Moving Beyond Millennials

For the past five years, retailers and millennials have been in a very one-sided relationship. 
 
Big budgets were spent to capture and engage with this highly sought-after group of consumers through intelligent advertising, a carefully curated social media presence, and viral marketing campaigns. And in true millennial fashion, the response was indifferent. 
 
But retailers, it’s no longer all about millennials. 
 
Retailers have done just about everything they can to identify and anticipate millennials’ shopping habits and expectations. And the moment retailers thought they had millennials pegged, whispers of Gen Z began to circulate. Focusing too narrowly on only winning one segment of the consumer market — which for years has been millennials — is not the best long-term strategy. In this business, change is the only constant. Being able to stay agile in the face of change is critical. 
 
Earlier this year, the Square Root team conducted a national survey of 1,000 store managers (hyperlink: square-root.com/stores) to assess the current level of alignment, productivity, and efficiency within retail stores. The results were telling. Of the store managers surveyed, only 65% said they feel equipped to make decisions quickly, a mere 29% believe they have enough time to manage the workload from corporate, and 44% of store managers qualified as detractors when asked if they would recommend their job.
 
This is the environment in which retailers are trying to add omnichannel complexity and new customer experiences. Today, agility and the ability to anticipate and adapt to constant change is far more valuable to a brand’s growth strategy than any generation-oriented approach will ever be. 
 
All this to say, there are lessons to be learned from the last few years of millennial mania. In fact, retailers’ sharp focus on millennials has driven more data efforts toward the ability to accurately and appropriately profile and segment consumers than ever before. Beyond that, we have a better understanding of navigating change. 
 
Here are three key lessons for retailers’ looking to refocus their acquisition strategies:
 
Flex your omnichannel muscles. Over the past few years, we learned that millennials spend 87% of their time on two to three devices daily. While it may not be breaking news, this trend has resulted in a major shift in shopping research. What was once a physical experience, has transitioned to mobile, especially as 67% of American consumers make a trip to the store for final purchases to complement their initial mobile research. 
 
The bottom line is that today’s consumers (millennials and non) expect a seamless shopping experience that grants purchasing and perusing options across both physical locations and digital channels. Take this current holiday season, for example, where customers shopping in-store may need access to extended online inventory, or may want the option to buy online and pick up or return in-store. 
 
Don’t be afraid of data. With the swipe of their finger, consumers leave trails of data behind them. From their preferred brand to frequented shopping times, even down to their favorite items — retailers have access to a goldmine of information that can better inform their overall strategies. Understandably, using this information productively can be a daunting task. 
 
In fact, less than 50% of store managers feel they have adequate access to information across online and in-store, Square Root data said. But don’t let your data die in a corner of your database. Spend time culling, relaying, and unifying views of data to tie information to action. 
 
Rally the troops. The ability to meet the growing demand for omnichannel experiences relies on unified information, better visibility organization-wide and ensuring your teams — regardless of channel — are working together towards common goals. As it stands, less than half of all store managers believe they provide a consistent brand experience across all stores; and a paltry 42% agree that their company’s in-store experience aligns with the online experience. Retailers, creating a consistent brand experience starts with better aligning your teams and creating greater transparency between in-store teams and online platforms. Setting goals that foster collaboration will not only make internal organization easier, but will ensure brand success and an optimal customer experience. 
 
Yes, we may not stop talking about millennials for a while. But as brands work to survive the holiday season — and ramp up their 2017 strategies — they should keep this sentiment top of mind: success in retail is not dependent on figuring out any one generation of shoppers. It’s not about chasing the “next big demographic.” Your long-term success will be a direct result of your ability to stay ahead of constant change. 
Chris Taylor is CEO of Square Root, an Austin, Texas-based technology provider of cloud-based of enterprise store relationship management (SRM) software.
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