Millennials, digital natives, generation Z, generation Y, post-millennials... is this enough demographic buzzwords?!
These terms reflect a modern consumer who is comfortable with, or has grown up with, technology. Yes, it's shocking to think there will soon be teenagers with spending power who have never seen a CD, never mind a floppy disc. But what does it really matter, when you have 55-year-olds who haven't picked up a DVD in ten years because they're equally as proficient when it comes to technology?
The 'm-word' may not be liked by some people. But of course millennials and digital natives do have different attitudes towards shopping compared to their elders and they're probably more ahead of the curve when it comes to new technologies than retailers are.
One interesting difference in their behaviour is their lack of attachment towards 'things'. These consumers have grown up streaming Netflix, not collecting DVDs. They would happily join a car club than own a vehicle and there is even an appetite for renting clothes – especially designer pieces – via websites like Rent The Runway. Throw Japanese organising consultant, Marie Kondo (Google her!), into the mix and living a minimalist, clutter-free lifestyle is very on-trend right now. But experiences are high up on the agenda, as long as they can instagram their newly personalised handbag.
Here are our five tips on how to modernise eCommerce with the 'm-word' in mind.
1. Optimise for mobile
It's pretty much rule numero uno when it comes to online, but whatever you do, make sure your website is accessible on all devices.
In addition, ensure the experience is slick and seamless. Yes, Uber is an overused example, but there is a reason its ease and UI is heralded as the best. Another start-up, Bloom & Wild completely removed the checkout button on its app and website. As an online florist, it understood most customers buy one bunch of flowers at a time, so why would you need to put items in an online basket? Just skip straight to the payment.
2. Be all over social media
Retailers need to understand the nuances between different social channels and always be on the look out for the next big thing.
As the first generation of Facebook users begin to have families and post endless photos of their offspring, their digital native children are turning away from the platform. At the moment, Snapchat is the way teenagers communicate and they spend hours searching Tumblr or YouTube for the latest update from their favourite influencer. But this could change in a matter of weeks if another platform gains traction.
The trick is to understand how millennials use these channels as social currency. Oasis is using a platform called Olapic to aggregate images customers have uploaded to Instagram with the Oasis hashtag to share on its website. Customers aren't encouraged to upload selfies with a reward of discounts, but the social status of having their style shared online for their peers to see.
3. Think creatively with content
Digital natives are used to consuming media online, from BBC to Buzzfeed, they probably can't remember the last time they saw a newspaper that wasn't a Metro. So if their favourite retailer launches a blog, chances are they will take the time out to read it. Feel Unique, Net-a-Porter and Expedia are all hiring journalists to ensure their content is editorially led and not just another sales channel. Meanwhile, brands like Unilever are collaborating with famous vloggers like Zoella as another way to connect with customers.
4. Customer service
Millennials don't want traditional customer service: online they want to talk to brands via the social channels they use everyday, using chat bots to get their answers quicker and easier. And in-store, they probably know more about the products than the employee asking them if they need any help.
Interestingly, teens today are interested in whether products are ethical sourced. These digital natives are fronting a conscious fashion movement because they want to know their entire shopping experience is sustainable, and companies like H&M are leading the way.
Last, but by no means least, don't forget about the rest of your customers while trying to attract the elusive digital natives.
We've seen the democratisation of technology drastically improve usability in recent years and smart devices have encouraged older customers to go online. But while they are much more confident with technology, retailers can't forget the basics. Research from insight firm, Qualtrics, reported 98% of customers want companies to publish phone numbers on their home pages, so they can chat through concerns with a human being. And this older demographic probably doesn't want embedded Instagram stories or influencer videos automatically playing when they reach a webpage either. While catering to the digitally advanced, never forget your entire customer base.