Guest post: Why it’s time for brands to prioritise the happiness of millennial shoppers

In this guest post by Brightpearl, Mark Hook, Global Head of PR & Communications takes a look at new research, which suggests millennial brand loyalty is on the wane and asks: is it time to prioritise this group of shoppers above all others?

We now exist in a world where technological innovation is empowering customers to expect more from the brands they deal with, to switch when they’re not happy or satisfied, and share their negative experiences online. Recently, Brightpearl conducted a survey of millennial shoppers that showed this age group can be particularly hard to please. Check out these findings:

  • Over two-fifths of millennial shoppers (45%) admit to being less loyal to brands when compared to a year ago, and are quicker to abandon buying from companies that don’t meet expectations
  • 76% of young shoppers report that it’s now easier than ever to take their business elsewhere
  • A quarter of millennials would change where they buy goods based on the shopping experience

Loyalty By Age Group

Buyers today have an array of products and shopping platforms to choose from, so it’s understandable that many brands are struggling to get customers to stick around for the long haul. Winning the loyalty of any consumer – no matter what generational demographic they fall into is no easy task. Now factor in the often fickle-like characteristics that millennial consumers have gained a reputation for and suddenly loyalty among these consumers seems like an impossible mountain to climb.

Yet, is it? The reality is, competition is tough among brands and retailers alike, yet this reality should not distract companies from wanting to capture loyalty among their millennial audience. In fact, it’s possible to capture millennial consumer attention and more so, capture it and keep it, by prioritising “ease” through frictionless experiences at every touchpoint in the buying journey.

Shaping buying journeys for the millennial audience

With this said, brands must now work harder to attract buyers and to encourage repeat purchases, particularly from the younger demographic. The question is: “are millennials worth the effort?” The answer is, undoubtedly, “yes”. Millennials – typically aged between 23-38 – are now all grown up. Their purchasing power also continues to grow – they now make more online purchases than Generation X or Baby Boomers – and so an argument can now be made that brands should ensure the happiness of these shoppers as a priority over every other demographic.

The key to retail success, then, could lie in keeping millennials happy. While it’s perhaps no surprise that online fashion purchases are dominated by younger shoppers, every sector – from home and DIY to electricals, health, beauty, and grocery – has a significant and growing audience of millennial buyers. These buyers have a set of behaviors, needs and expectations that are very different from other demographics. If brands want to capture the attention and long-term business of younger shoppers, the way they foster and maintain loyalty needs to change.

Familiarity is a thing of the past

As alluded to above, one way to actively build brand loyalty with young shoppers is through superior customer experience – implementing frictionless journeys from discovery to delivery and beyond.

Shoppers will simply no longer stick with a company that they know but delivers sub-par service. Just because a consumer has purchased from a brand for several years doesn’t mean they won’t switch to an alternative – especially when there is an array of alternative options at the touch of a button. Brand loyalty doesn’t inspire the same shopper affinity it may have in the past – particularly with younger age groups.

This should give retailers and brands serious food for thought. If not, check out these findings:

  • More than three-fifths (61%) of consumers have encountered issues when buying goods online in the last 12 months
  • 69% of consumers say if a shopping experience is poor, they’re not likely to use the brand again
  • It takes on average five poor recent reviews to put a shopper off from buying from an online retailer – even if they’ve purchased from them in the past

Issues In The Buying Experience

In addition, eight out of 10 millennials will never buy anything without first reading a review, which means brands are setting themselves up to alienate or lose customers if they’re not able to support the entire end-to-end experience at an appropriately high level.

Frictionless and memorable – the key to millennials’ hearts

Great customer experience at every touchpoint – including outstanding user experiences, same-next day delivery options, real-time shipping and customer-focused returns models – is key to winning or losing customers.

Particularly millennials – who are the most sensitive to issues at any stage of the buying journey. They demand instant gratification, so when a point of friction occurs it can have a disruptive effect on their mindset. An unexpected moment of “pain” in the form of an unanticipated delivery charge, the requirement to enter personal details because an instant payment method like PayPal isn’t available, or the news that delivery is going to take longer than anticipated, can impact a young shopper’s mood, which they know can be resolved most swiftly by going elsewhere or not completing the purchase.

Frictionless and memorable experiences then are key to meeting the expectations of today’s distracted millennial shopper because the reality is customers are short on long-term attention, but vocal and unforgiving when things go wrong.

This means brands need to identify and fix gaps in the buying journey that could negatively affect a customer’s experience – and damage brand loyalty. Long-term, this will be crucial to boosting repeat sales, especially for fickler customers in the younger age segments.

Help is out there

Creating seamless and memorable experiences across the end-to-end buying journey may appear a daunting task, but the good news is that there are systems that can help make it as smooth and effortless as possible.

Key to this is an automated back-office platform that adds speed and efficiency into the retail operation and allows for enhanced customer service at every touchpoint. Brands should also use systems that record customer and product data from one single hub, in real time. These insights can identify pain points and guide the changes that will help retail businesses create more tailored and seamless experiences that are in line with the expectations of younger shoppers.

Brands should also look to focus on the gaps that most frustrate millennials the most, such as issues related to deliveries and returns. This is the area where things are really going wrong, and this “last impression” can do the most damage to a customer’s brand perception.

However, it’s worth noting that 10% of millennial shoppers are willing to pay more for products and services – if they’re guaranteed a seamless transaction. So, brands that do get the end-to-end experience right may benefit not only from increased sales and loyalty – but also from increased wallet capture.

Make millennials happy and you’ll delight your other customers

To paraphrase Mark Larson, Partner and Head of Consumer and Retail at KPMG, “there is a little millennial in each of us. Baby Boomers are now understanding – and appreciating – the experience and convenience of buying online”.

Therefore, by focusing on superior experiences tailored to meet the pressing needs of their most demanding customers (millennials), merchants can get ahead of growing expectations from other demographics – including Boomers. Ultimately, prioritising millennial shoppers means developing brand loyalty with ALL age groups – through experiences that will keep customers coming back time and again.

About the author

Mark Hook is Head of PR and Communications for Brightpearl, and can often be found coming up with creative ways to share the company’s story with the wider world. Mark is passionate about the power of brand storytelling and how that can translate into business success. He works with teams at Brightpearl and its large base of retail customers to drive awareness and connections with their audiences through varied media channels.

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