The Millennial Influence on Retail - Technology

The Millennial Influence on Retail is Regency Centers' five-part series that outlines a generational impact on retail health, food, technology, and events & experience. Each week, we will provide a look inside current market trends and behaviors, due to the changing lifestyles, wants, and needs of this influential demographic.

Technology (Part Four)

Technology is rapidly evolving. Our days are filled with emails, text messages, apps, phone calls, computers, bluetooth and beyond. Retailers and grocers are experimenting with ways to find the perfect balance of just enough technology and meeting people where they are, without being over the top.

Technology also means an opportunity for better, more personalized customer service through the following three characteristics: reliability, connectivity and efficiency.

hand holding phone using apple pay at a retailer

Customer expectations are now set before they ever enter a building. Reliability addresses things like what is on the menu, if the product or service is being offered at a fair/comparable price, and what the features and benefits of said product or service include. The market is overflowing with consumer knowledge and foresight, and technology is the place to keep them informed.

Never before have retailers been able to see customer reviews and address them in real time. These can be sourced through their own website, social media pages, and through peer groups like Angie’s List, and even Reddit. Positive reviews provide retailers with green lights to anticipate trends and inventory, as well as service demands. Bad reviews can be used to modify the services and improve upon the offerings, and a direct dialogue can be created through digital platforms instead of waiting for people to arrive at a customer service desk.

Retailers are using technology to provide the most efficient means of customer transactions, including more choices. Efficiency also dramatically lowers costs by figuring out exactly what people want. For example, grocery store shoppers can elect traditional checkout, self checkout, order and pickup, or immediate/scheduled delivery. Providing choices and a variety of costs allows for flexibility and efficiency. Saving someone time is the same thing as saving someone money, and that’s what delivery and pick-up really are: a way to save customer’s money.

woman holding phone taking a video of a bakery displayPlus, a retailer/grocer doesn’t want a consumer to say “I’m going to go to my H-E-B for a traditional pick up, Amazon for delivery, and then Kroger for click and collect.” Retailers want to create customer loyalty and an affinity for the brand — and this often comes from their customer service. Technology allows these things to happen where there weren’t these kinds of options before. Even the aforementioned examples have all blended these strategies together.

Many places that people wouldn’t expect are now experimenting with pick-up, delivery, and fulfillment services. This type of retail testing is creating a new set of behaviors and patterns that were never before associated with certain categories. How this efficiency will develop and become sustainable is what everyone is still trying to figure out. It’s a new market, and will take time, but the consumer need is there.

If technology is offering a more efficient and simpler way to experience the things Millennials value, then it will unquestionably be used. It’s not an issue of impatience; it’s the path of least resistance. When viewed under that lens, Millennial technology behavior and use just make sense. As other age cohorts see this option being utilized, they then get on board with the ease of use and comfort.

laptop on a desk with a restaurant website pulled up on itOn the flip side, if the tech is too cumbersome or not developed well then it will be avoided entirely. Millennials are willing to get out there to the bricks and mortar locations to get their hands on something authentic or valuable. Because there are so many digital elements to the Millennial’s life there is a pendulum swing of interest to real and authentic experiences in person. This touches on the appreciation for outdoors, and then back to the importance of environmentalism. It has also opened up a huge variety in what everyone is talking about now, which is the “experience” or “experiential retail.”

There is an additional shift that is happening with technology lately, where it’s not creating these massive and global groups and organizations. Instead, it’s creating a type of digitally woven tribe within certain communities and lifestyles. Decades ago, people got recommendations on products and food from institutions and large organizations that claimed to be experts on the different subjects. Nowadays, people are moving away from large institutions, and focusing more on their “tribes.” It guarantees that they aren’t being advertised to or having information spun in their direction. It’s authentic.

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