The rise of the Millennial generation and the approach of its constituents towards their peak earning years, is going to fundamentally change the face of retail in all its forms.
Whilst the last decade has seen the technology that underpins retail change beyond all recognition, the attitudes of Millennials towards shopping will change almost every way that retailers interact with their customers.
Although the attitudes of Millennials are by no means universal, there are several generally accepted traits that will force retailers to change the way they brand, merchandise and fulfil their products and services.
Millennials as a generation are used to instant gratification; extended delivery times will no longer be acceptable.
This is a generation for whom Amazon Prime is the standard and as a result, next day and even same day delivery will be a must in order for retailers to compete.
Recent Ampersand research undertaken with YouGov found that whereas only 21% of respondents expressed an interest in same day delivery, this figure was 30% amongst those aged 18-24.
Looking forward, seemingly far-fetched options such as drone delivery may become a reality for this generation to ensure the quickest possible delivery time.
Attitudes towards branding are far more advanced among this demographic. As a generation born into a world of branded products Millennials are more brand-aware and more likely to identify with brands that are aligned with authentic values.
Idea brands (e.g. artisanal, ethical or charity products) carry more weight than those that simply mirror vague lifestyle values, such as luxury or glamour.
Research by BCG found that US Millennials were 7% more likely than other generations to purchase items associated with a specific cause.
Millennials are essentially the ‘selfie-generation’, more interested in their own lives than the wider world.
Interest in politics and personal philosophy are at an all-time low amongst this age group, reflecting their solipsistic world view.
The front line of Millennial customer loyalty should be consumer experience, with personalisation the key weapon. Those that can deliver a rich, integrated, personal journey across multiple retail channels will succeed.
Retailers who fail to meet high expectations will lose their custom and their failure will be shared on Twitter and Facebook.
With instant access to pricing and product information, Millennials can, and will, switch retailers in a heartbeat.
As with their understanding of brands, Millennials are more aware of the value of their personal data than previous generations.
According to the Centre for the Digital Future, whilst 70% of Millennials would rather not share their personal data, 56% would be willing to share their location with nearby companies in exchange for money off deals.
If retailers want to continue capturing and leveraging their customers’ data, it must be through an open and fair value exchange. Data capture must be rewarded by financial incentives, enhanced services or some other form of quid pro quo.
Fundamentally there is one thing shaping the future of retail: the desire for convenience, and within that, the desire for immediacy in a multichannel world.
Millennials have already begun to create a shift in the retail landscape, with their need for instant gratification and craving for immediacy being the key traits differentiating this generation from their predecessors.
Retailers need to make life as easy as possible for consumers and service those who refuse to wait three days for delivery.