The Time Has (Already) Come for Retail to Retool and Get Ready for the Centennial Shopper

During the past decade, the arrival of the digitally native Millennial generation has been truly disruptive to the retail industry. However, just as we are finally getting comfortable in our understanding of these shoppers, we now need to be prepared for even more change ahead, as retailers make way for the next generation of consumers.
“Centennials” – born between 1996 and 2011 – already wield close to $70 billion in purchasing power, an amount expected to grow to +$200 billion by 2018.
Despite most still being teenagers, the majority prefer to save than spend, making it harder for retailers to entice them to crack open their wallets in an era that has already seen a significant drop in teen spending (down 30% from Millennials). Meanwhile, they spend 10+ hours a day online and have an attention span of 8 seconds, making advertisers’ efforts to grab their attention difficult…at best.
Successfully connecting with this new breed of shoppers requires new engagement strategies:
Mobile-First, All the Way: While Millennials are digital natives, Centennials are “mobile digital natives.” They grew up with smartphones, and they’re twice as likely as Millennials to shop on their phones. Retailers must move fast to adopt mobile-first commerce approaches and introduce mobile and digital experiences into the store.
In-Store Experience Inspiration: Stores are still the brand’s showcase and the centerpiece of the customer experience. While in years past the primary goal of in-store technology was to streamline activities, today the goal is to slow the customer down so that they spend more time engaging with the merchandise, the brand and store personnel to heighten the chances of closing a sale.
Many retailers fuse music, fashion and social media to create unique experiences that guide, inform and entertain consumers. Others are adding new services to formulate exciting new experiential concepts.
Social Savvy: Centennials are big on social curation—collecting, sharing, and remixing content to exhibit their influence and they are much more trusting of a peer opinion than a business or a brand. Engagement has to be about them (not about you), so it’s important to find fun and authentic ways to connect with them.
Consider leveraging user-generated video and photography-based platforms that encourage self-expression and satisfy their need for peer validation. Incorporate cause marketing and “celebrity bloggers” for added influence and inspiration cache.
Tapping Analytics: Since many Centennials are still very young and yet to experience the various life stages of high school, college, young adulthood, marriage and parenthood, understanding their needs is very much a work in progress. Fortunately, Centennials’ love of social media gives retailers a rich data trail to better understand them.

Leading brands are building a social presence to help them mine the platforms for sentiment and to identify highly connected and influential “tribal leaders.” Analytics can help inform and align the organization to respond to Centennial customer needs as they come into focus.

Engaging Centennials will require reinvention across the board. And analytics will play a key role in ensuring customer engagement, merchandising, inventory and pricing are aligned to attract and retain the Centennial shopper, who will continue to redefine retail – and the world at large – as we know it.

Dave Bruno, Director of Marketing, Aptos