5 things millennials expect from retailers

Retailers love to talk about “millennials” — but how successfully are they reaching this consumer group, and what can brands do to target young consumers more effectively? At Retail’s Digital Summit, Gabbi Baker of OgilvyOne Worldwide and PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Hunter Thomas — both millennials themselves — went “beyond the meme” to offer proven tactics for engaging younger shoppers.

Although broadly defined as consumers aged 18-34, the millennial group encompasses many different personas, all of which retailers need to address. From mavens (millennial moms) to skeptics, one message definitely does not fit all. Therefore, retailers need to focus on what potential customers who fall into this bracket want from their shopping experiences, and tailor their offerings accordingly.


See more insights from Retail’s Digital Summit: Check out the event recap.

Baker and Thomas waded through mountains of research on the millennial generation (much of which is contradictory) and drew on their own opinions to outline five things millennials expect from retailers:

Consistency across channels
The most important channel to get right in this instance is mobile — and not just for digital commerce opportunities. Two in three millennials use smartphone apps to shop in-store and want mobile to enhance their physical retail experience. A good example of mobile engagement in the store is Rebecca Minkoff, which uses “connected store” technology to create more personal customer interactions.

Engaging experiences that don’t push them to buy
Having already highlighted skeptics as a key millennial segment, it’s critical for retailers to develop a marketing strategy that communicates their brand values in an authentic way. Establishing a dialogue and adding value is important to nurturing consumers through the buying journey without forcing them to transact before they are ready. A recent NewsCred study revealed that 31 percent of millennials are more likely to buy from a retailer if their communications are truthful without being sales-y.

The ability to shop right here, right now
Convenience is king for the millennial shopper. Social media in particular has taken real-time digital commerce to new heights, as younger consumers now expect to be able to shop the content they see online. The key to succeeding here is enabling millennials to make a purchase without interrupting what they are doing — whether they are in a store, browsing Snapchat or using their smartphones to message friends.

Experiences specific to their needs (which retailers should already know)
Often referred to as the “entitled” generation, millennials have high expectations, and they don’t want to tell retailers how to deliver on those expectations. However, they are willing to share information to shape the marketing they receive, so the burden is on retailers to gather that data. The beauty industry is a good example of a sector that is already leveraging this opportunity effectively. Sephora’s Beauty Insider program, for example, collates customer information from several different sources to personalize its product recommendations to each shopper.

A relationship
Ultimately, all consumers want a relationship with their favorite retailers, but millennials are willing to pay a premium to receive it. This is where loyalty programs come into their own, as they enable retailers to add real value to the transactions that customers make. Loyalty doesn’t have to be counterproductive to convenience, either. Shoppers coming in and out of stores quickly are just as likely to use their loyalty cards, and actively want to nurture relationships with the retailers they visit.

Chelsea Reay is head of content at Retail Connections, Europe’s leading network for retail insight and innovation.