How Millennials Are Changing Their Relationship to Retail

This post was originally
published on Kelton
Global’s blog
.

Consumers of Generation X age and older grew up as
relatively passive shoppers, able to do little more than recommend a product to
a handful of friends, vent to a salesperson or write a letter to corporate
headquarters. But Millennials have a very different relationship with brands
and companies.

As mass-consumption natives, they see themselves as collaborators
and co-marketers instead of ‘the audience’ or ‘the target.’ They’re ready to
champion their favorite brands online ‘ and equally willing to criticize those
with subpar products or ethics. Digitally savvy and highly entrepreneurial, the
Millennial generation departs from the larger consumer base in a few key ways:
They want you to reflect their values.
According to a recent Pew Research study, fifty-five percent of
Millennials’ believe churches and other religious organizations have a positive
impact in the U.S. (Seventy-three percent thought so in 2010). Indeed, more
than one third of Millennials are
not affiliated with any faith
. So they look to brands instead to represent
their values, with around 81 percent of them expecting brands to be
responsible global citizens.  A 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed that 87
percent of this demographic don’t consider a company successful on financial
merit alone, but want evidence of corporate social responsibility as well.
Millennials are loyal
supporters 
of companies with strong reputations for CSR. Toms, which
sells shoes, sunglasses and apparel, has been a hit because of its
wide-reaching commitment to charitable causes via the One to One CampaignCuyana, which sells
high quality women’s basics and promotes a simpler lifestyle, is also popular
with Millennials. Through its ‘Lean Closet’ initiative, Cuyana offers consumers
the chance to donate clothes to women in need. Customers are offered a $10
credit towards their next purchase for every donation they make.
They crave simplicity.
According to Accenture, spending by Millennials will grow to $1.4
trillion annually by 2020. But their spending mentality is selective; they have
access to a vast range of goods but are highly conscious of the impact of their
consumption. The mindset has shifted from ‘one of everything’ to ‘only the
essentials’ ‘ and they want to know where those essentials were made, by whom
and with what materials.
They have higher expectations for customized, seamless
service.
Just as there has been a shift from material to experiential spending across
generations, the experiential part of the shopping experience has become
increasingly important for Millennials. Mens clothing retailer Bonobos, which
offers a personalized shopping experience in a showroom setting, has struck a
chord with a younger crowd turned off by the generic, impersonal process of
shopping at traditional brick and mortar retailers like the Gap.
They expect you to listen. And activate, quickly.
Millennials love to challenge brands’ and they know how to
do it well. They’ll keep up the pressure on a company until it amends a problem
in a tangible and authentic way. And if they’re frustrated by the slow pace of
change, they won’t hesitate to disrupt the status quo and start their own
company. Having grown up in the era of Shark Tank & Facebook millionaires,
they are natural entrepreneurs with the information, tools and confidence to do
so.
The attitude of the hip new health insurance company Oscar,
which aims to be transparent and unbureaucratic, sums up Millennial attitudes
perfectly. Its website states: ‘We wanted a better healthcare company. So we
built one.’
Brands take note: Millennials don’t want a story dictated to
them ‘ they want to be part of an evolving, authentic narrative that goes
beyond simple marketing and branding.