Being better educated, that is, learning something new, gaining new insights, understanding, and skills, is an important motivator in discretionary purchases for over 80 percent of those surveyed. It is worth noting that the more education Americans get, the more education they crave. Today's American consumer is more educated than ever before. As recently as 1980, only 16.2 percent of the adult population aged 25 and older had completed four years or more of college. By 1999, that percentage had risen to 25.2 percent. Achieving more education will continue to be a primary driver for important discretionary product segments, especially books, magazines, newsletters, computers and related hardware, software, art, and even entertainment products.
Researching a new purchase—getting educated about the product category, the available brands, and price points—comprises a part of the anticipation cycle that gives so much pleasure to consumers. One of our respondents explained the time-consuming process that her family went through to select the right model and to get all the right features on a new SUV. "We just bought a new Ford Expedition. We used the Internet to learn about the different models, then went around to all the dealers, looking at the different models, to see which was right for us. Then, when we settled on the Expedition, we needed to do more research about the model and what features we wanted. For me, the search adds to the anticipation."
Women respond more strongly to education as a motivator for discretionary purchases than do men. Younger-to-middle-aged consumers, aged 25 to 54, rate education as more important than both those older than age 55, and the extremely young, aged 18 to 24. Consumers older than age 55, in particular, rate education as of little or no importance in their buying decisions. Unity Marketing predicts that the baby boomers who are just now entering their mid-50s will behave differently than the current generation of mature Americans (born prior to 1946) in terms of their desire for education. Boomers, the most educated generation in history, should continue to be ravenous consumers of products that incorporate an educational aspect. We also predict they will return to the classroom upon retirement or as their single-minded focus on career shifts. Black consumers give higher importance to education, suggesting that this market segment views education as a key to improved quality of life. In purchasing discretionary products, families with children place the highest emphasis on education.