Five Surprising Millennial Retail and Shopping Trends in 2021
With the oldest on the verge of middle age, millennials are now 25 to 39 years old and make up nearly a quarter of the total U.S. population. Capturing millennial buying power is a big win, but how to do that isn’t always clear.
How should marketers try to reach millennials? What do millennial customers want? Take a moment to answer that question for yourself. Did you come up blank or with too many ideas? Did you think about lack of brand loyalty or passionate, dedicated influencers? Was it buyers that research their purchases or do they trend towards impulsive, last minute spending? Are they happy to share their personal data or focused on security and privacy? The answer is: Millennials are all of these and more.
Pinning down what drives millennials is notoriously difficult. Whether you are attempting to capture their loyalty as a millennial yourself or trying to crack the code as an outsider, winning over this digitally native generation isn’t easy. Millennials are changing customer journeys, and their needs and expectations may surprise you.
Five Millennial Retail Trends
1. Omnichannel Customer Journeys
New technology can provide opportunities to reach customers and promote your brand but can also be a challenge when customers expect seamless movement from one channel to another. Omnichannel customer journeys appeal to millennials who want their shopping to be when and where they need it. Millennials also have a reputation for spending time researching, comparing features, and reading reviews before they buy, so frictionless CX is key to keeping their business and their attention.
2. Next-level Experiences
In a world where you can buy virtually anything online and have it delivered in two days (or less!), customer experience is the last remaining differentiator. Enhanced CX can make your brand more memorable and foster deeper relationships with customers.
AR and VR
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are no longer the tech of the future, they are making significant contributions to customer experience and data collection now. VR requires a physical space and can be costly, but VR can also draw customers in. As the technology becomes more portable and easier to use, VR has the potential to provide the immersive experiences millennials are looking for.
AR is more attainable and can be used to gather data and steer customers towards particular products. For example, Japanese retailer PARCO created the app POCKET PARCO, a location-based game that leads customers to particular stores in their shopping malls, in order to marry digital and in-person CX. AR can be used to keep customers engaged, increase brand loyalty, and increase conversions. AR data can also lead to profitable insights about customer behavior and preferences that can’t be captured by other means.
Treasure Data’s Customer Data Platform (CDP) compiles multiple data sources into a holistic view of each customer and keeps up with changes in customer behavior and preferences. Knowing a customer’s preferences, purchasing history, browsing history, loyalty program activity, and other behavior facilitates timely and relevant product suggestions and promotions. Millennials in particular want to be known and they want their feedback to translate into action on the part of the brand. After all, they are willingly offering their personal data, they want to see that it is worth it.
3. Mobile First
Mobile is key to giving millennials the customer experiences they are looking for and brands need to optimize content for mobile use. If your brand hasn’t done it already, it is time to transfer your focus to mobile friendly content. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of mobile:
Optimize Experiences for Mobile
User experience (UX) on mobile devices make or break your relationship with millennial customers. If your mobile site is difficult to navigate, slow, or disconnected from other channels, you won’t get a second chance. Focus on UX and UI design that makes it easy to navigate on mobile. Aim for frictionless movement from one channel to another and relevant, timely content.
Optimize Data Collection and Usage for Mobile
The issue for many businesses isn’t that there is a lack of data, it is that there is so much it can’t be used efficiently. Omnichannel journeys produce many data points and it can be quite a task to determine the best way to use customer data as a resource. CDPs validate, clean, unify, and centralize customer data so it can be used quickly and effectively. Taking advantage of the mobile data capabilities in a CDP allows brands to get a full picture of mobile activity as well as integrate data from other touch points.
For example, car manufacturer Subaru turned to Treasure Data to engineer a custom CDP that could solve their fragmented data issues. Initially, Subaru was focused on identifying customers that were poised to buy soon and increase personalization to improve sales. CDP integration resulted in increased sales, smoother omnichannel customer journeys, and identified the under-used potential of post-sales data. Now Subaru uses post-sales data and predictive analytics to design new products and services that bring in revenue and build customer loyalty.
Optimize Mobile Apps for Loyalty Programs
Thankfully, the days of needing to carry around bulky loyalty program member cards are over and most loyalty programs can be navigated through an app. Successful loyalty program apps are responsive, easy to use, relevant, and give back to customers. Done properly, loyalty programs can improve online sales and in-store sales. Loyalty program data can be used to further flesh out individual customer profiles and identify larger trends for your brand.
4. Give Back
Millennials have been outspoken about their desire for authentic and effective social and environmental change. Corporate social responsibility and genuine engagement with issues that matter to your customers isn’t out of reach. While the values and actions of a brand can help create millennial customer loyalty, millennials are also good at spotting insincere or mercenary philanthropy.
Work with company leaders to identify causes that the brand can stand behind. Self-aware social and environmental actions carry extra weight. For example, if your product consumes natural resources such as trees, a recycling and tree planting program would be logical and appealing to customers. Millennials are particularly aware of their own social and environmental responsibilities, and a commitment to causes they care about gives them another reason to be loyal to your brand.
Messaging about how your brand gives back should be informational, not sensational, and respectful. Campaigns that link purchases to action help support the cause and connect the brand to it.
5. Empower Your Customers
Savvy millennials are also very aware of the importance of privacy and data security. At the same time, the kinds of omnichannel, personalized experiences they expect are impossible without data collection. The way around the conflict is to be transparent and open about how customer data is collected, stored, and used. Give customers a chance to opt out of features that require additional collection of personal data. The customers that opt out may not become rich data sources, but they are more likely to be loyal and feel comfortable purchasing. Other customers may appreciate the power to make their own choices and still decide to opt in for more personalized and convenient experiences.
What Millennials Really Want
Millennial retail trends can’t be boiled down to specific channels or generic customer profiles. This important cohort wants it all: fast, easy, personalized, socially responsible, private, secure, and omnichannel. The good news is that they also are willing to give back through brand loyalty, reviews, influencer recommendations, and personal data. At the heart of it, millennials want a relationship with the makers of the brands they love, and that relationship can be beneficial all around.
For more in-depth retail trend news, read the Treasure Data report on retail and consumer industry innovation in 2021.