Millennials and disruptive retail were the two key themes at this year’s World Retail Congress, with one arguably driving the other forward.
Self-expression is at the centre of the now ubiquitous user generated content on social media. Millennials or consumers aged 18-24, now make up a third of all posts tagged selfie.
In a session looking at how retailers need to respond to connected consumes coming of age, WGSN’s retail editor Angela Rumsey highlighted brands that have embraced selfie culture. Examples included New Balance’s partnership with visual culture platform Olapic that saw 6000 tagged images for its collaboration with Heidi Klum. Adidas used the idea of millennials engaging in self-expressive video-making for its #UniteAllOriginals mobile app in China. Ugg focused on tweens for a iPad Touch campaign generating 17.6m views and driving in-store sales. Other retailers joining the Selfie social-commerce bandwagon included: French Connection, Karl Lagerfeld, Vero Moda and Zappos, according to Rumsey.
Rumsey also earmarked Twitter and Facebook ‘buy now’ buttons and Snapchat’s closed loop selling messages, as social-commerce strategies to watch.
For sustainable fashion focused e-commerce start-up Zady, transparency and storytelling drive the 12-month-old site’s content strategy. ‘We ask our customers via social media what products to develop. We want to hear their voice reflected on the site,’ says Maxine Bédat, the co-founder of Zady.
‘Our social content is based on storytelling, connecting to consumers on different levels, it’s a halo effect around the brand,’ she explains. Zady content and articles reflect the DNA of the brand with work-life balance or product history articles giving people something to think about. Bédat says, the shorter the content the better. ‘It’s about concise articles that resonate with our customer and how they share them,’ she adds.
Millennials are the most influential consumer group and brands that want to sell to them need to recognize just how discerning and judgemental they really are, says Maryleigh Bliss, editor and strategy consultant at youth trends agency YPulse.
‘Millennials are incredibly diverse and have to see themselves reflected in the way they are advertised to. They are quickly usurping the baby boomers,’ she said in a keynote address. Not only are they buying more than boomers – according to Bliss, they will have a spending power of $2.45tr by 2020 – they want to buy stuff now, instantly and without waiting.
‘Mobile phones are ubiquitous, with the majority of millennials checking them more than six times an hour. Around 70% have already made a purchase on their phone,’ says Bliss. Millennials operate in a visual culture, they want to see not read, which is why the Liketoknow.it app is a missing link for brands on Instagram, she says.
This group respects disruptive creativity, says Bliss. ‘They express rebellion through everyday acts, such as aligning with brands and companies that reflect change, it’s a purposeful rebellion that allows them to manipulate older systems to fit a newer millennial world view,’ she says. Citing brands such as Warby Parker, Naked Wines, Boycott and Toms as millennials favourites, Bliss says they are popular because they take a stand. ‘It’s about control, they want to orchestrate an everyday middleman backlash that supports new ways of thinking. 66% of millennials think they have the power to change things in the real world through online noise, with 67% buying into ‘rebellious’ brands,’ says Bliss.
Combine this activist mindset with impatience and brands wanting to reach millennials need to have seamless retail operations. She says retailers need to think about a strategy around the millennial mantra: ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that.’
‘We are seeing this expressed through the rise in one-button ordering,’ says Bliss, who name-checks brands such as Uber, Push Me Pizza and Everlane for its delivery partnership with Postmates. ‘Millennials can get so much online, what retailers need to think about is how they can provide something more. Embracing this generation requires a different set of tools, you have to show them who you are, where they are,’ she says.
Internet of Things
Technology is recasting everything from smartphones and tablets to physical stores, pointing towards the way consumers will live in an age full of the Internet of Things (IoT).
‘We can see how technology is changing consumers’ lives,’ says Adam Williams, retail development director Samsung Electronics. ‘By 2020 we expect 26bn connected devices comprising 7.3bn smartphones and 19bn others,’ he says.
The IoT will have the most affect in consumers’ homes, for example across connected kitchen appliances and out-of-the-box smart home management systems. According to Williams, there will be 45bn smart devices installed in homes by 2018 worth $100bn. ‘This is the start of an integrated developer community, making the most of what the IoT can do.’
Williams cites an example of how the IoT looks in a retail environment today as a Samsung fridge buying experience at Best Buy in the US. A 6x6ft wall-to-wall digital experience shows customers what the connected home looks like after inputting their data. ‘It’s a test retail environment to bring the interactive experience to life,’ says Williams.