While most people are still wilting in the summer heat, retailers are already planning for the 2016-2017 holiday season that traditionally kicks off around Thanksgiving. Most understand the need to facilitate inventory, fulfillment and return capabilities in order to succeed in a highly competitive market. But while logistics are crucial, so is an in-depth understanding of your customers’ desires and how to meet them.
Giving Your Customers What They Want
Baby Boomer customers are mainly into the nitty-gritty details, so their shopping experiences tend to include very practical steps: choosing a product type, browsing, comparing prices and converting relatively rapidly. Retailers have become accustomed to these shopping habits over several decades, but as Baby Boomer Bob Dylan so aptly sang, “The times they are a-changin’.”
There are currently 75.4 million millennials (aged 18 – 34) in the US, and they represent a totally different type of customer. Millennials are experiential beings who prefer a shopping process that is quintessentially immersive and swift.
Creating an Interactive Shopping Experience
Millennials are somewhat jaded after so many years of being bombarded with paid media, pop-ups and banners. And they are not faithful to one shopping channel over another, like most Baby Boomers tend to be. Due to their experiential preferences, they like visiting a physical store that offers virtual product displays, interactive communication, and out-of-the-box, real-time activity.
According to a study by Accenture, 60% of shoppers want to receive real-time promotions while they are inside the store. So while they might not yet be deeply into mobile payments, they certainly use their mobile phone in-store to check out real-time offers.
Using beacon technology, retailers can provide proximity-based mobile messaging to collect in-store feedback in real-time and leverage sales of specific items that are placed near the customer’s location. So for example, if a customer is looking at boots, the in-store beacon could offer a discount on various pairs of boots to facilitate the purchase. This is the type of personalized encounter that appeals to Millennials and will keep them visiting physical stores.
Gamification for Virtual Shopping
Gamification greatly appeals to Millennials’ love for interactivity. By rewarding customers with points in return for frequent purchases, shared stories, or social media comments, retailers can exponentially increase their physical store traffic and online conversions. The gamified shopping experience enables retailers to track every movement that the customer makes, so it is also an ideal way to test new products and tweak promotions. It allows customers to try out products in simulations and virtual environments, and be rewarded for their efforts.
Providing Clickless and Streamlined Payments Everywhere
Today’s shoppers are seeking shorter payment processes on every channel. Messaging platforms like WeChat in the East and Facebook Bots in the West are gaining popularity because they circumvent the need to download a multitude of apps or fill out checkout and payment pages.
Many new technologies provide faster shopping and payment experiences. MasterCard’s MasterPass allows for secure and seamless purchases with a single tap on a phone or tablet screen, enabling shoppers to speed through the checkout and payment processes. Apple Passbook, soon to evolve into the Apple Wallet, will allow users to store their coupons and loyalty cards in one place on their iOS device, and pay using the same app. This kind of technology facilitates customer experiences, but only if retailers ensure that it is fully integrated with POS and loyalty software.
Apple recently announced another bid to hasten payment processes: the expansion of the Apple Pay app to mobile websites. By explaining and advertising the high level of security provided by the system’s one-use-only token process, retailers will likely secure increased sales and ongoing customer loyalty.
Growing Home Shopping with the Dash and Prime Now
When consumers see that their supplies are running low, they can simply press their WiFi-connected Dash Button to automatically reorder the item from Amazon, and have it delivered within two days at no charge. Millennials’ lack of time and patience has led to a 75% increase in the use of the Dash Button in recent months. Over 100 Dash Buttons representing top-name brands across dozens of retail categories and thousands of product options are now available.
The recent expansion of Amazon’s Prime Now one-hour and two-hour delivery service makes delivery almost immediate, ensuring that the customer does not run out of anything he or she needs. By automatically restocking laundry detergent, paper towels and other home necessities, Amazon eliminates many of the typical physical shopping hurdles faced by its customers.
Capturing the Millennial Heart
Advanced technology is an innate and natural tool that Millennials expect to experience in every area of their lives. This holiday season, retailers must abandon sales paradigms that were popular in previous decades, and concentrate on crafting a creative shopping experience that eliminates outdated, time-consuming payments artifacts. Retailers who are able to deliver out-of-the-box interactive experiences stand to acquire satisfied and loyal customers who will come back for more.
Oren Levy is CEO of Zooz