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Millennials and the Omni-channel Experience You Need to Create

By Shelly Kramer – Contributing Writer, Co-CEO of V3B & BroadSuite Media Group.

The smart use of technology in sales and marketing is becoming ever more important for consumers, especially for Millennials—a demographic that puts more importance on creative uses of technology than brand name. But that doesn’t just mean providing a smartphone app with a few bells and whistles to help them through the buying cycle. They’re not that easily charmed by the “new shiny thing.” Instead, it means creating a seamless shopping experience that covers all aspects of the consumer journey from research to purchase, both online and offline. It’s not just one channel any more; it’s not even multi-channel; the new (and dominant) Millennial shopper demands an omni-channel experience that is quick, social, user friendly, and provides them—the consumers—with real value.

To gain an insight into the attitude of the Millennial “omni-shopper” consider these findings from The Retail CMO’s Guide to the Omnishopper, a new survey from MasterCard.

  • Fifty-five percent of consumers under 30 prefer experiences to “things”. This compares to a 50/50 split for the over 50 age group.
  • Shipping policies and inventory inconsistencies frustrate younger shoppers more than their older counterparts.
  • A lower proportion of under 30s (45 percent) say they want to see and touch a product before buying. For over 30s that number climbs to 56 percent.
  • Younger shoppers are less likely to be put off by shipping costs.
  • Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Millennials are researching purchases more today than they were two years ago. Just half of the over 50s say the same.
  • Younger consumers are swayed more by the reputation of the seller, while for the majority of older shoppers, the allure comes from price and quality.
  • More 18-29 year olds (30 percent) like to try new merchants than do the over 50 group (21 percent).
  • More than half of the Millennials surveyed are super loyal, saying they buy more today from the same group of merchants than they did 5 years ago. Just a quarter of over 50s said the same.
  • Technology use when shopping, while higher among Millennials, is popular overall, with 80 percent of respondents saying they always or sometimes use it.

It seems that attitudes to shopping are changing, with the Millennial generation having a different type of relationship with brands, as well as different expectations of the shopping experience. Make no mistake though; meeting those expectations with an omnichannel approach is complicated. Take a look at this graphic from Kana as an excellent illustration of all of the moving parts involved.

Technology is Important to Millennials

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone that technology has an important role to play in the shopping experience for the digitally savvy Millennials. According to key findings in a report from Annalect, the use of technology and rich-media allows for a much more personalized shopping experience, something that Millennials value.

The report suggests that a brand’s use of technology is a vital part of developing strong relationships with Millennials, who feel that technology “provides them with freedom, empowerment, and equality across all aspects of their lives.” In fact, as I mentioned above, more than half of the Millennials that took part in the study said that a brand’s use of tech was even more important to them than the brand’s name. They have specific expectations of how brands should use technology, making it a more personal experience and empowering them to actually become a part of the program content (as we will see shortly).

While the focus for the Millennial may be mobile, they want more than just a smartphone app. As the MasterCard study showed, Millennials consider delivery options and stock availability information to be important. The omni-channel experience needs to use technology to provide a seamless, flexible offering that includes both the online, offline, and in-store experience. From initial research, through looking at pricing and stock availability, from examining the goods in-store to arranging shipping, the shopping process needs to be an “across the board” experience that assists the consumer at every stage.

Millennials are Social

One factor that sets Millennials apart from their elders is their use of social media. That means that social needs to be a big part of the picture for any brand that wants to offer a full omni-channel experience. Social gives the opportunity to put a human face on the brand, and allows it to form relationships with consumers. Millennials want a fast response and great customer service with no BS attached. They want to be able to find real time information on Twitter and get answers to their questions on Facebook. They want to be able to have input into campaigns on Instagram and Snapchat. And while many brands out there haven’t quite grasped the subtleties of a successful omni-channel approach, those that have are killing it. Like these guys:

Taco Bell

Pioneers in the use of Snapchat by brands, Taco Bell has become adept at using the platform to create a buzz for new product launches. They get the best out of the visually focused channel by challenging users to participate in interactive challenges, such as their so-called “Doodle Wars”.

omni-channel-experience-2

The focus isn’t just on the entertainment value though, as the channel points users towards other digital channels and restaurants. At the same time, their Twitter feed regularly directs followers to their Snapchat updates for a truly joined up approach.

Chipotle

Meanwhile over at Chipotle, apart from offering a truly interactive “Taste Invaders” experience, the brand’s website offers nutritional information, along with other brand-related news. Add in a mobile app that enables the user to locate the nearest outlet and place an order, and you can begin to see the type of seamless operation that an omni-channel strategy demands.

omni-channel-experience-3

MeUndies

MeUndies is a great example of linking the product and product information to user generated content. The team at MeUndies encourages people to send in their photos to the brand’s Instagram page, and they feature the top three posts each month on their website. Linking the brand website to and from Instagram allows users to easily explore the product range and join in the fun with their own purchase. By the look of their Instagram feed they are certainly creating a buzz with the millennial market.

omni-channel-experience-4

As I’ve already said, creating an omni-channel approach is a complex process and one that can’t be achieved overnight. However as the Millennial generation become more and more dominant as consumers, it’s a strategy that can’t be ignored. Millennials know what they want from their shopping experience, and they have the technology to give them the freedom and flexibility to find it. Brands that want to make sure they can tap into that market need to start thinking omni-channel now. They need to start building elements into their strategy that will help the consumer to not just see them as a source of information, but as a partner in finding what they need.

Now, over to you. Have you sent in a picture of yourself wearing your MeUndies yet? (I kid, I kid) But seriously, are you exploring an omni-channel approach in your marketing? Have had a fantastic omni-channel shopping experience with a brand? Is there a company out there right now just killing it, to add to my list above? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Other Resources on this Topic:
Omni-channel and the Mobile Marketing Experience
Omni-channel Marketing Allows Brands to Unite Diverse Audience
Bricks & Clicks: The New Omni-channel Reality

By Shelly Kramer – Contributing Writer, Co-CEO of V3B & BroadSuite Media Group
Website: www.v3b.com, Twitter: @ShellyKramer