business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Anecdotal research is rarely a reliable source of information. The mere fact that someone we know sees something occur gives us no evidence to make a broad statement about anything.

All  anecdotal evidence tells us is that something happened a certain way at a certain time for a certain person. As you have probably noticed, Kevin and I do a lot of this at MNB as we focus in a single experience to find a larger lesson. (For example, watch the video Kevin did Monday about a local pizza parlor.)

The thing is, at times anecdotes actually tell us quite a bit. This is a discussion I have quite frequently with my 94-year-old father, who constantly sees things in his life that differ from widespread reports he gets on the news or from me.

My mom and dad (yes, I’m very lucky) stopped off at a bank branch for some reason and were appalled at what they experienced. Thanks to Covid guidelines, the bank was far more Spartan than usual, with all the desks and chairs removed from the floor. Basically, it was the two of them and some tellers behind enough security glass to convince bank robbers to get a new trade.

I have no idea why they were in the bank, but my dad said their transactions somehow took longer than an hour and by the end he was mighty annoyed. As he told me after, “Couldn’t they see we are two old people who might need to sit down?” But alas they didn’t and thanks to Covid all the chairs were gone.

After some discussion, we realized my dad actually had a very good point.  The demographic of people actually going into a bank branch is probably older than even the United States Senate. (Which is 62.9 years, just FYI.)  My children (and increasingly, my wife and I) manage to easily avoid bank branches thanks to ATMs, of course, and increasingly thanks to apps that permit us to bank wherever, whenever.

My dad’s point is that only people going to banks these days are in his age cohort, but nothing is set up for them.  I couldn’t find any opposing argument to make with him. He was right.

Sure this is anecdotal, but I think it’s also instructive. As always we all need to know exactly who inhabits our customer base and who doesn’t. Sometimes that’s an easy call thanks to the make-up of the local population, dominated perhaps by folks from specific racial or ethnic backgrounds.  But sometimes it can be subtle.

Today’s retailers can easily serve a vast array of generations ranging from Great Depression era babies like my folks through to Gen Z. For sure there are many services, products and experiences all those groups crave from competitive prices to clean, in-stock stores. 

But there’s also a lot where they differ. Using my parents as my research model here, I know they vastly prefer personal service to apps, kiosks, self-checkout and more. They want to deal with people and they crave interaction with those people. Oh, and they really appreciate stores that offer places to sit and maybe grab a cup of coffee.

It’s a small thing but that’s what makes a trip to the supermarket or a bank enjoyable for him.  The lesson isn't just anecdotal..

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@mnb.grocerywebsite.com.

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.