Millennial IT Needs are Less Unique than You (or They) Think
Retailers often assume that meeting the needs of the Millennial generation through technology is a highly specialized endeavor due to the unique experience these “digital natives” have had growing up in an IT-centric world. But before making that assumption, retailers should consider these words author Joyce Maynard, then a Yale freshman, wrote in her 1972 New York Times essay “An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life:”
“My generation is special because of what we missed rather than what we got, because in a certain sense we are the first and the last. The first to take technology for granted.”
Maynard was primarily referring to TV when she wrote of “technology,” rather than social media and constant connectivity. However, every generation that has come of age since World War II has grown up taking some form of disruptive consumer technology for granted. And every generation has assumed this made them special. The difference with Millennials is that for the first time, their elders agree with them.
Consumers in their teens and 20s have not changed that much since 1972 (or 1872, for that matter). Technology keeps advancing but the psychology of a person transitioning into adulthood pretty much stays the same. When meeting the needs of Millennial shoppers with technology, retailers should follow a few constant principles that will apply to serving them regardless of the direction IT advancements follow.
Time is of the Essence
Disruptive consumer technologies mostly involve reducing the time and increasing the convenience of delivering information. TV provides immediate, in-home visual content once only available in a movie theater. The Internet offers an instant global library with streamlined search capabilities. Whatever generation coming of age when a disruptive technology is introduced instinctively expects the whole world to operate at that level of speed and efficiency.
When retailing to Millennials, that means using text instead of email, social media pages instead of websites and offering full mobile transactional capability. Social and mobile technologies need to be fully integrated into the store experience as well, since Millennials expect everything in their lives to run at a virtual pace.
Youth will be Served
Millennials are at the age where they are developing their adult personalities and launching their independent lives. Disruptive consumer technologies have always placed more control in the hands of the consumer, and social and mobile technologies have enabled Millennials to grow up in personalized virtual environments that cross over into the physical world.
Retailers need to use digital technology to let Millennials decide how and when they want to browse and purchase products, as well as control what products they are offered. The experience of shopping in a store, on a website, through a social page or using a mobile device must be seamless, or Millennials will opt you out of their personal existence.
Fun and Games
It’s no secret the younger crowd enjoys a good time, and constant connectivity has taught Millennials that entertainment is always a click away. Retailers need to make the shopping experience fun using digital tools to turn browsing and buying products into a competitive game and let customers place their own photos and commentary into the social content stream. Gamification is not a novel add-on for the Millennial consumer, but a necessity to let them experience the level of fun they have come to expect from every activity in their lives.
Walmart gears up for holiday shopping season
In preparation for the holiday shopping season, Walmart has announced plans to hire 55,000 seasonal employees.
The big box retailer also intends to transition more than 35,000 workers from temporary to part-time and another 35,000 workers from part-time to full-time.
“Our associates have always been the key to Walmart’s success, and that’s especially true during the holidays,” said Gisel Ruiz, EVP, chief operating officer, Walmart U.S. “We know our associates are going to deliver for our customers, so we are going to deliver for our associates. In addition to the traditional hiring of seasonal help, we are expanding opportunities for the people that already work for us.”
Walmart joins a growing list of retailers who are already bringing in seasonal staff to help with the holiday rush.
Deloitte: U.S. holiday sales expected to rise 4% to 4.5%
Deloitte’s holiday sales forecast points to further signs that the economy is recovering. Holiday sales are expected to climb to between $963 and $967 billion, representing a 4% to 4.5% increase in November through January holiday sales (excluding motor vehicles and gasoline) this year from last year’s season.
The growth rate is on par with last year’s 4.5% gain. In addition, Deloitte forecasts a 12.5 to 13% increase in non-store sales. Nearly three-quarters of non-store sales result from the online channel with additional sales coming from catalogs and interactive TV.
Deloitte also anticipates that mobile-influenced retail store sales will account for 8%, or $66 billion, in retail store sales this holiday season, driven by consumers’ store-related smartphone activity such as product research, price comparison or mobile application use.
"We anticipate non-store sales growth will continue to surpass overall retail sales growth," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and Retail & Distribution sector leader. “In addition, shoppers researching their purchases electronically, via their PC, tablet or mobile phone, are increasingly influencing in-store sales, particularly as we see greater integration across retailers’ store, online and mobile channels. More retailers are offering services such as ‘buy online and pick up in store,’ as well as inventory from other locations and price matching on the spot. The store is still a core element of holiday shopping, and retailers leading the way this season will be those that effectively bring together their pricing, promotions, merchandise and inventory management across both their physical and digital storefronts."