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The Millennial Challenge—Part II

Talk their language and see results with a whole new and growing customer base.

By John Bocker, NSSF Security Consultant Team Member

In Millennials Part I, I talked about who the Millennial is and what to expect when it comes to your level of customer service. Now let’s talk about some business strategies to leverage this retail customer segment to drive your future success.

Shopping Preferences

When it comes to shopping preferences, Millennials are very sensitive to incentives such as high-value rebates, prefer packaged-purchase discounts—“Buy these three items together and save $50”—and understand the retail cost and pricing model much better than generations past. This is primarily due to their exposure to advanced business school education, entrepreneurial courses taught in secondary schools and their online exposure to e-commerce blogs and shared information.

Engaging Millennials Online

Without a doubt, their knowledge of pricing and their desire for value is just part of what makes Millennials savvy shoppers. In addition, they are prone to buying online after completing exhaustive research and reading consumer reviews, but prefer pickup in-store. This buying approach appeases these customers in two ways. First, the emotional satisfaction of making a smart buying decision is critical to them, while picking up a purchase locally drives their “just in time” requirement. While most of you reading this have a website, if that online presence isn’t enough to satisfy surfing as a way to become educated about your products and services, you should employ and advertise a “Call now and let’s talk” approach as a substitute, with the right person qualified to answer such calls who will actively and respectfully work with call-in customers. Authentic product knowledge and honesty will go a long way in establishing a loyal Millennial relationship.

Communication Preferences

An impressively high percentage of millennials say they would consider buying online and picking up in-store to save $10 on a $50 item. For retailers who ship, offering a discount to pick up in-store not only creates perceived value, it also saves shipping and handling cost and drives traffic to your store. You may not have to match online ads or a competitor’s prices, but should convey other incentives such as no transfer fees or shipping charges to get to the same online price.

Speaking Their Language

Because Millennials grew up with technology in their hands, they get emotionally excited when discovering the information they need on their own. They also prefer self-service to human contact when doing their research, doing whatever they can to avoid calling someone as previous generations still do. Millennials also want to choose how they’re going to communicate with brands, which includes SMS and social media. The days of face-to-face communication are, in many ways, over. So, make sure you have other ways to keep in touch with Millennials other than just the phone. Only around one percent of the phone calls to companies for information requests are from the Millennial generation.

Authenticity and Relationship Building

In addition to resisting live human interaction, when they do get on the phone to ask questions, they have no appreciation for a scripted customer service response. Millennials expect brands to be authentic, original and to show a genuine interest in the conversation and topic at hand. They also expect an informal attitude when it comes to discussing a service or purchase-related issue.

At their most basic, Millennials want to converse in their own language, according to their own rules. They speak in Tweets, texts, and Facebook posts, and you need to use their name in the conversation, so make this a new practice if necessary. If you want to reach them, you must speak in their native tongue. Now this may be a complete change in course for the average FFL—and it is! The good news is that you still have time to change course and market to this vast consumer genre in the ways that urge them to respond. Remaining steadfast in “what has worked in the past will work in the future” just won’t cut it.

Building Personal Connections

Though they initially resist live interaction, Millennials do value personal relationships and want to get to know the faces behind your brand. I strongly recommend identifying who runs or owns your business, store, or range and, more importantly, why. What do you stand for? Why did you or a predecessor create the business? What is your mission or purpose? How do you expect to impact the local community? These are all important touch points to creating relationships with Millennial consumers. Take a look at your website’s “About Us” page—does it satisfy that curiosity and help foster those connections? Tell your story. It will invite these customers to be part of it. Remember, too, that this consumer group wants to be included and represented in community efforts. So, if your brand can also support a cause that Millennials relate to and are encouraged to support or join, you’ll be on the right track.