Millennials (and other younger demographics) may truly be of the digital age, but that is not stopping them from seeking out personal, unique shopping experiences.
To capture and retain the interest of this increasingly influential group of consumers, brands must look to their brick-and-mortar retailers and think about how to best leverage digital as a means of influencing offline spending in this channel.
What Are the Stakes?
According to Accenture, there are roughly 80 million Millennials (those defined as being born between 1980 and 2000) in the United States alone, spending approximately $600 billion each year. By 2020, Millennial spending in the U.S. is projected to grow to $1.4 trillion annually and represent thirty percent of total retail sales.
With that in mind, it’s safe to say that nurturing the attention of this growing majority is crucial to any brand’s success in the coming years (and beyond).
Millennials Bring “Experience Culture” to the Forefront
Some brands may be taking a stand against large e-commerce sites like Amazon, but there is still a majority that believes the future of retail remains online.
E-commerce is undeniably a massive retail channel in today’s market, yet while Millennials and those of younger demographics are very much linked with technology and its rapid growth, they are actually doing a lot of their shopping in-store.
Why is that? It’s because Millennials are highly social shoppers who value experiences that really speak to them, ones they can share with friends and then talk about online. They do prioritize value and functionality, but not at the expense of a unique experience.
In the article, “How Millennials Are Changing the Retail Landscape,” De Rito Partners writes:
“The culture of sharing retail experiences, from posting to Facebook and Instagram, to sharing opinions on Yelp, websites, blogs, has contributed to the sphere of influence this generation has in the retail industry. It has always portrayed the image that millennials are not only seeking to become another transaction, but to be entertained in their shopping experiences.
For 70% of women and 50% of men, shopping is a form of entertainment, and they expect novel options to keep it renewed. They often view shopping as a social experience and a significant way to spend time with friends and family.”
If brands are looking to tap into this new cultural wave built on personal and shared shopping experiences, they must look to the power of their brick-and-mortar retailers.
Related content: Brands Turn to Brick-and-Mortars Amidst Retail Disruption >
Why Brick-and-Mortar Retailers?
Much more than distribution points like e-commerce and big-box, specialty brick-and-mortar retail is a channel primed for brand-to-consumer connection and engagement.
Brick-and-mortar retailers pride themselves on providing exceptional, authentic consumer shopping experiences, all while exposing brands in a premium way. They work with a respect for the brands they sell, with everything rooted in expert product knowledge, superior service, and a connection to the local community.
As part of a discussion at the Aligned Conference, Tom Taylor (Head of US Run Speciality Channel Marketing at New Balance) and Kent Hawkins (Channel Marketing Manager – Americas at Arc’teryx) said it best:
“Over the last probably thirty years at New Balance, we have really built our business in the specialty channel. It’s where we started our distribution and where we’ve kind of built up our brand. You get the best experience at these specialty stores, and they really are the product experts.” – Tom Taylor, New Balance
“Specialty retailers can bring everything to life for customers because they come from actual experience. If we really look at the top performers and professionals in our industries, they are going to these specialty shops when they need to buy gear because they also know that they’ll be showcasing our top products and not the mass, more general public product.” – Kent Hawkins, Arc’teryx
By building out greater strategic partnerships with these retailers, brands can bring more substance and depth to their offerings while also developing more organic, experience-oriented relationships with younger generations.
Related content: New Balance, Arc’teryx Talk Going Global and Staying Local >
Using Digital to Influence Offline Engagement and Spending
All this talk of brick-and-mortar retail is not to say that digital is not of the utmost importance. It is, and it has an extremely high influence on retail spending (from online product research to where-to-buy awareness and more).
Brands need to figure out how to better work with their brick-and-mortar retailers to use digital channels to have a greater impact on offline engagement and spending. That could be through partnered digital campaigns aimed at driving leads and in-store opportunities or sponsored in-store events promoted across digital channels.
Many brick-and-mortar retailers are already primed to provide the kinds of unique shopping experiences Millennials and younger generations are now looking for. They just need the help to provide a seamless experience that takes these consumers from the digital channels where they are spending their time and drives them into the stores.
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