Convenience in Retail is No Longer Enough: The Age of Fast Recognition

Con­ve­nience and per­son­al­i­sa­tion have long been two of the key dif­fer­en­tia­tors for retail brands look­ing to cut through the mar­ket noise and dri­ve long-term cus­tomer loy­al­ty. But, with the world fac­ing an uncer­tain eco­nom­ic future, and envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns front of mind for brands and cus­tomers alike, con­ve­nience and per­son­al­i­sa­tion are no longer enough to dri­ve long-term cus­tomer loy­al­ty, espe­cial­ly among mil­len­ni­al audiences.

These cus­tomers are crav­ing retail brands that are eth­i­cal and account­able, but can also pro­vide offers, ser­vices, and time-sav­ings that meet a spe­cif­ic require­ment. The age of shift­ing cheap and gener­ic stock en-masse is over. We’re enter­ing the era of fast recog­ni­tion and ful­fill­ment – and brands who adapt to these shift­ing behav­iours and atti­tudes will secure the long-term loy­al­ty of the mil­len­ni­al customer.

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty and ethics have become busi­ness essentials

Accord­ing to recent Adobe research into shifts in con­sumer pur­chas­es in France, Ger­many and the UK with PK Glob­al, the mil­len­ni­al cus­tomer is the most envi­ron­men­tal­ly-con­scious cus­tomer. While it’s gen­er­al­ly accept­ed that peo­ple of all ages express envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, mil­len­ni­als take delib­er­ate action, and the brands who recog­nise this will reap the rewards.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of mil­len­ni­al shop­pers have made a delib­er­ate effort to pur­chase goods that incor­po­rate recy­clable or com­postable pack­ag­ing, while 81% of them think retail brands should lim­it han­dling and shipping.

For this rea­son, brands are becom­ing increas­ing­ly trans­par­ent about their busi­ness prac­tice and sup­ply chains, but it’s a fine line to toe between def­er­ence and arro­gance. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty and diver­si­ty are not box tick­ing exer­cis­es to brag about – they’re fun­da­men­tal com­po­nents of a brand’s DNA, and should nev­er be treat­ed as adver­tis­ing fodder.

This is why ethics, diver­si­ty, and inclu­siv­i­ty must be baked into the cul­ture of a com­pa­ny. Both employ­ees and cus­tomers catch on quick­ly if they feel some­thing is forced. This cul­ture must be pro­gres­sive and nat­ur­al – and it always comes from the top down with senior leadership.

Retail expe­ri­ences must remain best-in-class

While many mil­len­ni­al shop­pers (69%) have become sig­nif­i­cant­ly con­scious of the envi­ron­men­tal impact of human activ­i­ties since the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, they still expect per­son­al and metic­u­lous­ly orches­trat­ed shop­ping expe­ri­ences, both online and offline.

They want seam­less expe­ri­ences that span their mobile, lap­top, tablet, and offline. And they want every chan­nel they browse to reflect this sym­bio­sis, from social to email to SMS, and online stores to offline – flu­id inte­gra­tion between every sin­gle one of these devices and plat­forms is a now a fun­da­men­tal, basic expectation.

This expec­ta­tion stretch­es to the types of expe­ri­ences shop­pers have too. They don’t care about gen­er­al brand emails, they expect con­tex­tu­al mes­sag­ing and con­tent that is per­son­al and catered to their needs and require­ments at that par­tic­u­lar moment in time.

And with AI and machine learn­ing at their dis­pos­al, brands pos­sess the oppor­tu­ni­ty to not only offer cus­tomers what they want in a par­tic­u­lar moment, they can pre­dict what some­one needs before they even need it. By exam­in­ing buy­er behav­iour, sea­son­al shifts, and oth­er vari­ables, brands can use AI to deliv­er the next best offer or action, in real time.

Of course, this has to be bal­anced with a customer’s pri­va­cy and own per­son­al expec­ta­tions around their use of data, but as tech­nol­o­gy evolves, retail brands are becom­ing bet­ter at strik­ing the bal­ance between per­son­al, mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ences and over­bear­ing and inva­sive sales chatter.

Cus­tomers begin­ning to favour ‘brand-direct’ approach

Anoth­er trend we’re see­ing emerge is shop­pers mov­ing away from tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­places like Ama­zon, and buy­ing direct­ly from a brand. This ‘brand-direct’ approach is dri­ven by a num­ber of fac­tors, with our research show­ing that 80% of shop­pers would elect a direct pur­chase if the brand was authentic.

Inter­est­ing­ly, the rise in brand-direct pur­chase rep­re­sents a tan­gi­ble behav­iour shift among con­sumers, who were much more like­ly to shop via online mar­ket­places when the pan­dem­ic first struck in March/April of this year. Retail­ers like Ama­zon were on-hand to meet shop­per demand for cheap, fast, and con­ve­nient access to essen­tial goods – in fact, accord­ing to research we car­ried out dur­ing the start of the pan­dem­ic, almost six in 10 (57%) UK con­sumers pre­ferred to shop via estab­lished online mar­ket­places, with Brits mak­ing 11 pur­chas­es there, on aver­age, between March and June 2020.

But what we’re see­ing now is con­sumers more like­ly to sup­port indi­vid­ual busi­ness­es and buy direct­ly from the brand, as their need for more spe­cialised products/services and desire for more per­son­al retail expe­ri­ences increase.

What’s more, it’s an approach favoured by younger audi­ences, with 70% of mil­len­ni­als more like­ly to pur­chase direct­ly from brands, rather than marketplaces.

This quest for more spe­cialised prod­ucts should give retail brands much food for thought – peo­ple are now will­ing to spend a lit­tle more in order to side­step mar­ket­places, mean­ing many cus­tomers who sup­port­ed small and local busi­ness­es dur­ing the height of lock­down will con­tin­ue to do so mov­ing forwards.

Big­ger brands should adopt the prin­ci­ples that make small and local busi­ness­es so attrac­tive to cus­tomers – trans­paren­cy, account­abil­i­ty, and respon­si­bil­i­ty. When com­bined with the abil­i­ty to rapid­ly recog­nise what a con­sumer tru­ly wants and needs, brands will be well on their way to secur­ing long-term loy­al­ty from mil­len­ni­al customers.

To learn more about how Adobe accel­er­ates busi­ness growth for retail­ers, please vis­it Com­merce Cloud