Millennials have been characterized in a number of ways, few of them flattering: Lazy, narcissistic, entitled; coddled and in need of constant positive feedback; prone to jump from job to job and to remain, well into their 30s, financially dependent on their parents.
But if you’re a retailer, here’s all you really need to know: According to Forbes, these young Americans born between roughly 1981 and 1996 are the second largest generation in U.S. history, are assuming powerful positions in the businesses they’re in, and have a rapidly increasing purchase power with an estimated spending power worth $10 trillion over their lifetimes.
To attract and retain this fast-maturing generation of digital shoppers, EMarketer, which provides insights and trends in digital marketing, media and commerce, offers retailers these five tips:
- Go omnichannel or go home. Meeting customers where they are means both in brick-and-mortar settings and online. Research from Alliance Data reveals that more than half of millennials surveyed use a mix of online and in-store channels to shop for products across the wide variety of categories;
- Develop social media buying strategies. According to a Bizrate Insights survey conducted for eMarketer last December, 35 percent of millennials made a purchase on social media, and nearly 30 percent said they hadn’t done so but were open to the idea;
- Don’t neglect e-mail. It may not be flashy, but data shows it serves as a kind of security blanket for millennials when making online purchase. As such, retailers should send young customers supporting e-mail messages quickly after online purchases;
- Embrace emerging technologies. Millennials are willing to latch onto new and emerging technologies such as visual search tools, clickable images and videos, even (though to a lesser degree) augmented reality and live chat;
- Robots are your friends. More than other generations, millennials are likely to bypass human interactions at point of sale. The Bizrate Insights survey referenced above showed that more than half of those surveyed said they had used self-service checkouts in physical stores, thus refuting the popular notion that positive customer experience requires one-on-one interactions with a human salesperson.
Across the U.S. older workers tend to have a higher income than younger workers, including millennials. according to a Business Insider report. But with the outer edge of the millennial universe approaching 40, that’s changing and changing fast. Understanding this generation and its shopping habits will be increasingly critical for brick-and-mortar as well as online retailers.