Believe it or not, a 16-year-old and his or her 56-year-old father are part of the same generation.

This generation isn’t defined by age. Rather, its members share the same attitude towards how to apply digital technology to their most mundane, everyday tasks – from finding a parking spot or the latest news headlines, to their food orders and package deliveries.

What really stands out is their shared view on shopping and commerce. They prioritize convenience and value an experience that extends far beyond the traditional path to purchase.

Meet the next generation of commerce

Sure, the rise of the millennial and Generation Z consumer has been driving this demand. But the next generation of commerce extends beyond 18-30 year-olds, as consumers across the entire demographic spectrum have come to appreciate – and expect – the convenience and quality of omni-channel digital experiences.

These are enabled by advances in, for instance, social media commerce, mobile payments and the ability to provide personalized offerings and content.

The question now is: How can marketers gain loyalty for their brands from this digital-first generation of shoppers?

First, they need to better understand what their customers are after. This is what we did in a recent study of more than 2,000 US consumers.           . 

The findings indicate that in order to keep up with the ‘next generation of commerce’, companies should keep in mind the following customer expectations for achieving the ultimate shopping and brand experience.

1. Social media engagement

Consumers have great interest in retailers that provide discounts or coupons over popular social media platforms.

According to the study, 28% of consumers aged 18-22 and 32% of those aged 23-30 would shift their retailer loyalties if offered social discounts. 

 Copyright © Accenture 2015

2. Delivery and transparency insight

Consumers want fast delivery and transparency. A great way to facilitate this is through third-party partnerships established to increase delivery transparency and shipping speed.

As a result, retailers attract new customers and increase customer loyalty.  

 Copyright © Accenture 2015

3. Geolocation

Many consumers are already open to engagement with brands via wearable devices, such as smartwatches.

Their readiness to use services that are based on personal data offers retailers the opportunity to use new devices and technologies to drive additional engagement by location – especially when presenting personalized rewards for local consumers.  

Copyright © Accenture 2015

Whatever they do, brands need to be cautious and cognizant of tendencies to inundate consumers with brand messaging across all of the channels available to them – mobile, social, web, email.

For example, on which media channel do consumers trust branded content the most? The study indicates that on average, Facebook is now a more-trusted source than traditional newspapers and TV.

Another challenge for brands is to maintain a personal touch in how they engage with consumers, while conforming to the fast-paced, digital world we live in.

Take digital commerce, where many brands still have a narrow focus on ecommerce platforms and transactions.

Yes, in order to reach more customers your web commerce offering needs to render correctly on mobile devices via responsive design.

But commerce isn’t just about transactions and mobile commerce isn’t just about devices. It’s about using mobile as the core of commerce driving integrated and highly personalized experiences that are based on relevance and context such as location and purchase history. 

Take a look at Chinese mobility-only chat platform WeChat, which is working to be more than just a platform for chatting.

This mobile-only platform has moved into gaming, shopping and banking, allowing its more than 500m users to send digital cash and make purchases from the platform.

The natural progression of a service like this might be to join with mobile payment and new white-labeled Bitcoin-type services, perhaps to introduce a new currency, or new models for commerce exchanges and networks, such as OpenBazaar peer-to-peer commerce rankings.

These are growing areas, which are already changing the face of commerce, loyalty programs and redefining transactions. 

What’s next?

A few years ago, the hot topic was the merger of digital marketing and content with ecommerce and integrated managed services across all channels.

Now, I believe brands should turn their thinking away from the focus on specific technologies and channels and, in this case, view mobile as ‘core to commerce’ and commerce as ‘core to customer experience.’

In the end, the ultimate question brands should ask themselves is: What can we do to improve our customers’ lives and make interaction with us more enjoyable?

To me, with changing consumer expectations and an entirely new breed of services evolving, there have never been more opportunities to turn buyers into loyal customers – and put the fun back into marketing. 

You can read the full Accenture survey here.

Glen Hartman

Published 13 November, 2015 by Glen Hartman

Glen Hartman serves as Senior Managing Director for Digital Transformation at Accenture Interactive and is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him at @hartmanglen or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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