There is little doubt that Millennials consumers use technology extensively in their everyday lives, but there is less consensus about how this relates to the way people shop. Even as business owners and marketers grapple with issues of social media, email and mobile marketing, new technologies are being developed that continue to change commerce. A new study from First Insight provides useful information on how Millennials feel about the technology that's shaping the future of in-store commerce.
Millennial consumers are the driving force behind many of these technological advances in commerce. Adults in the 18-35 year old range interact with products and brands differently than generations in the past. As their market power grows business owners and marketers have to adjust their messaging tactics accordingly. For example, only one in 20 (5%) of Millennials feel that fashion magazines are influential. Instead, they get more information from their friends and peers on social media. In a bit of bittersweet news for the print industry, 40 percent of respondents over 50 identified magazines as a key means in which they discover promotional materials.
This doesn't mean that marketers should jump to every piece of technology that comes up in an effort to reach Millennials. For example, many business owners believe that mobile marketing needs to include a heavy SMS component. While it's true young adults have smartphones and love to message one another, the study found this doesn't translate into a love of text messages from businesses. The lion's share (98%) of Millennials in the survey said they don’t want retailers to text them about deals/promotions. Email was their preferred communication method, which shows how email marketing can be beneficial for desktop and mobile marketing.
“This survey revealed the importance to retailers in understanding their target consumer, from their preferences regarding in-store technologies to the small but important details such as whether it’s better to reach them by text or email,” said Jim Shea, Chief Marketing Officer of First Insight. “Consumers today expect the shopping experience to be personalized and want retailers to evolve along with their preferences.”
An important take away from the study that technology is often second to price for Millennials consumers. According to survey, more than 40 percent of this group considered it the most important factor when purchasing certain kinds of products. Social media is important, but not in the way that brands may think. Many Millennials consult the Facebook pages of friends and family while shopping in store, but three out of five (60%) say they ‘never interact’ with a store's social media profiles while they are in-store. In its own way, this is still a pretty good endorsement for social media marketing, since it means 40 percent of Millennials occasionally check a store's social media while browsing in-store. And many more do so when planning where to go shop.
There are some emerging types of technology that business owners are being promoted to business owners as a way to increase in-store sales. Beacon technology is something discussed in a previous article on this site. Beacons allow marketers to target consumers who are in their stores more accurately than they could by using any currently available internet or GPS method (which normally include a radius from a GPS point of at least one mile, thus including many locations besides the store in question).
The First Insight survey included questions about on how consumers felt about the use of beacons. From the responses they received, it's clear that many consumers either don't use beacon technology or used it without realizing it (with the latter being a real possibility). The study found that 70 percent of respondents didn't know the definition of an in-store beacon.
A newer piece of technology that's covered in the report is facial recognition technology for in-store marketing. The report suggests that the technology has a long way to go before consumers feel comfortable with the use of such devices in a store they shop at. In fact, the First Insight researchers found that more than 75 percent of respondents said they would not shop at a store that used facial recognition technology for marketing purposes. Of course, this is another case where a little discount can help grease the wheels. Though the majority of people would still not shop at a store with facial recognition technology, 45 percent said they would consider it if they knew there was a benefit or discount associated with it.
Getting consumers to use new forms of technology is always an uphill battle and requires a period of time for people to get accustomed to seeing and utilizing the technology. Elevator companies had to run ads and include audio instructions when they first sought to get people to use elevators with buttons instead of attendants. Stores that choose to use technology like beacons and facial recognition will need to understand it may take time before they see the results they want.
When considered along with the vast amount of research that shows consumers use their mobile devices while shopping in store, this study shows why brick-and-mortar retailers need a comprehensive internet marketing strategy. This means having a PPC campaign to reach mobile searchers looking for locations to shop at, an active email marketing campaign to get deals to repeat customers, social media marketing to reach people and the friends that influence their decisions, and a website with the information customers are looking for when shopping in-store.
New technology like beacons and facial recognition may one day change the way people shop while in-store, but for now, focusing on the marketing tactics that are proven effective at reaching target demographics is the best option for most business owners.