seefeldgroup.com.