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Young And Hard To Please


If retailers thought that Millennial shoppers were a fickle bunch, they may not be quite ready for what’s next. It turns out that Gen X, and especially their Gen Z counterparts, can be particularly hard to please.

WisePlum examined the experiences of shoppers in grocery stores, drug stores, and home improvement centers across the generational spectrum. The results? Across all categories, the younger the shopper, the more likely they are to experience in-store shopping friction.

Not exactly ‘cut from the same cloth’

The research also validated something most retailers are increasingly realizing: that millennials are not such a homogenous group after all. Something, of course, that Millennials have been saying all along.

Given the timespan and the major life changes that take place in those years, it’s to be expected. Consistent with the overall research, younger millennials report experiencing friction in their retail interactions much more frequently than their older millennial counterparts. Here’s a few interesting call outs:

Among drug store shoppers, Younger Millennials experience the problem “The sales associate could not help you locate the item you were looking for” more than 50% more often than Older Millennials (6.7% and 10.2% respectively)

Among home improvement shoppers, Younger Millennials experience the problem “You had difficulty finding the item you were looking for because the store was cluttered with too many items” more than 30% more often than Older Millennials (13.6% and 18.3% respectively).

Among grocery shoppers, Younger Millennials experience the problem “The store atmosphere was unappealing (poor lighting, very noisy, bad smelling)” more than 40% more often than Older Millennials (5.4% and 9.1% respectively).

What do you mean, “before the Internet?”

So why are younger shoppers more likely to be unhappy with their shopping experience? You likely don’t need to look far — one reason is (almost definitely) in their hands at this very moment.

Take Gen Z shoppers. They’ve grown up with technology, and can’t imagine a world without the internet, smartphones, or Cyber Monday (a term coined in 2005 by the National Retail Federation).

Armed with their phones and a wifi connection, younger shoppers can research, compare prices, and check for stock. So too can older consumers, of course, but the difference is that for Gen Z, it’s intuitive — they’ve never known a different way to shop.

They’re also much heavier users of social media. While your parents might have just discovered Facebook — and along with that, their ability to like and comment on your pictures — Gen Z spends their time on YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. And, it is indeed more time. Global Web Index found that, on average, Gen Z spend 3 hours a day on social media, 20 minutes more per day than Millennials.

Social media enables younger shoppers to share their retail experiences with others and creates a ‘raising bar’ effect for expectations. If peers report an excellent product or retail engagement, that quickly becomes the ‘new normal.’

A coaching opportunity for retailers?

How can understanding these generational differences help retailers improve the customer experience and differentiate themselves from the competition?

Staff training is a good place to start. In most cases, age and generation are readily apparent attributes as soon as a shopper enters a store. If you understand the specific problem experiences to which certain age groups are most sensitive, you can train your frontline staff to help smooth those interactions and create positive experiences for your customers.

A word of caution, however, before investing too heavily in a ‘fix.’ As my fellow WisePlum contributor, Michael Tropp, mentioned in Three Ways Omnichannel Retailing is Failing the Customer, problem frequency is only one part of the picture. You must also understand and quantify the unique impact that these generational problem experiences have on your business performance. As always, a complete understanding of the problem and its impact will help prioritize business decisions and investment appropriately.



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