Millennials are estimated to have a combined purchasing power of $2.45 trillion globally this year. It is only fair that they expect retailers to try and understand what they want.
Millennials spend a great part of their time on the internet, not just to learn, communicate and organise their social lives but to shop too. And for retailers, this means understanding more about how to engage with this demographic and working out what they require from a shopping experience.
It’s a myth that millennials have abandoned physical stores in favour of online shops. In fact many millennials still prefer to visit a store. But the fact remains that ecommerce is growing and more and more people are shopping directly from their mobile devices. The key then, you would think, is to combine the two experiences.
Research from Accenture highlights that 68% of Millennials demand an integrated, seamless experience regardless of the channel. So perhaps this one area where retailers can improve – by creating an online experience that is closer to the in-store experience. After all, everybody – Millennials included – still values ‘old school’ shopping experiences where the seller-buyer conversation is face-to-face. Accenture’s research also found that Millennials demand a customer-centric shopping experience and like to be treated like valued customers.
Ongoing social engagement
If you’re in ecommerce, to attract Millennials, you simply must be active on all social media platforms, especially those that are based on images, such as Instagram and Pinterest. How else can you get people to view your products? Millennials use these social media sites with the intent on viewing images and in essence, “window shopping” so this is where your products and attractive imagery need to be.
Lessons on online retailing can also be learnt from the East. Chinese retailers are taking interactive consumer engagement and social e-commerce to the next level via private messaging platforms like Weibo and WeChat, helping shoppers throughout the entire purchasing process via live chat and ongoing customer service. And it works. You must be consistent when engaging with customers on social media and work on maintaining relationships as well as building new ones.
Clear path to purchase
UK retailers, for example, are adjusting their customer service strategies to provide a better customer experience for Millennials and other shopper demographics. It is pointless to invest huge amounts of money in a series of digital marketing channels to attract shoppers to your website, only to have customers take a couple of clicks around your site and then leave because they couldn’t find what they were looking for or didn’t understand a specific product.
It is imperative that your website allows you to engage with your online customers and that these same customers have a clear path to purchase and a smooth checkout process. Whether that comes in an attractive, easy-to-navigate website, or real-time assistance, it should be easy for shoppers to, well shop!
Real time interaction
Another way to stay ahead of the game is to optimise the way in which you interact with customers over their mobile devices. Not just Millennials, but most people these days spend an increasing amount of time on their smartphones (mobile usage in the UK alone increased to 68% in 2014 from 62% in 2013).
Having a live assistance – whether that’s live video or live chat – that works well on mobile is extremely beneficial. Live video is the perfect tool to make your site more hospitable. It engages your customer by inviting them to talk to an assistant face-to-face, giving them a more personal service and making them feel valued. Customers can actually see the person they’re talking to, ask for help with form filling, seek advice, make inquiries and share screens to co-browse the website and go through the check-out process. The communication between consumer and retailer becomes a dialogue – much like a conversation you’d have in store.
Live video assistance is a huge growth area. If you haven’t seen it yet on a website, it is only a matter of time before you do.
Who’s already doing it?
There are a number of brands already catering to the demands of Millennials. Ikea and Sephora certainly know how to dominate social media, and make excellent use of Pinterest and intagram. They consistently engage with followers by asking questions, running competitions and posting attractive, interesting and entertaining photos and videos.
In addition, sofa company, DFS is using Vee24’s live video assistance to help customers make purchasing decisions on sofas, and shoe retailer Schuh is using it to co-browse its product range and answer queries from the website.
This is a major step forward from the customer service we receive via text – where the customer service agent will be dealing with multiple conversations at one time.
We can’t ignore any shopper demographic, and Millennials are no exception – they are a difficult group to bracket, but ultimately they want very similar things to other consumers and can be exceptionally loyal customers provided they feel they’ve been treated well.
If you provide a smooth, personalised digital shopping experience that is easily accessible, Millennials will ultimately be great ambassadors for your brand, which in turn means good return on investment for your business.
About the Author
Kathryn Kearns is the editor of Customer Service Guru and a regular writer and researcher for various other sites. She enjoys writing on a variety of topics including advice for consumers and businesses, marketing, social media, tech trends and on occasion, pop culture.