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February 29, 2016

We’re hearing more and more these days about millennials, also called generation Y. These folks number some 78.6 million, surpassing baby boomers as the largest demographic in U.S. history. This generation is defined by having been born within 20 years of the new century (1980-2000) and they make up a trillion-dollar demographic, driving retail trends for everyone.

Millennials are the first generation that are absolutely sure they won’t be working the same job for their entire adult life. Many of them believe that the only way to move forward in a career is to move to different companies where they are offered more money or a better position.

Due to the general worldwide economic uncertainty, millennials are more aware of their personal finances than previous generations and, because of this, they tend to share information among themselves more than ever before about quality and pricing for products and services. As an example, you can see queries on Facebook, generally from that age group, asking for friends’ opinions about a product they are thinking about buying or a suggestion on where to look for a service and even information about that service’s dependability. Millennials actively use social media to research purchases through their friends’ experiences.

It’s probably no surprise that millennials are the generation driving social media. According to Entrepreneur magazine, 71 percent of millennials use Facebook, making it the most popular networking platform. Instagram comes in second at 52 percent, followed by Snapchat, Twitter and Google+.

However, merely having a presence on social media sites isn’t enough. To take full advantage of these powerful marketing tools, a retailer must offer a seamless experience allowing the millennial shopper to discover their product or service through the research stage and become a part of the social conversation by offering tips and tricks as to how your product or service will make their lives easier or more enjoyable.

An interesting point that was made during my research for this article was that, although many millennials use the Internet and social media to find and research a product, most say they would rather actually complete the purchase in a brick and mortar store. However, millennials want that purchase to be integrated with the digital experience.

According to Technology Trends 2016, a report published by Accenture LLP, millennials want “an integrated, seamless shopping experience. They expect to find the same merchandise, same pricing and same discounts whether in-store, online or on their mobile device.”

With more than $600 billion spent by millennials last year and even more forecast for this year and next, it is only logical to expect them to be savvy shoppers. When they come into your store and say, “I can buy that cheaper online,” you should have a positive response rather than a negative one. If you can, offer a discount. Make it plain that there are associated costs to you because of paying in advance of sale and holding inventory costs. If they still decide to go online to order, wish them well and point out that you are always willing to work with them as much as possible.

Keep in mind that your service (for most of your customers) is that you have it when they want it and there are a lot of products in your store, especially consumables, that are not that easy to order online unless they want to order bucket loads.

You can also counteract the online drain by reaching out to your customers in the millennial age group. Reports show that 95 percent of this generation say they want their brands or services to actively court them. Coupons sent via email or mailed to their homes and even advertised on your store’s Facebook page currently have the most influence with them.

Millennials are not only the largest segment of shoppers in today’s marketplace, but they are also influencing their parent’s preferences. Changes in brick and mortar retail are coming whether or not you are prepared for it, and millennials are leading the charge.

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