The Millennials Are Coming… Are you ready?


A Millenial couple with a shopping-cart full of food products, cheerfully placing a package of meat into their basket, while shopping at a generic major retail grocery store.The concept of “self-service” in a retail setting is certainly nothing new or revolutionary.

Self-check-out has been around for some time and has been so well accepted that many stores rely on it heavily. It’s not unusual to see only one staffed check-out lane open. Self-check-in at the airport is the “only way to fly” now, and movie theaters are steering movie-goers to purchase their tickets at kiosks (or even online), hours before their movie, and then to grab their tickets at a kiosk on the way to the concession stand. Fast food and fast casual dining establishments are trying various kiosk ordering stations and even order-at-the table kiosks.

The one thing that is absolutely certain is that self-service is not a fad, it’s here to stay. It’s here to stay largely for two reasons:

  1. The technology to execute successful self-service strategies is finally here. We can create a user experience that is so intuitive and satisfying for the consumer that many people actually prefer self-service over interfacing with a live person in certain settings.
  2. The ever-increasing impact that Millennials are having on the retail landscape. Let’s face it. This younger generation knows nothing else but smartphones, tablets, and internet access virtually everywhere.
The one thing that is absolutely certain is that
self-service is not a fad, it’s here to stay.

Millennials grew up with the ability to research, compare, buy, rate, return and share… without ever speaking with a sales associate or store clerk. When forced to walk into a retail store, most already know what they are looking for and the best price they should pay. Chances are, they’ve done their research and know as much or more about the product as the sales associate they may be faced with.

The question is, are the brick-and-mortar retailers adequately prepared for this paradigm shift? Do they see it coming and do they have a master plan to accommodate what will be a new definition of the term “shopping”? Many retailers are banking their success on new smartphone apps and mobile-friendly websites, but this approach is one-dimensional and lacking in touch points, not to mention the fact that mobile apps are all over of the board when it comes to customer acceptance and utilization. Retailers need to prepare for the “millennial onslaught” with layers of technology that keep the millennial in their comfort zone. Contemporary, mobile friendly websites are only the beginning.

Impactful digital signage and powerful self-service information kiosks add more layers that, when combined with mobile strategies, keep brands and content accessible to the millennial while in the store. If engaging a sales associate is either counter-intuitive, or simply not an option, then at least give the millennial a path to the information they need to make a purchasing decision while they’re still in the store. This generation is so technology savvy that they aren’t bewildered, amazed and intimidated by the speed at which technology evolves. They expect it. They expect that whatever limitations and restrictions they encounter today, will be resolved with technology tomorrow.

59 percent of consumers prefer using an in-store kiosk rather than speaking with a store employee or sales associate

Soti, Inc., a leading provider of Enterprise Mobility Management solutions announced the results of a consumer survey at the recent NRF Big Show held in New York in January. Of the key findings of this study, two stand out. First, 66% of the respondents indicated they are more likely to shop at retailers offering an in-store mobile technology shopping experience, but 1 in 5 expressed strong uncertainty on how to use the technologies in-store. Second, 59 percent of consumers prefer using an in-store kiosk rather than speaking with a store employee or sales associate. This is a 28 percent increase over the previous year. This demonstrates that mobile alone is not only a risky strategy, but an inadequate strategy.

Brick-and-mortar retailers that don’t adequately prepare for the Millennial onslaught might finding themselves dealing with something akin to a zombie apocalypse, fighting for their lives and blaming their demise on the ecommerce giants. Predicting the future is never an easy thing, but there is no doubt about one thing, the Millennials are coming. Who’s ready for them?

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