In his recent article, “Is electricals leaving consumers behind?” (Retail Week, July 4) Paul Smiddy observed that “the gap between manufacturers’ technology and consumers’ ability to grasp it appears to be widening”, with the qualification, “perhaps it’s an age thing”.

Well Paul, you’re spot on. It is an age thing; in fact it’s a whole generation thing.

This is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges retailers now face: how to successfully target Generation Y – one of the largest and potentially most valuable customer groups ever.

Having been partly responsible for bringing two of them into the world, I can speak with hard-learnt, first-hand knowledge.

This generation, typically born between 1980 and 1995, are the product of parents who have lavished them with love and praise. We told them how special they are… and they believed us.

This history of parental adulation means the Y-ers have a self esteem that has effectively been fed a diet of steroids that would embarrass an Olympic village full of 100m sprinters.

They’re real-deal know-it-alls who question everything. “Why” is their war cry. They expect the world to adapt to them and only take yes for an answer.

This generation has never known a world without computers. In many ways, their understanding and thirst for new technology defines them.

I watch my children in awe as they effortlessly listen, at ear-bleed inducing volume, to their iPods, while texting the world, writing dissertations and holding a conversation with me.

If you employ them and expect to get the 60-plus hours a week their parents put in, think again. Their view on the old-school boomers’ work ethic is likely to be “What took you so long?”

The Y-ers are not idle. They have high expectations and beliefs, which they expect to be acknowledged and valued. They might appear to have ever-decreasing attention spans, but US researchers now believe they have developed “mental fast twitch muscles”, enabling them to process data and information like walking microchips.

Y-ers believe they are only a click away from the answer and this makes them super confident in their abilities. This confidence and awareness means they are marketing savvy; they are influenced by their global network of friends rather than slick ads.

To engage them, you need to engage with them. They want and expect a two-way dialogue – they want to be a part of any brand they connect with.

Y-ers, being the vanguard of the You Tube generation, like diversity, they like things stripped down, plain and simple; they like a sense of humour, the truth and, if it’s not too much trouble, they want things interactive and in real time.

If the Y-ers’ self belief turns into serious spending and retailers engage with them, this post-Google generation could help provide the economy with the next stage of dynamic growth.