Millennial and Gen Z customers are running out of patience. The importance of creating a personalized retail shopping experience can’t be overstated – in fact, it has been stated time and time again – yet retailers are still struggling to make moves that resonate with next-generation consumers. Young customers want a fast shopping experience that’s personalized to their unique preferences: 68 percent of millennials demand an integrated shopping experience regardless of channel, and 66 percent of Gen Z would shop at a retail store if they could check the inventory levels online beforehand. While retailers need access to real-time updates to give young customers this level of transparency, many have yet to implement technology that gives them live insights into their business.
But whether you’re ahead of the pack when it comes to tech adoption, or you’re still operating on a legacy system that’s on its last legs, you need to know how to attract millennial and Gen Z consumers with your brand. Here’s a quick list of goals to help you reach these two elusive demographics.
Goal 1: Shorten social media response times
Retailers and young customers often have a very different idea of how long retailers should be able to wait to respond to customer service queries on social media. Eighty percent of customers expect retailers to respond within 24 hours of their initial post or request; however, the younger the customer, the less time they’re willing to wait for a response. Response time expectations also vary by platform, and a whopping 85 percent of customers of all ages expect a response within six hours of contacting a company though Facebook. To respond to consumer requests within the ever-shortening time windows allotted, you may need to outsource social media management to an employee that can set up notifications to respond immediately, or to filter customer service requests through a messenger chatbot.
Goal #2: Let them shop on-the-fly
Young customers multi-task while shopping to an extent that most can only imagine. According to a recent study from Namagoo, 57 percent of respondents shop online while at work, 51 percent do so when doing housework, and 32 percent shop when cooking. Customers also shop while dining out with family and friends, running errands, commuting to work, or exercising. To encourage next-gen customers to spontaneously shop your store, shorten friction points along their paths-to-purchase, speed up your website and mobile app by eliminating unnecessary code, and always follow-up on abandoned online shopping carts with a reminder email.
Goal #3: Personalize your rewards program
Generic rewards programs simply don’t work. For rewards programs to be effective in this day and age, they need to be personalized to each customer’s unique preferences and shopping patterns. Business of Fashion reports, “It may sound a bit precious, but responsiveness with a veneer of loyalty can make a start-up stand out in a world where anyone with a phone can call themselves an entrepreneur.” Consider that 95 percent of millennials want brands to actively court them – provided that they’re courted on their platform of choice in a non-obtrusive way. Surprisingly enough, physical coupons actually outpace text message marketing when it comes to having an impact on where millennials choose to spend. However, Gen Z’s shopping journey begins and ends on social media.
Goal #4: Get them to use their smartphones
Ever heard the saying “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?” Well this rings especially true when it comes to how customers want to shop. The reality is that many customers today connect to brands and maintain the conversation through their smartphones. Instead of trying to combat this growing industry trend, you can stand out from the pack by inviting them to connect with you through their preferred platforms in-store. The Vend blog illustrates this perfectly with its example of how Vend client T-We Tea embraces in-store smartphone usage though mobile payments:
“Rather than discouraging smartphone use,” Vend reports, “they invite shoppers to bring their phones and pay using their devices. Customers are encouraged to download the PayPal app so they can complete purchases without having to whip out their wallet. This not only gives people a faster checkout experience, it also allows T-We Tea to add that cool factor into their stores.”
Goal #5: Embrace humor in your marketing strategy
Guess which demographic hates being advertised to and represents 32 percent of the world’s population? If you guessed Gen Z, then you guessed correctly. However, millennials are right behind, comprising 30 percent of individuals who are of voting age. Although next-gen consumers are inherently resentful of corporate advertising, you can cut right through their defenses by creating a campaign that gets them laughing. For inspiration, take a look at what KFC has done with crowdsourcing (and, more recently, appealing to Gen Z’s global-mindedness by rolling out a vegan option).
Bringing it all together
Reaching next-generation customers isn’t always easy. In fact, in many cases it means completely diverging from how things have always been done. But bridging the gap between your brand and the young customers you hope to attract starts with understanding. By implementing the above insights into your brand strategy, you can show millennials and Gen Z that you’re making an effort to “get it,” and that means more to next-gen consumers than an old-fashioned celebrity endorsement ever would.
About the writer: Jasmine Glasheen is recognized as a leading influencer, writer, editor, and brand representative. She is a contributing editor to RetailWire, content lead at Retail Minded, and is the author of numerous eBooks and white papers for private clients. Follow Jasmine on Twitter @GlasheenJasmin1.