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Five Things Retailers Should Know About Millennial Shoppers

Omnichannel, social commerce and even email can pay off

Millennials have been credited with upending entire industries, and retail is no exception. Here's what retailers need to know about attracting and retaining consumers from a maturing generation of digital shoppers.

No. 1: Retailers Must Be Digital and Corporeal

The concept of omnichannel is simple—be where your customers are, whether that's online or at a brick-and-mortar location. But bridging the gap between digital and physical is easier said than done. Retailers that figure it out will be rewarded, however. A September 2018 poll conducted by Roth Capital Partners found that nearly two-thirds of US millennials used some mix of digital and in-store to research and then make a purchase. Similarly, research from Alliance Data revealed that more than half of millennials surveyed also used a mix of online and in-store channels to shop for products across a wide variety of categories, including clothing, beauty items and even furniture.

No. 2: They're Open to Social Commerce

While the idea of buying something on Instagram might be off-putting to older generations, the same can't be said for millennials. According to a Bizrate Insights survey conducted for eMarketer in December 2018, 35% of millennials made a purchase on social media. And nearly 30% said they hadn't done so, but were open to the idea. Those figures were higher for the 18- to 34-year-old group than older cohorts. The takeaway? Retailers should ensure that their social media strategies don't ignore the "buy" button.

No. 3: Don't Forget About Email!

Email might not be flashy, but it remains a workhorse of digital marketing that delivers results. Data shows that it also serves as a security blanket for millennials making online purchases. A November 2018 survey of US digital shoppers found that 62.4% of those ages 18 to 24 had experienced a moment of panic after failing to immediately receive a purchase confirmation by email. That figure was higher than any other age group. Retailers can spare younger shoppers some stress by ensuring that emails arrive quickly after an online transaction.

No. 4 They're Ready for Innovation

Millennials are willing to run with open arms toward emerging technologies that could reshape the path to purchase. In fact, more than 60% of millennials in the US and the UK polled by ViSenze in July 2018 said they would be comfortable using visual search tools. Shoppable content such as clickable images and videos was also popular among a majority of respondents. But not all technologies were viewed equally. A minority of those polled were similarly open to using augmented reality (AR) or live chat and messaging to shop online. If retailers want to invest in the newest shiny thing, they should pick and choose their investments carefully.

No. 5: Bring on the Robots

Millennials are more likely than other generations to bypass human interactions at the point-of-sale.. The same Bizrate Insights survey from December 2018 showed that more than half used self-service checkouts at brick-and-mortar stores, and only 7% said they were uninterested in ever using the technology. That might surprise some retailers who conflate a solid in-store customer experience with having a surfeit of staff on hand. When it comes to purchases, millennials want to go it alone.