What can retailers learn from millennials?

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Much has been written about the rise of millennials recently, with many alluding to what marketers and advertisers can learn from this generation. But what about retailers? Known for their eagerness to learn, their openness to change and their desire to get exactly what they want, Craig Sears-Black, Managing Director, Manhattan Associates, advises retailers on how they can not only learn from millennials, but also implement strategies to ensure they stay onside.

It is all about empowering the store assistant

Recent research from Manhattan Associates has revealed 66 per cent of millennials still feel they know more than store assistants in terms of product availability, price and offers. However, with one in two millennials still rating the store assistant as important to their overall shopping experience, now is the time to ensure your store assistants are equipped with, at the very least, the same information already available to the consumer.

So, what does this mean in practice? In reality, there should be no need for the store assistant to ever leave the customer's side. Checking stock and managing returns should be 1. Done on the shop floor using a tablet or such like and 2. A seamless experience that combines inventory, product and customer information to present the sales assistant with a range of customer specific options. This process should also include being able to reallocate stock from a nearby store or the ability to offer free delivery – all to ensure the sale is saved and the customer leaves satisfied.

Keep it personal

The anonymous shopping experience has had its day. More than half (56 per cent) of millennials stated they would interact more with a store assistant if their experience was tailored; showing that the personalised, relevant and timely experience that retailers are successfully implementing online must now also be delivered in-store.

However, as the same methods used to capture and track every interaction online do not always apply in-store, this is not as simple as it may seem. A one-size fits all approach will not work here; the model, therefore, must be customer led.

Retailers should be using information about a customer's online shopping habits – including products browsed but not bought – as well as a single view of available stock across the business, to deliver a far more personal and truly engaging in-store shopping experience. And with 45 per cent of millennials shopping both in-store and online, retailers need to be prepared, and equip themselves with the technology to offer the same personalised experience across every channel.

Make your store network work harder

We've all experienced the disappointment of going to purchase an item in-store only to find it's not available in our size. The system says there is one in stock, the store assistant tells you there is but they can't locate it. Hugely frustrating and, indeed, largely unacceptable when you consider 41 per cent of millennials surveyed claimed the ability to check stock availability is the most important aspect of the service provided by the store assistant.

They are a generation that crave helpful, personal interactions and they want the store assistants they interact with to not only deliver that but also be equipped to go one step further. Not only do they expect the store assistant to check stock across the entire network before advising on whether they have the item, but also arrange its delivery – either in the form of home delivery or click-and-collect – or at least suggest a feasible alternative, if not. Or one step further, use pre-determined preferences and previous buying history to know which method of delivery they prefer, and which location they would be inclined to choose.

So, what next?

The statistics are clear; these millennials know what they want and they expect to receive it. The store assistant must go further than they ever have before, and the technologies are already available to make this a reality; it's now just a case of retailers adopting these new innovations quickly or they risk being left behind. This tech-savvy generation will wait for no one.

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