What’s relevant now in the mind of the millennial retail consumer, do we still need to define retail behaviour by channel?

Published: 14 October 2014

As we near the silly season in retail what is top of mind for shoppers? Price, value, ease of purchase, delivery, click and collect or online versus in-store? As quickly as terminology is commonplace in retail, it is replaced – multichannel being the latest phrase in the digital dustbin? Now we have to call it Omni channel.

In 2013, retailers focused on the need to have a multichannel offering to deliver to customer needs. Today they have to think Omni channel – any time, every platform shopping.

Today, the marketplace is awash with data about how we choose to shop but increasingly it is right to question whether the division of the channels we use is relevant when really the channel is not the priority from a consumer’s perspective.

Millennial shoppers have a very different attitude and there is real risk by continuing to follow traditional views of market segmentation. Deborah Patton, founder of retail consultancy Applied Brilliance, urges retailers in this week’s Drapers to rebel against the old way of doing things as millennials are mobile, they are visual and you need to be where they are to deliver on their expectations.

The concept of multichannel is outdated because a channel approach assumes that the company or brand owns the customer experience, where the reality is the consumer does. The customer they chooses and shapes the way they shop.

This week John Lewis disclosed that not only are the amount of online sales consistently increasing, but the time at which consumers shop has altered with a 31% increase in 2014 on sales between midnight and 6am. A high proportion of these night owl shoppers are young men and first time parents.

The important area of focus should be to understand the customer journey in depth and detail. Being aware of customers’ choices and having the systems and data to monitor them is essential. Improving or changing a customer touch point in one channel can impact on another and retailers that can differentiate their offer to deliver on expectations do increase loyalty.

These trends will cause an increasing level of competition for talent in customer experience remits and equally a heightened focus on obtaining talent that can help align and join up different channel experiences to match them to consumer demand.

The retail sector needs to invest in talent to enable these changes and in turn ensure that the 25% of the world population that is a millennial will be truly engaged and finding a buying environment that they appreciate and want to join.

A recent Accenture study concluded that millennials are much like other shoppers, but just a whole lot more connected. They have come to expect a seamless shopping experience and don’t hang around if they don’t find it. For retailers, the message is clear: Give them what they want, when they want it or risk losing them.

(‘For further recent Omnichannel articles, see sites such as Forbes, USA Today or multichannelmerchant.com websites)

Tamsin Terry-Lush is a Principal Consultant in Consumer and Retail Practice for Berwick Partners.

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