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GUEST COMMENT The Retailers’ Guide to Millennial Expectations

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Tech-savvy millennials may be spending like no other generation before them, but their ravenous appetite for online content and data enables them to make well informed decisions about what to buy and where to shop. If you thought the baby boomers were big spenders, you’d better think again because millennials are predicted to spend at least £164bn year on year, and over £8 trillion in their lifetime. It’s no surprise retailers are desperate to tap into their expectations and prosper from their spending power.

As consumer demand drives the evolution of technology, retailers striving to boost their appeal to millennials must adapt to customer facing innovations. As well as investing in the technology itself, they must also consider the background functionality that will enable these technological advancements to reliably operate, otherwise it will all be for show.

Read on to discover our tips on how retailers can successfully maximise engagement with millennials through exciting new technological offerings.

The consumer connection

Millennials cannot seem to function without their smartphones and in a recent study by Deloitte it was revealed that four out of five millennials sleep next to their devices. Hughes Europe’s own study revealed that with the requirement to stay constantly connected, 86% of consumers are willing to submit basic personal data in return for Wi-Fi access, while 74% of consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for offers.

Retailers should seize this opportunity to collect data including names and email addresses of shoppers joining their networks, and utilise direct channels of communication with those shoppers to keep them informed about products and offers.

Personalised marketing

It’s not just the lure of a strong wi-fi connection that makes millennials so willing to submit their personal data; this savvy generation of shopaholics sees data as a bargaining tool for offers and discounts. However, 89 per cent of shoppers participating in the survey cited being bombarded with unwanted offers and messages as their biggest concern. Retailers must take care not to ‘spam’ customers with high volumes of promotions or irrelevant messaging.

A male consumer for instance isn’t likely to respond well to beauty product promotions having traded his details for department store wi-fi. There’s a fine line between targeting consumers with offers that are useful to them and bombarding them with irrelevant promotions that could drive them away. The bottom line is get personalisation right and you will reap the rewards.

Virtual commerce

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is paramount to delivering a personalised experience. Sixty one per cent of survey participants were unconcerned about being tracked around premises so that the retailer could be more responsive to their personal requirements. Not only does this machine learning allow the retailer to build an impression of an individual’s preferences, allowing them to optimise messaging to the individual’s requirements, it also enables the retailer to target shoppers with real time offers based on products they’re browsing in-store, increasing the chances of an impulse purchase.

Traditional retailers can compete with online giants such as Amazon by providing a hands-on shopping experience that consumers still value. Amazon is widely used as a price comparison tool for consumers while browsing bricks and mortar stores, but through real time offers, retailers can secure purchases on-site by offering a competitive discount on the spot.

Augmented Reality (AR) also allows customers to interact with brands and products in an entirely new way. Topshop’s Kinect Dressing Rooms and Converse’s Shoe Sampler allow users to try on products without the hassle of trying them on physically and though it’s still early days for VR, it has proved popular in automotive showrooms with the likes of Lexus and Volvo utilising headsets to offer test-drive experiences of vehicles that are not yet in stock, it will become another expectation of the millennial consumer when shopping.

The painless purchase

Mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) is another expectation that stems from the requirement to get everything done that little bit faster, and this portable tech allows consumers to avoid queues with store personnel accepting payments anywhere instore. For example, the footwear aficionado could march into store, slip into a perfectly-fitting pair of shoes, tap their card on the store assistant’s mPOS device and walk out wearing their new pair of shoes within a matter of minutes.

These systems can also offer consumers multiple payment options, accepting transactions from mobile wallets including Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. Just like contactless payment replacing chip and pin, mobile payments are becoming a popular way to pay with millennials who like to be ahead of the curve.

The smart approach

Technological innovation may be an area of mass appeal for millennials, but if implementing such technology in store is going to gift retailers with more than simply drawing punters in through the doors, serious consideration must be placed into optimising network connectivity, enhancing data analytics and investing in intelligent infrastructure.

Reliable Wi-Fi is crucial when implementing these innovations, but there’s also a demand for bandwidth from essential business applications and back-office technology. A Managed Services Provider such as Hughes can supply an automated solution that analyses network usage and reacts accordingly, granting more bandwidth to applications deemed critical by the retailer, preventing slow connection speeds of complete network outages.

If bricks-and-mortar retailers are to benefit from millennial spending power, they must plan ahead and consider bandwidth and connectivity requirements to support technological innovation, and once this is mastered, they’ll be favoured by generations to come.

Dan Thornton is head of solution development at Hughes Europe.

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