Retailers, are you sick of hearing about millennials yet?
If you are, you’re probably not alone. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus your best efforts on engaging with this group – they’re the largest demographic in the US, with spending power expected to top $1.4 trillion by 2020, good for 30% of all retail sales, according to Accenture.
But what do they want? How do you reach them? How do you connect with them to create lasting and prosperous relationships?
At last week’s Salesforce XChange conference, Jeff Fromm, president of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy specializing in millennial trends, led a discussion among senior retail leaders, dispelling myths (one example, it’s a mistake to look at millennials as broke and lazy, living in their parents’ basement) and providing a blueprint for connecting and winning.
According to Fromm, “useful is the new cool,” and today’s leading brands must focus not only on great products and hassle-free fulfillment, but also provide something of value; Something that’s useful in their lives. Hallmarks of useful brands include convenience, ease of use, innovation, availability and efficiency. Think Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, StitchFix and, of course, Amazon.
Create a culture of content
It’s no secret that millennials trust their social networks more than they trust even their favorite brands. But they still crave content, Fromm says, and brands must consider how they are engaging consumers, leveraging content as a big opportunity to build loyalty with them as well as employees. This includes being proactive on social media (listening to brand sentiment) and finding a way to connect your community of customers to each other.
Live your story
Fromm says the best brands are moving from storytelling to “story living,” which is all about putting your money where your mouth is, and standing for something beyond profits. One example, Tesla Motors, which in 2014 made all its patents available for fair use to spur the development and electric cars and thus realize its brand mission of sustainable transportation.
Innovation is more than about technology. Leading brands and retailers have to live by a credo of disruptive innovation, sustained innovation and cultural innovation. Fromm says the number one way for retailers to get there is by unlearning a fundamental truth: don’t treat others the way you’d want to be treated – treat them the way they want to be treated. Customers today must be empowered to select the service level and type that works for them.
The bottom line is that retailers and brands will have to work harder, move faster, break with tradition, and quickly embrace new technologies in order to meet the expectations of this all-important and monstrous group of consumers.