Much has been written recently about those born in the last thirty years or so. Whether referred to as Generation Y, Millennials or even Echo Boomers, one thing is for certain: this cohort of twenty to thirty somethings is fast approaching its peak earning potential and retailers need to understand the demands of this particular set of consumers.
The attitudes of Millennials are by no means universal; however, there are several generally accepted traits that retailers will need to take into consideration.
We have already seen how technology has radically changed the way we browse for and purchase products. Following this, it is likely that the wants of Millennials will further reshape the way retailers interact with customers in terms of branding, merchandising and fulfilment.
YouGov online research commissioned by Ampersand into smartphone users’ shopping habits found that almost three quarters of 18-24 year old GB smartphone owners (72%) use their devices to research or buy products online. Incorporating features like a persistent cart, allowing a user to store a product on one device then buy on another, and real-time stock information, are important for any retailer looking to appeal to a multi-device using Millennial.
Millennials are perhaps the most brand-aware generation of all time. Born into a world of constant communication, Millennials have learnt to be choosy when picking their brands. For many, increasing engagement with brands across social media has left many consumers feeling a personal affinity with brands. According to research by HubSpot, an astonishing 95% of Millennials expect brands to have a Facebook presence. Harvey Nichols, for example, encourages customers to get involved and share items on social media by titling features with a hashtag and its site is also dotted with live social media posts from Harvey Nichols’ own accounts.
For a generation accustomed to instant gratification, extended delivery times will no longer be acceptable. This is a generation for whom Amazon Prime is the standard; next day and even same day delivery will be a must in order for retailers to compete. Another piece of YouGov research commissioned by Ampersand into GB consumers’ attitudes towards delivery found that whereas only 21% of respondents said they would prefer same day delivery, this figure was 30% amongst those aged 18-24.
As with their understanding of brands, Millennials are more aware of the value of their personal data than previous generations. According to the Centre for the Digital Future, whilst 70% of Millennials would rather not share their personal data, 56% would be willing to share their location with nearby companies in exchange for deals.
With data forming a vital part of CRM, retailers need to ensure they maintain the trust of their customers by being open and honest in the way they collect data. For example, data capture could be rewarded by financial incentives, enhanced services or some other form of value exchange.
Although Millennials are very much up on the latest tech trends, we advise our retail clients not to be too worried about every media-hyped technological change. As long as they have a sensible multi-channel strategy in place then they will be ready for any innovation that comes down the line from wearables to Apple Pay.
The final point for retailers to consider is the way Millennials view themselves. It has been argued that the so called ‘selfie-generation’ are more interested in their own lives rather than the wider world. Although there is evidence to suggest that Millennials are no more narcissistic than any other preceding generation, this doesn’t discount their opinionated outlook and willingness to share bad experiences. To achieve Millennial customer loyalty, retailers should focus on consumer experience, with personalisation forming a key tenet of the strategy. Those that can deliver a rich, integrated, personal journey across multiple retail channels will go a long way to winning over this generation.
On the flipside, retailers who fail to meet the often high expectations of Millennials will lose their custom and find their own failures littered across a raft of social channels. With instant access to pricing and product information, Millennials can, and will, switch retailers in a heartbeat.
In essence, there is no great mystery to understanding those born in the last thirty years. Due to the immediacy of the connected world around them, Millennials have come to expect instant gratification. In this regard technology has spoiled them. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Retailers willing to innovate, and keep pace with the rapidly changing world around them, can win themselves a whole demographic of consumers willing to hand over their hard earned cash in return for a quality and convenient service.
Darryl Adie, Managing Director, Ampersand