Stop criticising millennials, they are the future of your business
Millennials may not have the spending power of other age groups, but they are defining the way we will soon all browse, shop, consume and recycle. To criticise them for being fickle, needy, unrealistic, opinionated and a host of other unflattering characteristics, is merely to miss the big point: unless you can understand them and meet their needs, they won’t shop with you.
It’s easy to see why some of us bitch and moan about millennials. At times, it is simple resentment that they seem to have a sense of entitlement that we never had; or, that their insanely selfish demands make it very hard to make money from them as they soak up the marketing budget but don’t buy, or simply return everything they order.
And yet, here they are and it is naïve to fly to other age groups who are more loyal, more predictable, less demanding and more likely to put up with poor service. If, like some retailers, your sweet spot demographic will all be dead within 10 or 15 years, then it is probably time to go out and hug a millennial and make better attempts to understand them.
As it turns out, once you get close, they are no different from you or me, they just want a different relationship with their suppliers.
For instance, when they say they want you to be sustainable, they mean it; you can no longer just tick that box on the web site and murmur reassuring words at shareholder meetings. Millennials want evidence of what you are doing and evidence that you do genuinely care. And, by all means give money to charity, but perhaps better to actually jump on the bike and do the challenge rather than just support it.
Beyond box ticking
Take Burberry for example which is attempting to address the scandal over how it used to dispose of its unsold stock, by partnering one of its suppliers, Elvis & Kresse, to use leather offcuts from main production to make new lifestyle goods. That’s not ticking a box, that’s good business and it gives customers meaningful ways to connect with it brand.
Meanwhile, Nudie jeans will repair their jeans for free for the life of the product. What might once have seemed like a gimmick, is now a €55m business. Other examples of companies with a non-commercial ethos now abound and define the future of retail and brands.
Who’s your best friend?
Contrast this approach with companies that seem to be incapable of looking outwards, and simply spend all their time trying to reinvent themselves from within. Examples also abound of companies like these that, saddled with debt, never quite seem to make their way back to profit or popularity.
Lastly, stop blaming Amazon for all your problems; they will continue to innovate and uncouple.
The enemy, if you choose to see them this, is the millennial when in fact they are your best friend, but they will expect you to invest heavily in the relationship if you expect to get anything out of it.
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