How retailers are attracting and retaining Millennial customers – and improving customer service

Posted June 21, 2016

Retailers are fretting over attracting and retaining Millennial customers, and it’s easy to see why: The 80 million-strong generation is over a quarter of the U.S. population, and they’re expected to spend $200 billion annually with an indirect spending power of $500 billion.

This Millennial spending power appears to be turning the traditional customer and company relationship on its head. As the younger generation moves between online, mobile, social and brick-and-mortar stores, they are making a mark with their new shopping habits and purchase patterns.

Here are a few tried and tested ways to attract and retain this coveted group of consumers, including a few ways customer service can adapt:

Make it simple and quick

Smartphones and tablets are some of the biggest disruptors, putting product information, reviews and comparisons literally at a customer’s fingertips. The PEW Research Center found that 92 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 own a smartphone, meaning that Millennials are accustomed to receiving information instantly. They don’t have patience for clunky technology, systems or processes, and tolerance for errors and delays is even lower.

These high expectations have translated to their retail experience. According to Forrester, 53 percent of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they can’t find quick answers to their questions. As Forrester analyst Kate Leggett explained in a blog post, “Your customers just want an accurate, relevant and complete answer to their question upon first contact so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose.”

Know the context

To offer this type of intuitive and frictionless service, retailers and their customer support teams need a new way to interact, engage and address inquiries, whether in-person, online or on a call.

First, retailers and their contact centers need to go truly multi-channel. This means tracking interactions with customers across channels and using that knowledge to identify the best responses to their queries in the context of previous interactions. For instance, if agents can look into customers’ history and see they’ve recently abandoned a cart or shared a review, they can interpret their conversation much better.

Ronald Van Loon, director of business development for Dutch analytics and marketing firm Adversitement believes that contact centers’ access to data and ability to react in real-time is crucial to retaining Millennials. “You can predict which customers will be receptive to up-sell or cross-sell offers by analyzing their customer journey over multiple touch points (and data silos) and define predictors like profile and behavior and calculate probability,” he says.

Van Loon advises retailers to set up systems that can prescribe actions to call-center and help-desk agents in real-time. If the system senses that a particular customer is likely to move on without making a purchase, it could advise the call center agent to make a special offer during the call. For example, the system could flag repeat customer calls made within a certain time frame that use key phrases like “cancel,” “return” or “close account,” to trigger an exclusive offer or an upgraded membership at no extra charge to convince them to stay.

Create a bond

To cater to Millennials, shopping malls and brick-and-mortar stores need to create entertaining experiences to build a bond. A recent Eventbrite poll found that 78 percent of Millennials would rather spend money on an experience or event than on buying something. Many retailers are beginning to re-position their message from “owning things” to “experiencing them” by building communities around their products. For example, retailers like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s organize concerts, yoga classes and beauty events to create memories and experiences that can help retain customers.

These communities extend from physical stores to online social platforms, and both channels can feed information to each other. It’s not hard to know what a customer wants, if a retailer taps into their mobile and social profile. And this data, coupled with their shopping habits, can be used to customize and create a positive experience at other channels of interactions, such as the contact center. These insights can help contact center agents to move from selling products to creating emotional connections that resonate with customers.

How retail companies create experiences for Millennials, both in-store and via their support services, may be the deciding factor to their relevance in the digital landscape.

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