Creating a retail future for the millennial generation

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Generation Y, those born between 1982 and 2000, and often referred to as millennials have grown up in a world surrounded by unparalleled access to the latest technology. This involvement in digital communication and an expectation of a connected world means that “millennials are two and a half times more likely than other generations to adopt new technologies” according to Jeff Fromm, president of FutureCast. With millennials expected to represent 30% of all retail sales by 2020 with an annual spending power of $1.4 trillion, what can retailers do now to start adapting to their new audiences?

What do millennials want from retail?

Speed, efficiency and a personalised experience are the key aspects generation Y expects from their retail shopping experience, inspired by their fast paced lifestyles that revolve around the use of technology. They want it to be easier to access information about products, easier to make purchases and easier to get that personalised experience.

Many of the millennial generation grew up with an expectation of flawless technology implementation, with a large percentage never having experienced the early days of dial up internet and clunky online shopping. This means that they are born omnichannel consumers and expect more than their parents did. However, millennials are also now starting to influence the generations around them, with many parents now turning to the same digital communication channels such as Facebook to keep in touch with their children. As other generations become more comfortable with using technology, the expectations that millennials have in their shopping experiences are starting to be shared by the majority of customers. Millennials are driving the change in retail.

Speed, efficiency and a personalised experience are the key aspects generation Y expects from their retail shopping experience, inspired by their fast paced lifestyles that revolve around the use of technology

Utilising technology to attract the millennial generation

While we see a growth rate of online shopping considerably higher than that of traditional retail, brick and mortar stores are still preferred by the majority of millennials. However, their shopping experiences typically begin online, relying on reviews and social media to choose which retailer can offer the best price and shopping experience. Creating that joined up shopping experience is likely to be a key factor for retailers to keep new shoppers engaged.

A good example is coffee giant Starbucks who have seen profits grow over recent years, attributed to a keen investment in new technology according to CEO Howard Schultz. “We have seen the pattern of accelerated adoption of Mobile Order & Pay with each successive region and market we enter play out over and over again”. Mobile payment now accounts for 21% of all transactions in US Starbucks, clearly indicating a shift in their customers’ use of technology.

Customer is king

While the old adage of the customer being king isn’t anything new, millennials have high expectations around customer service, particularly the idea of it being personalised to their own requirements. They are also less likely to forgive when service doesn’t live up to their expectations, turning to social media to vent, or avoiding that retailer if the experience is negative in any way.

Speed and convenience are the other expectations millennials place on retailers. If they have to wait for stock it’s likely that they will shop elsewhere so they can get it immediately. In the same way, generation Y is leading the charge with adoption of self-checkout, with many citing reasons such as limited items to purchase, or that the queue was shorter as the main reasons for using it over typical check-out counters.

How to attract, interact and transact?

What should retailers be looking at now to make them an ideal shopping haven for the discerning millennial customer? Firstly, consider methods of attracting attention, utilising the technology that is most effective.

  • Digital signs are self-explanatory – bold, distinct in-store multimedia that allows targeted information to break through the noise.
  • Apps can allow retailers to push notifications on news, products, sales and other attraction methods
  • Beacons are small communication devices that can send messages to devices in close proximity – designed for retailers to influence shoppers once they are already inside the store
tablets retail assistant

Interaction is important to make the most out of attracting the millennial shopper. Short targeted messaging delivered through the latest technology is the most successful way to interact, with sales assistants taking on the role of customer service experience helpers on the shop floor.

  • Tablets and mobile devices for staff enable that personalised experience to be offered to shoppers in real-time, by staff members using tablets and mobile devices to look up information, check stock & pricing or confirm product features
  • Wearable technology, including smart watches are expected to evolve and become central devices for users, resulting in hands-free experiences where location based technology and mobile payment will work together to allow shoppers to simply walk out of the store with the item they want
  • Kiosks as an extension of digital signage are simple ways for a customer to engage with a retailer at their own convenience while still in-store

While attracting customers and getting them to interact with a retailer is important, it’s the final transaction that is where the success will be felt.

  • Mobile Point of Sale means that the typical transaction has moved from a fixed location, to all over the store, carefully following the customer through the critical decision making process to a confirmed sale. All MPoS should support contactless payment, according to one report – 2 in 10 millennials haven’t used cash at all in the past year. Tablet devices can be used in conjunction with mobile payment devices, portable scanners and a wide range of software option to create a low cost, simple and effective point of sale solution
  • Self Service is gradually becoming more common in different types of retail stores, with supermarkets proving the system to be effective and appreciated
  • Networks capabilities such as fast, free WiFi is something that should be considered for growth expansion. This can be required not only for staff use of wearables and mobile PoS, but also for customer access to encourage the use for their smart devices and the related benefits they can offer retailers in the future

How Ergonomic Solutions is preparing for the future

We’ve seen these changes first hand and are at the forefront in creating new product ranges to help support this move to a more technologically influenced retail experience.

Tablet solutions for kiosks, self-service, staff support & digital signs

Payment solutions for mobile point of sale

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