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Chicago

One Millennial’s Perspective on the Changing Shopper Landscape

Digital Strategist Caitlyn Ford details what savvy brands need to know to stay in tune with today’s content-driven shopper

Having been born in the digital age, Millennials like myself are more than just emoji virtuosos (thank god for the taco emoji). Brands and retailers know my generation has shaken up how shoppers communicate, engage and purchase, thanks to how we’ve adapted and adopted new technologies and platforms. But we’re more than mobile mavens. Because we contribute to 21% of consumer purchases—estimated to be more than a trillion dollars in direct buying power—we’re changing the landscape when it comes to content, products and the direction in which all shoppers buy.

The digital-first households we grew up in have helped foster our fondness for original content creation. And if you haven’t noticed, we have an undeniable need to document and share our life, whether it be mishaps getting ready in the morning, a captivating concert reel or the latest shopping splurge. Data bears this out, with one-quarter of 25- to 34-year-olds saying they share updates on activities or experiences daily or several times a week on social media.

I mean, if you had the most amazing matcha latte and didn’t post about it, did it even happen?

My morning commute is peppered with multiple digital touchpoints, from checking Pinterest for ideas that help with party planning and fulfilling my Liza Minelli-level lust for sequins, courtesy of Marchesa (dare to dream), to searching through emails for promotions to help decorate my new apartment and impatiently checking the status on when my Prime orders are being delivered. I take a break from meetings to scroll Instagram-coveted vacation photos and liking photos from my favorite brands—ones whose content is unique and beautifully curated (looking at you, Anthropologie and efcollection).

How Millennials talk to and engage with each other digitally has implications for how we engage with brands and retailers. And it starts by knowing we’re not sitting passively waiting for your message. Shoppers can navigate the retail landscape however they prefer—and hold power on how, where, what and when to buy via any channel they wish: mobile, online and in-store, and often across all three simultaneously. This is why your content matters when you reach out to us.

Here’s how savvy marketers are tapping into these trends.

Influencer content matters. With 99% of millennials stating that traditional ads don’t influence their purchasing behavior, and influencer content being viewed seven times longer than the average digital ad, brands and retailers should pursue alternative approaches for increased engagement. With 47% of U.S. readers consulting blogs to keep tabs on trends and ideas, and 92% of consumers trusting recommendations from others, the value in which brands are perceived is through the trust of those we communicate most with: friends, family and influencers. Audiences are spending more than two minutes with influencer content across all categories. Those two minutes of shoppers being exclusively engaged with brands can increase brand loyalty and conversion in an organic, original way and help drive purchase.

Shareworthy shopping. According to research conducted by Blackhawk Network, 55% of millennials listed social media as their No. 1 source for how they learn about products, followed by Google (45%) and Amazon (39%). It’s no surprise, then, that Millennial shoppers have an “insatiable need … to showcase their participation in activities and experiences,” and are “twice as likely to share branded content than any other demographic if they feel it’s clever and unique.” Shoppers will only continue to gravitate towards branded content that is engaging and share-worthy, so it’s crucial brands and retailers create and deliver diversified content across channels.

Patience is not a virtue. Instant gratification is a large driver to buy digitally. Millennials prefer digital shopping, even while in a physical store, and nearly all have researched products online before buying in-store. Shoppers are too time-starved—navigating busy work schedules, familial obligations and social activities—to exclusively follow the linear, brick-and-mortar shopping model. To maintain a competitive edge, brands and retailers will need to provide cohesive content across all platforms, personalized messaging to drive purchase and easy checkout functionality to close sale. Retailers have been incentivizing digital purchase through free two-day shipping, as well as click-and-collect options, allowing shoppers to order online and pick up at a kiosk. Grocery-delivery apps like Instacart continue to promote delivery-based consumption, altering the traditional approach for everyday needs.

WIIFM. What’s in it for me? With Millennials’ influence over the shopping landscape driven by their purchase intent and power, it’s critical for brands and retailers to be agile. They need to assess the shopper’s journey with a critical eye, utilizing the expertise of their agency partners to leverage new ideas in order to create original, captivating content that will serve as a conversation piece. Doing so will create a meaningful value exchange between empowered shoppers and living brands at points where people and products meet—that’s a win-win for everyone.

Caitlyn Ford - Headshot
Caitlyn Ford is a digital strategist at Arc Worldwide.