Millennials Help Evolve E-Commerce

Apr 13, 2016


Quite a bit has changed since the days of World War I when mobile innovation enabled conversation from ground to troop back in 1916. And although the world was mesmerized by the first iPhone just nine years ago, could anyone really predict that more than 3 billion people globally would be connected by the Internet today? According to the Internet Society’s “Global Internet Report 2015,” mobile Internet access will be instrumental in bringing the next billion people online.

It’s an undeniable trend seen most vividly in America where 93% of adults own some sort of mobile device, according to a 2015 Pew Research Report. Full mobility indeed moves our society, and not just for the sake of convenience. On-the-go technology has long outpaced desktops to portable devices, according to a recent Smart Insights report, and facilitating this momentum are apps designed for the fast-paced and vacillating spirit of today’s consumer.

Time spent using apps exceeds time spent on mobile browsers, and in the United States, exceeds time spent on desktop and mobile browsers combined, according to the “Global Internet Report 2015”. The e-commerce market, defined as the sale of physical goods from a business to a consumer via a digital channel, is predicted to grow. Based on statistics and studies, Statista shows smartphone retail commerce sales will surpass $109.44 billion by 2019, up from $39.4 billion in 2015. With nine out of 10 young adults owning smartphones, an e-commerce system not even existing when millennials where born is now embraced as routine and expected by today’s consumers.

Understanding Emerging Consumers
Making up today’s largest segment of the population and increasingly dominant in purchasing power are the millennials, who typically can’t even put down the phone to eat. Deloitte’s “2015 Global Mobile Consumer Survey” found that those between the ages of 18 and 24 look at their phones most

often, with an average of 74 checks per day. Americans in the 25-34 age range look at their devices 50 times per day loudly sounding to retailers a pattern of behavior impacting current and future trends.

It’s no longer a question of how to connect. The real answers come by determining the way of connecting that makes the greatest impact. While shopping, 92% of millennials say they use their mobile phones, according to the 2015 Global Mobile Consumer Survey. So, in the constant interruption of young-adult focus, what grabs the attention of this generation?

Habits of a Generation
Ann Fishman, author of Marketing to the Millennial Woman and president of Generational Targeted Marketing LLC, says it’s about connecting with consumers’ values, attitudes and lifestyles by generation. Consumers want a personalized shopping experience, but depending on the group, the approach can vary quite a bit.

As Fishman explains, there are six generations of shoppers in America contributing to the bottom line. The key is understanding the differences in buying habits, trends, values, attitudes and lifestyles.

“The times will change and you have to show respect to the different generations,” Fishman says, adding that a retailer, regardless of size or product must think the way consumers think and understand the way they shop. Paramount is the need for a well-designed, clean website with lots of white space, is easy to navigate and free from clutter. The effects of a poorly designed website can send potential buyers immediately to another retailer; therefore, this part of the e-commerce journey applies to all current-day shoppers.

Fishman recommends building websites that reflect the functionality of iPhones and iPads, since consumers understand scrolling options and screens. “If you don’t know how to build a proper website, how do you understand me?” she says of the changing consumer mindset.

For the “Silent” Generation (those age 74 and older), decisions tend to be based on loyalty and the need for expertise. Commonly sought is the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” showing companies have been trusted in business for a long time. Those a bit younger, referred to as the “Baby Boomers” or the “Me Generation,” hold other considerations. Growing up with stay-at-home mothers, the average 56- to 73-year-old American tends to prefer peer recommendations, opting for ratings among similar demographics instead of seeking advice from an expert or authority.

The 55 million Americans born 1965-1976 (also known as Generation X) grew up in a different world than previous generations, making them independent, resilient and set with an expectation of high performance and delivery. Divorce and working moms created “latch-key kids” in this generation. Once disappointed, these consumers will rarely return for repeat business.

And in come the millennials — all 80 million of them demanding more personalization, making them harder to reach with conventional marketing. Falling in the age bracket 16-34, millennials typically are group thinkers and very interactive. Retailers can swoon this rich market share by understanding that they resonate with a team approach and band together on society’s field of choice. Team taught and educated, millennials look for what’s in their collective best interests. Individualization and personalization may seem challenging given the massive digital engagement and diversity of this group, but not so, says Fishman. Retailers, especially the local smaller shops, can cater to this group of multitaskers with social savvy and technical expertise.

In-Store vs. Online
While digital technology forges to become mainstream in the retail world, the shift from showroom to cyberspace is a response to signals, including shopper preference and emerging technology.

Danny Cipollone, director of strategic alliances for Livingston International, explains how e-commerce is changing for retailers. “E-commerce is growing

so rapidly. Consumers want to have flexibility,” he says, noting the process of researching, purchasing and shipping can become entirely seamless with e-commerce purchasing options.

Based on consumer patterns and behavior, e-commerce will continue to increase its identity and leverage within marketplace dynamics. Today, high-speed Internet access is everywhere, along with the proliferation of mobile devices. Facebook research released in November 2015 found that 59% of consumers plan to shop differently than they did a year ago, with 40% saying they plan to shop more online.

Use Tools to Give Access For retailers small and large, using digital tools and formats that evolve will increase sales and growth. Cipollone says using digital channels enables retailers to get products into other markets, especially globally. Originally a complementary option, e-commerce is being demanded by customers.

“It has opened up a footprint,” Cipollone says, “making retail more viable and competitive by giving shoppers greater access, increased options and flexibility.”

For smaller retailers with limited resources and a concentrated customer base, adding e-commerce options to their infrastructure may be difficult, but worth the effort and investment. “There are examples in place; retailers don’t have to start from scratch,” he says.

Just like in larger retail environments, Cipollone says creating an infrastructure to support e-commerce activity is a matter of smart vendor selection and using appropriate technology to make interaction between the retailer and customer transparent, which has resulted in significant growth for smaller retailers. More notably, an e-commerce platform is the lowest-cost way to expand borders within a consumer audience and additionally opens new markets by creating a better buying experience.

Editor’s Note: This entire article can be read in the Summer 2016 issue of SportsFan Retailer.

Tricia Warrick is an Atlanta-based strategic relations consultant who specializes in content development and branding for maximum visibility and impact across omni-channel platforms. For more information or to comment on this article, email Tricia at