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Selling to Millennials: The Top 5 Takeaways From 2013

Retailers are in constant pursuit of the Millennial consumer, launching campaigns from every corner in order to get them in the door or gain more shopping cart clicks. As their budgets grow, Millennials are looking for brands who understand their lifestyle, and products that cater to their emerging needs. The top five takeaways from 2013 in selling to Millennials explore this generation’s point of view when it comes to their purchasing power and how to tap into it:

1. They’re becoming Retail Rebels:
Disruptive Creativity is the idea that Millennials are purposefully disrupting the status quo to make a bigger cultural statement. Part of this larger trend that is increasingly at play is a concept we’re calling Retail Rebels. We found that 67% of Millennials are interested in buying from companies that say they are disrupting the status quo. Millennials have often made their activism a subtle part of their lives. Where Boomers took to the streets in protest, Millennials simply opt out of activities they don’t believe in, make their voices heard online, or give small donations and alter their consumption choices, allowing them to rebel or make changes in a realistic way. We’ve seen other examples of cause-oriented brands, like Tom’s and Warby Parker, capture the Millennial market attention by allowing them to feel they are doing good through everyday purchases. Other brands take this concept even further by turning their customers into activists, making them a part of choosing which causes to support, and turn doing good into an act of rebellion and a fight against bigger brands who don’t have the right causes at heart. Keep an eye out for the rise of the Retail Rebels and the brands that are inspiring them to disrupt the status quo.
2. Retailers need to rethink Millennial men:
We’re not sure when the stereotype about men not caring about fashion came about (it certainly wasn’t true during the Don Draper days of yore). Maybe it was the dad jeans of the ‘80s, or the fact that it just looked like Millennial men didn’t care about what they were wearing during the JNCO jean heyday of the ‘90s, but somewhere along the line the stereotype developed, and retailers started to pay less acute attention to the young male consumer than they did their female counterparts. But as we’ve been tracking for some time, Millennial men are redefining what it means to have style. The generation, along with Xers (we won’t leave you out, well-dressed Xers), are driving the trend of men being actively interested in shopping and style. Recent studies have put the spotlight on the shift: Millennial men care about what they wear. They’re seeking out discounts and coupons, leading retailers and brands to grow menswear options, especially for these young consumers. Not just anything will do when it comes to men’s retail offerings anymore. Millennial men are growing into particular consumers, and AdAge recently wrote that Millennial guys are brand conscious yet rebel against the mass culture they grew up with. Part of this rebellion against the mainstream has them seeking out smaller brands and more unique ways to get their fashion. If mainstream brands want to compete with this hunger for rebellion and uniqueness, they might want to take a look at some of the innovation that is happening at the ground level of Millennial men’s style and retail.
3. They want to cut out the middle man:
One of the biggest revolutions (and most attractive developments for consumers) in e-commerce right now is the offering of luxury quality goods at more affordable prices. New young brands like Warby Parker and Deal Decor are offering up their own high-end style products by cutting out the brick-and-mortar and the middleman. By working directly with manufacturers (who are newly open to cooperating with small brands) these companies are eliminating everyone who takes a cut of the profits in between factory and shelf to create a price-point that far undercuts traditional luxury brands of the same caliber. By cutting out those in-between parties, the system also changes the speed at which the creative process takes place. Not confined by traditional retail seasons, these brands can release items when the trends are happening, and move closer to the pace of consumers when it comes to keeping up with style.
4. They want luxury on their level:
Millennials are on the brink of outspending their Boomer predecessors, and will be the dominant group in purchasing power by 2017. Suddenly, luxury products that in the past might have lured consumers and built their brands around exclusivity and lavishness need to prepare for a new generation of consumers who aren’t necessarily looking for an elite-only experience. As wine importer Melissa Saunders was quoted, “[T]his generation is blowing all [the pretense] out of the water. They don’t care about the pretentiousness of a wine, they want something that is authentic and speaks to them. This is a huge marketing opportunity.” The industry is shifting to serve this generation who represents one third of core drinkers, and in doing so, they’re forging new paths in how a previously luxury-focused market can creatively evolve to open up to a consumer with drastically different purchasing values.
5. Brick and mortar needs to adapt:
This March, a specialty food store in Brisbane, Australia gained international notoriety for posting a sign in their store announcing that visitors would be charged a five-dollar fee for browsing without buying. Why? To combat showrooming, the practice of looking at products in-store to then purchase for less online. According to Adweek, 60 percent of consumers are intentionally showrooming and less than ten percent of consumers are buying from the same website as the store they are using to showroom. For digital natives (i.e. Millennials) that number drops to less than five percent. The browsing fee of the Australian store may have been misguided (charging people to browse your goods is not a permanent solution to the problem if you want to keep people coming to your store), but the fact remains that big-box and small business retailers alike are trying to combat showrooming. Best Buy says that the practice is “now dead to [them]’ thanks to year-round price matching policies, a method which Target has also adopted. Brick and mortar isn’t going anywhere, but it is certainly going to have to adapt to a world where buying online is starting to make more sense to many buyers.