We are moving toward a Millennial world – a world where the “real world” and online culture are continuously blending together, blurring the lines between on-and offline shopping and changing the shape of the retail landscape as we know it.
[easy-tweet tweet=”We are moving toward a #Millennial world – where the “real world” and online culture are blending together”]
The implications this Millennial world (individuals between the ages 18 to 35) brings for retailers are significant. Not only do retailers need to be up to speed on the basic technologies and platforms available for them to interact with their Millennial customers, but they also need to join them together seamlessly from the customer’s point of view.
And, whilst many retailers may have made advances in their multichannel experience, there is still some way to go to close the gap between Millennials’ expectations for a consistent experience across both physical and digital retail outlets, and the experience retailers are currently offering. This article explores those gaps and looks at other emerging opportunities that online retailers can capitalise on to drive omni-channel engagement and ultimately growth.
Mind the consistency gap!
The shopping preferences of Millennials are very different from past generations: there is no longer such a thing as an offline or an online journey to purchase, as every journey is a combination of both. This is a generation that is hungry for convenience so brands need to be able to connect the dots between supplier, location, customer and product information in real-time, anytime.
For Millennials, a seamless shopping experience means the ability of a retailer to deliver a consistently personalised experience for each individual customer, at every touch point – anytime and anywhere. To this end, retailers need to be able to have a single “conversation” with their customers – not one that changes from smartphone to PC to physical store. Failure to meet these needs may mean that the customer will turn to a competitor who can meet them.
The good news is that, compared to last year, online retailers have made progress in offering a consistent shopping experience with 83 per cent of online retailers now offering a device agnostic solution and specifically adapting the design and functionality of their sites per channel. However, in a recent survey, amongst the 86 per cent of retailers who claimed to sell through multiple channels, one in two admitted that there was some degree of inconsistency in what they offer to customers across their different online channels.
The front-end of a website may be beautifully designed, with a vast selection of merchandise, but if Millennials cannot pay how they want to, products will remain unsold
Delivering a Millennial-ready checkout experience
There are many facets to creating a seamless online retail experience but one element that is regularly overlooked comes towards the end of the customer’s shopping journey and is in fact one of the main reasons for cart abandonment.
Recent research has revealed that 58 per cent of British online shoppers have abandoned a shopping cart due to payment issues in the last 12 months. Poorly designed user interfaces may translate into lost customers, as this research highlighted, with just under a third (32 per cent) of shoppers abandoning their cart due to a poor and cumbersome checkout process. Another one in four shoppers (24 per cent) did not complete their purchases because they had security concerns about the site.
To increase their chances of online success, retailers may also consider an omni-payment strategy to keep Millennial customers happy. The front-end of a website may be beautifully designed, with a vast selection of merchandise, but if Millennials cannot pay how they want to, products will remain unsold. In fact, one in five shoppers have abandoned a purchase because the online retailer did not offer their preferred payment method.
Tellingly, the checkout experience is also a deciding factor in terms of repeat visits and ensuring customer loyalty, with 84 per cent of British online shoppers saying a poor online checkout experience would be enough to stop them returning to a particular company’s website or app in the future. A simple and efficient checkout process could help to convert frequent online shoppers into repeat and loyal customers. Indeed, 86 per cent of weekly shoppers said this applies to them.
Investing for the future
The good news for the retail industry is that many retailers are now working on forging a convincing online presence and are recognising the growing importance of other platforms, such as mobile and social media. In fact, 96 per cent of online retailers are planning to invest in some area of ecommerce in the next 12 months.
One front-runner in terms of investment priorities for online retailers may be to make better use of social media (38 per cent). This is not surprising as social media is prevalent on mobile devices. In addition, one in five online retailers plan to invest in optimising payments for smart technology (18 per cent), adding new payment methods (19 per cent) and creating a simplified payment process (19 per cent).
[easy-tweet tweet=”Retailers may consider an omni-payment strategy to keep #Millennial customers happy”]
Although retailers have clearly made headway in offering shoppers a consistent cross channel experience, becoming fully omni-channel remains a work in progress. This is partly due to retail not yet catching-up with shopping habits that continue to evolve rapidly, and partly because new technology continues to be developed apace, increasing the possibilities for consumers and retailers alike, both online and in-store. The Millennial generation represents the future of ecommerce, and as this new generation becomes more commercially significant, online retailers must recognise that they will have to continually adapt their strategies to remain relevant to an audience that is increasingly mobile, visual, social and collaborative.