Millennials and the Shopping Experience

My previous blog looked at why engaging millennials is the Holy Grail for retailers, and why technology is key to getting this right.  But it’s not all about digital innovation, according to Dave Robinson, Director of Personalisation at Boots UK: “The millennial audience also enjoys shopping and seeks out experiences. It’s our job to make these experiences personalised, seamlessly integrating digital with our in-store specialists.”

Research from ecommerce specialists Demandware backs this up. They found that 52% of consumers want to visit actual shops to try items and test them out. The high street is still important – but this generation’s demands and expectations of it have changed. Sharon Forder of Demandware says high street fashion retailers in particular “need to adopt new technologies and innovations that transform the store into a digital showroom for consumers”.



Fashion retailers need to adopt technologies such as large touchscreen mirror displays and QR codes.  Adidas’s use of an interactive window offered consumers a dynamic experience, allowing passers-by to browse products, try them on life-size models and, through ecommerce integration, make purchases.  Integrating the latest technologies with the traditional store will bring an added dimension to the shopping experience, enabling it to compete with online.

Brands are increasingly using differentiated, experiential marketing to engage and resonate more strongly with millennials.  One high-profile example is brewer and drinks retailer Adnams which smartly leveraged its sponsorship of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race as its official beer partner.



Millennials and Social Media


The millennial relationship with retailers on social networks is purely transactional – to use social media in retail successfully, retailers need to embed themselves in conversations carefully and offer relevant deals and discounts that influence customers’ buying behaviour.

Social listening is already used by many retailers to spot when a customer has an issue, but hasn’t raised it with the retailer directly.  However, more retailers are using social listening to provide proactive customer service, or simple engagement (like starting a conversation with someone who talks about the brand on Twitter).

Online fashion retailer Hot!MeSS targets millennials and values social media recommendations in boosting interest in its products. Rosie Cambden, of Hot!MeSS says “Customers are increasingly influenced by their peers on social media, particularly Instagram, and these ‘insta famous’ girls not only help us increase our reach but also act as a connection between the brand and like-minded customers without bombarding them with traditional marketing and offers.”



Millennials and Mobile


Mobile shopping is not a novelty for the millennial consumer. Millennials expect to be able to browse a retailer’s mobile site, or app, seamlessly, and will be less forgiving of retailers that don’t provide a joined-up service.  Developments in retail tech will continue to enable retailers to offer a more bespoke mobile service to customers, allowing them to get to know their customers as individuals and tailor their offering accordingly.


Timing the engagement


The timing issue is also important. Online designer shirt retailer Claudio Lugli (launched three years ago) targeted millennials as a key audience by using social media. “The millennial generation is demanding, they want everything and they want it quickly,” says marketing manager Navid Salimian. “They want to be the first in every aspect of the shopping experience, the first to see a new product launch, the first to spot a celebrity label, the first amongst their peers to buy into a new brand – marketing needs to be quick to be effective.”

Macy’s has forged a number of creative partnerships with relevant brands such as Etsy to create genuine interactions and experiences with younger consumers. One successful partnership was with Daybreaker, a US movement that encourages people to dance before work (taking over clubs, enlisting DJs) which converted three stores into dance clubs from 6am to 9am during the Christmas season.  “The events were incredibly popular and really resonated with our millennial shoppers, who got the opportunity to experience Macy’s in an entirely different way.”

Macy’s says peer-to-peer recommendations were at the crux of its spring fashion campaign #MacysLove. Shoppers were invited to take a picture of an item they loved from Macy’s and share it socially for the opportunity to be featured on a billboard in Times Square. “By showcasing the item they love, our customers are giving their peers relevant and engaging feedback on that item direct from their social feed.”


You can read more about how and why millennials are shaking up retail in our Retail Industry Overview Report which you can download for free here today.

And what do you think?  Is retail’s obsession with millennials justified or do retailers risk “taking their eye off the ball”, neglecting other demographics or trends?