• James Smithdale

Are you alienating younger shoppers in store?

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Don’t put younger consumers off shopping in stores. You’re already working hard to get them back in and they want to come, but there are things they are not happy about, principally the gulf between online and offline shopping. Our own consumer research confirms that 16 to 34-year-olds are three times as likely to be dissatisfied with their shopping experience in stores, than older age groups.

When we drill down into the data, the reasons become clear. Almost a third of shoppers aged 16 to 24 said retailers weren’t selling the items they wanted to see, with out of stocks a particular problem. This is a dangerous scenario in a world where instant gratification is the expectation. A fifth had clear ideas about how store services could be better. A quarter of 16 to 34 years-olds said they had refused a paper receipt on environmental grounds.

But with the Covid-19 fuelling the digital shopping revolution, stores will need to put their foot on the accelerator when it comes to digitising and boosting the omnichannel experience. There’s a lot of work to do to the benefit of both consumers and retailers.

Loyalty please, but greener and more convenient

In a Which? survey of retail industry leaders, nearly 40% said their number one concern about Millennials is their lack of loyalty. But Accenture’s survey found that Millennials can be exceptionally loyal customers—provided they feel they’ve been treated right.

What’s the best way to engage them in loyalty schemes in that case? Our research found that plastic loyalty cards are losing popularity with younger shoppers, who are famously smartphone-centric. In fact, 26% of younger shoppers (16-34) say loyalty cards are more hassle than they are worth.

This demographic does recognise the value of loyalty schemes – they’re the most likely to want their points every time they shop. So it follows that storing loyalty on smartphones would chime better with these shoppers’ needs and expectations.

Receipts that don’t waste paper

Paper receipts don’t fit with the next-gen store template either. Overall, 6 in 10 (61%) respondents in our survey said they would choose a digital receipt over a paper receipt, rising to 75% of those aged between 16 and 44. A quarter of 16 to 34 years-olds said they had refused a paper receipt on environmental grounds.

And 71% of respondents in London said they would choose a digital receipt over a paper receipt if they weren’t required to give their email address. Again, using customers’ smartphones would make more sense for issuing receipts – aligning with younger shoppers’ expectations on both the convenience and environmental fronts.

Customer-centric shopping experience

All these findings confirm that younger consumers are likely to feel most loyal towards brands that have a deep understanding of their needs, preferences and priorities, and serve them in ways that blend with their personal values and lifestyle choices. Mere quality of product and competitiveness in price is no longer enough in a modern landscape.

So the push to digitise must continue. Despite the upheavals of the coronavirus crisis, physical stores will continue to exist, albeit with social distancing measures in place for some time. Retailers who can blend their store offer with the digital world, and serve younger consumers as seamlessly as possible will face a strong future. Now more than ever, stores must break from tradition and seek to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital that consumers increasingly demand.

Want to know more about customer expectations of stores? Download the full report here.

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