The Future of Customer Loyalty (and the Tech That Defines it) is in Millennials’ Hands

Where loyalty used to be built on deals and discounts, fickle Millennials have turned this on its head by maintaining loyalty just to brands that can offer them an engaging experience and meet their needs at any moment, anywhere. Here are a few ways retailers can ensure they are meeting Millennial needs.

Businesses have become all too quick to market to Gen Z, the emerging buyers continuing to dominate headlines. However, it could be dangerous to focus so heavily on these new consumers when we’ve barely begun to understand millennial shoppers. Looking ahead is important, but brands are just chasing the shiny new object by pivoting right to Gen Z. Millennials now have the buying power to cause seismic sales shifts for brands and, most importantly, have changed how we’ll understand loyalty forever.

Millennials can indeed be loyal, but their version of loyalty is different than most. Where loyalty used to be built on deals and discounts, fickle millennials have turned this on its head by maintaining loyalty just to brands that can offer them an engaging experience and meet their needs at any moment, anywhere. For merchants, this means rethinking everything from the roles of their salespeople to the technology used at checkout. Here are a few ways retailers can ensure they're meeting millennial needs and aren’t losing them as an audience altogether:

  • Experience Over Everything: Logos are increasingly meaningless to millennials compared to unique experiences. According to a Deloitte survey, over one-fourth of American millennials reported no luxury purchases of $500 or more in the last 12 months. This experience-driven mentality extends into nearly every industry. Brands must offer unique experiences to set themselves apart from the competition. Whether it’s turning a knowledgeable staffer into a mobile point of checkout or using self-service kiosks to lead to more product discovery, brands can be doing so many things to offer nontraditional experiences to a nontraditional generation.
  • Instant Gratification or No Sale: We live in an age defined by instant gratification, with everything available at our fingertips. Millennials are the generation that was first raised with smartphones as their personal computers. Their technologically savvy instincts make them crave efficiency and simplicity, which shapes their shopping preferences. The single click of a button can enable consumers to make purchases, get rewards and more — anytime, anywhere. Whether the purchase is online, in a checkout lane or with a mobile checkout employee in an aisle, this generation of shoppers expects their experience to be frictionless. Brands that fight or ignore that are at risk of losing the loyalty of these fickle-minded and fast-moving shoppers.

Meeting Millennials Where They Are

Businesses should incorporate technologies that can provide the infrastructure for these more valuable customer experiences and allow for seamless, quick and painless transactions. These will not only meet the preferences of millennials, but also give them what they want efficiently. And this is an expectation that will only continue to grow as future generations like Gen Z come into more buying power.

Sephora provides a good example of where payment has become a final, simple part of a more intimate shopping experience. Employees are cosmetics experts that do makeup, offer product samples, and guide shoppers from product recommendations through to end purchase. Staffers can then offer mobile checkout, converting a sale painlessly without forcing the customer to wait in line. Payment becomes an almost invisible part of shopping.

Millennials want to be freed from the traditional checkout experience. Becoming experience-oriented and using technology to efficiently cater to millennial shoppers is imperative for retailers. Building on that, brands that invest in offering more than just a transaction will be rewarded with the loyalty of an otherwise fickle generation of shoppers. Therefore, before chasing Gen Z, brands must invest in creating experiences that will capture the loyalty and attention of an increasingly powerful generation of millennials.

Mark Bunney is director of GTM strategy at Ingenico Group, a French-based company whose business is to provide the technology involved in secure electronic transactions.

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