Millennials are the nation’s largest living generation — 75.4 million vs. 74.9 million baby-boomers per the 2016 census — and a purchasing powerhouse poised to explode. Because technology is at the epicenter of everything millennials do — how they communicate, socialize and shop — this first generation of digital natives has outstripped most retailers’ ability to engage with them. Modern retailing is at a critical crossroads, having to reconcile this unprecedented demographic shift with an across-the-board change in how technology is used within the shopping experience.
These seismic demographic and technological phenomena are reshaping omnichannel retailing and redefining success. Retailers must meet millennials’ demand for technology that drives convenience and immediate fulfillment without sacrificing engagement that’s integral to boomers’ customer service needs. Dovetailing with these prerequisites, brick-and-mortar stores are projected to account for 85% of purchases as far out as 2025 (Forrester Research), while half of all mobile product sales already combine in-store purchases with online research.
To create an empowered, untethered shopping experience that attracts millennials and wins their loyalty, and provides boomer-valued customer service, retailers should look to the store’s point-of-sale (POS) system as the natural hub of cross-channel interaction.
A service-oriented strategy that delivers full POS capabilities to any device (the true promise of omnichannel) is the linchpin for a seamless experience and uninterrupted engagement, including:
• Purchase, return, service
• Promotions, adjustments, discounts
• Any form of payment (cash, credit card, gift card, etc.)
• One view of all real-time data (products, pricing, promotions, etc.)
• Associate engagement tailored by device (mobile phone, tablet, wearable)
Integrating POS and order management for demand forecasting
To honor the millennial mantra — “I want it where I want it and when I want it” — retailers must expand their inventory management capabilities from simply reacting to changing product demand with allocation and replenishment to truly mastering product demand.
Achieving this precise, broader level of product availability requires more accurate demand forecasting — not only knowing what products are bought, but also how they are purchased — to determine:
• Where each shopper’s journey will begin and end;
• What product needs to be where and for what purpose — on the shelf or ready for click and collect; and
• Product availability for either immediate delivery or in-store pickup
Truly understanding how and when inventory is consumed requires a global view of real-time (near real-time is no longer good enough) inventory movement across the entire supply chain. This expansive, detailed view enables each store to act as a distribution center that supports efficient order fulfillment.
This new level of omnichannel fulfillment requires deft orchestration of inventory movement across the entire supply chain. Distributed order management (DOM) creates a customer-driven system that continuously reconfigures and allocates inventory based on real-time customer behavior (detailed POS transactions, including quantities purchased and returned by channel, location and method) rather than historical allocation.
Mastering Millennial Motivators
Millennials care a great deal about price, and price drives many of their purchase decisions in several categories, including specialty retail, appliances and electronics, and department stores. In fact, more than half of this tech savvy group compares prices using their mobile phone while in the store.
However, the biggest influence on the path to purchase is word of mouth via social networks that are rife with reviews, recommendations and ratings. Think of it as today’s personalized version of Consumer Reports. Social media referrals are paramount, since as many as 71% of all consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a positive review, according to HubSpot. Plus, those brands that embrace social media are nearer and dearer to the hearts and minds of millennial shoppers.
Multiple Forms of Information
As far as information is concerned for millennials, overload is not part of their vocabulary. The more, the better. In addition to written narratives, retailers should take advantage of this group’s penchant for visuals (infographics, videos, slide shows, etc.) that convey product information (testimonials, applications, how-to installation and troubleshooting, etc.).
Innovation and Experimentation
Having used technology practically since birth, millennials are comfortable with change and adaptation. As a result, they embrace technological innovation, equate it with progress, and jump at the chance to simplify and streamline any and every part of their life. Therefore, they are predisposed to brands/retailers that offer them new paths to a more convenient shopping experience.
Molding a Millennial-Friendly Retail Enterprise
Fast-moving millennials are pushing retailers to quicken their pace of change. Keeping up to provide the capabilities necessary for consistently engaging millennials and delivering a satisfying shopping experience worthy of their loyalty is a challenge—one that points to the very nature of the retail enterprise.
Unified commerce is the name of the omnichannel game for winning millennials, because this group of shoppers, more than any other, expects it. Their technological prowess enables them to nimbly move from device to device and from channel to channel at any given point on their shopping journey. And nothing less than an experience that keeps up with them will keep them coming back. It’s a tall order that retailers must fill with real-time and historical information shared among all channels.
Those who maintain channel siloes can’t provide a seamless shopping experience and are therefore failing to earn millennial loyalty.
Agile Change Adoption
The speed at which technological innovations are being thrust at retailers is so staggering that it’s no wonder many are confused (and often skeptical) about which ones will endure and truly pay off on the bottom line.
Technology providers must assist them in both deciphering the landscape and ensuring that solutions are well suited for achieving their clients’ strategic objectives. They must also help them create agile environments that can iteratively embrace the right technologies as they replace antiquated ones.
If retailers are investing in change to attract and garner a share of the millennial wallet, they should be considering these areas:
• Mobile commerce services/functions;
• Social media functions/analytics;
• Channel unification/seamless experience;
• Innovation and experimentation;
• Agile, adaptive enterprise; and
• Cutting-edge technology.
Lexy Johnson, OneView Commerce senior VP, global marketing & engagement, helps global retailers define and implement successful omnichannel strategies that drive a unified customer experience. OneView Commerce enables retailers to drive digital transformation by providing disruptive technologies that enable the exchange of vital information via digital point of sale, real-time inventory, and enterprise promotions.