You’ve heard the stereotypes. Those youngsters are glued to their phones and don’t appreciate the simple idea of walking into a brick-and-mortar shop. After all, they could just type a few keystrokes and have whatever they want delivered from myriad online retailers. And this is all reinforced by many retailers reporting declining sales year over year. So isn’t it curious when you hear reports that millennials actually prefer shopping in-store?
As one of those tech-savvy 20-somethings myself, I can tell you that it’s absolutely true. But here’s the catch, most retailers don’t know how to attract this age group. Instead of treating millennials differently, they want to continue practices that worked in the past. But you have to look at what speaks to them in particular, and it boils down to three things that this target looks for when shopping at an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar location; value, getting a deal, and the in-store experience itself.
First is value. This seems obvious, and it is true of all consumers, but millennials are looking for the best price to quality ratio. They don’t want to waste money on something lavish, and they don’t want a piece of junk that won’t last. Many millennials experienced their formative years in the midst of the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. This has instilled an understandable sense of wariness when selecting something to purchase and has caused a sense of distrust towards major corporations. Combat this by going above and beyond with personal service, which lends assurance to the quality of whatever you’re selling. Trying for mass appeal will only cause people to think your product is cheap.
Next is getting a deal. Again, due to the economic conditions growing up, many millennials understand how fast money can disappear. This leads to some inventive corner cutting to save money, whether it be living with roommates for longer periods of time than previous generations, canceling their cable subscription, or clipping coupons. In fact, Time reported that a whopping 90% of millennials use coupons to save money.
Finally, and possibly the most important is the in-store experience itself. There are a million things to say about using new technology to streamline the purchasing process, capitalizing on the “hipster” trend with décor and aesthetics, or any other buzz word, but it all comes down to one thing. Be authentic. This is one of the most distrusting age groups in recent memory, and they are looking for anything that screams “fake.” That’s the real reason why big-box stores aren’t seeing as much success.
One-size-fits-all layouts and overly corporate messaging is a huge red flag to millennials, and they are even willing to spend a little more to buy from somewhere they trust. Create an environment that is honest about who you are as a company, and you’ll see results.
So where does this leave us? You may have a better understanding of what speaks to a target like this now, but now you have to execute a plan, and you need the marketing savvy to not look like you’re selling to this target. One recommendation to go the coupon/reward program route. This provides value, a great deal, and gets them to the store for a (hopefully) ideal experience.
Take a look at Starbucks. Their program allows millennials to earn coupons and rewards by doing things they already enjoy doing (buying coffee, using their smartphone) and they make the in-store experience even better with the ability to order straight from an app. This all reinforces their identity of a company that “gets it” to this target, and their millions of downloads prove it. Combine technology that creates a better experience with a chic interior with a relaxed environment, and you have a successful brick and mortar operation.
By Nick Merchant