The Rolling Stones are 50 -- not the members of the band, but the band itself. Frontman Mick Jagger will be 70 next July, so he’s a bona fide senior citizen. It may be true that the Boomer generation is getting older, but they have not gone quietly into that good night.
Nevertheless, the reins of power are in the process of passing from Boomers to Millennials right now. The youngest Millennials are still teenagers, but each passing year brings another group into the cold light of consumer adulthood. Not that they're any slouches as consumers already. Having been raised in a webbed world, with anytime accessibility and choices that match my profile, this generational cohort is already changing the game at retail.
Millennials know they are in charge when it comes to shopping. They are comfortable making mobile purchases, and look to friends and peer groups for ratings before buying just about anything. Mr. Whipple has definitely left the building.
Online shopping continues to grow with double-digit ferocity every year, driven in no small part by Millennials. And while they aren’t exclusive to online -- indeed they are quite brand-fickle overall -- they do expect to see some of the online shopping experience delivered by brick-and-mortar retailers.
For retailers, it's possible that the only way to fully deliver on these expectations is by operating like an online store: gather information, mine it and use the insights to provide more relevant offers to shoppers. That’s a lofty goal that will require a fully deployed loyalty program as well as the time, investment and expertise to deliver. In the meantime, there are some things retailers can do today to make their stores more “Millennial-friendly.”
These are simple steps, but they can’t be properly executed without a change in thinking from all areas. The past 30 years have seen brick-and-mortar retail focus almost exclusively on cutting costs: reducing labor, eliminating SKUs and inventory, and focusing development on the supply chain. The outcome has been efficient stores that have no personality, and still can’t beat online for price.
The pendulum may finally be swinging back toward better service, knowledgeable employees and a pleasant -- even gratifying -- shopping experience. The beauty of making these changes now is that they are effective for all generations.