The story so far
Millennial shoppers in today’s market (those born between 1980 – 2000*), are arguably the most valuable demographic right now. Millennials are different from ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Generation X’ because they were born and grew up in the middle of the internet revolution. While some older generations were still arguing the value of a PC and the internet, these kids understood new technology, embraced it and helped change the world as we know it. Just think about one of the biggest companies in the world; Facebook was founded in 2004 by possibly the epitome of this millennial generation, Mark Zuckerberg.
It is predicted that by 2020, millennials will account for one third of all retail spending**. Clearly, this market is critical to ecommerce success. According to KissMetrics, right now, only 50% of retailers are differentiating their marketing according to demographics, leaving many businesses with a huge opportunity.
Role of social media and mobile optimisation
Social networks are an extraordinarily important part of a millennials’ life, in part because social networks have become much more than a way to connect about personal matters. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram are just some of the major players which have a huge influence over a millennial’s day-to-day life and are making the world of ecommerce even more accessible. Millennials have never experienced a world without the internet, and increasingly they shop, socialise and share content on mobiles. It therefore becomes even more important that every aspect of the online experience is optimised. It’s your choice, but by focusing on the millennial market (how they think and shop), you are targeting a demographic that spends more money online than any other age group (according to a Business Insider Intelligence report).
During the early part of 2015 a comScore report detailed that smartphone adoption among mobile users hit around 75%. Not surprisingly, the educated marketplace responded to this trend by generating ‘mobile-first’ experiences. This means optimising products/websites for smaller screens with simplified journeys and a more visual experience. From a design and development perspective, it is much easier to scale up your user journey experience to a desktop device than it is to scale down and start removing different elements of your pages to fit with the smaller mobile devices. Large images, easy to tap buttons and a fast experience are all factors which make up the key elements of a mobile optimised journey which is not only tailored to the millennials but all demographics in our increasingly device-led world.
Importance of user research
Millennials are certainly very savvy online customers, in terms of behaviour they are very impatient and want immediate gratification. They look for reviews, feedback, and best prices and make full use of the resources they have before buying, this includes both online and in-store. With this in mind it is imperative that businesses frequently research how users behave on their website in order to understand their wants and needs. As the world around us speeds up, the desires of the millennial generation change quicker than the seasons. Ideally, this would be moderated research (where you can interact with participants first hand) but remote research can be very insightful as well, especially if you need findings quickly. Ensuring your recruitment criteria (for moderated user research) and target demographics are accurate is crucial in order to gain the true value of potential improvements for this audience.
Make no mistake, as much as the mobile device is the number one when it comes to usage for the millennials, when it comes to shopping they demand an integrated, seamless experience regardless of the channel. That means being able to transition effortlessly from smartphone, to desktop to store in their quest for the best products and services. This therefore backs up the need for deeper understanding of your customers across all devices in an attempt to identify how their needs differ across channel.
The role of millennial loyalty and personalisation
In a Which? survey of UK retail leaders, nearly 40% said the number one concern they have about millennials is their lack of loyalty. My opinion however, is that millennials can be exceptionally loyal customers, provided they feel they’ve been treated right. They demand a customer-centric shopping experience, tailored to their wants and needs as valued customers. They seek personalised, targeted promotions and discounts as the price for their loyalty.
Closely aligned to loyalty within the millennial demographic is personalisation. Millennials are extremely receptive to personalised targeting – when they have their eye on something, they want it to be easily accessible. For me, personalised experiences and more relevant user journeys will win over generic, ‘one-size-fits-all’ journeys every time, especially within the retail market. Right now, customers across most ecommerce sites are drowning in a sea of ‘irrelevant’ choices.
To wrap up, I will leave you with this thought. If you or your company aims to start optimising your website for millennials, i.e. to appeal to an enthusiastic demographic of unprecedented size, you should seriously consider building a millennial-first business model, which offers purpose, personalisation and immediate satisfaction. While the concept of ‘mobile-first’ is important, a larger potential change is afoot as the generation that came of age with mobile devices – the millennials – enter the building. The millennial generation has specific needs and an enormous opportunity exists for businesses that are not just ‘mobile-first’ but ‘millennial-first.’
With all these different scenarios discussed, there is one main constant which needs to be considered throughout in order to gain maximum value, and that’s user research. To have a true understanding of the millennial market and what that means for your business, user research needs to play an integral role.
* Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research
** Accenture: Retail research: Insights into millennial shopping behavior patterns