When it comes to shopping, millenials and Generation Z differ from each other as well as previous generations. Just think about the technologies that have become commonplace for the youth of today and those in their early 30s. According to AdAge, millennials are the generation of customer service. They are technologically savvy, and they expect to be able to travel their own path but receive assistance anywhere along their personal (and preferably customized), customer experience.
Generation Z (ages 2-19), will be the generation of DIYers. They are digitally native, more comfortable with a smartphone than a landline; they prefer a tablet over a magazine. They have never known life without Google, theoverwhelming worldwide Web and on-demand/online TV shows.
There are two ways retailers can leverage these differences. They include:
- Provide self-service options in higher numbers (more machines).
- Provide more opportunities to do it yourself (more functions).
Retail self-service interactions traditionally serve the purpose of allowing customers to check out or access information without the assistance of a customer service representative. That may be a self checkout or POS or an opportunity to search an online inventory or customize a purchase. They should be viewed, now more than ever, as an additional piece to the customer service puzzle and a necessary option that should be provided in addition to (not in place of) the store representative or traditional offline option. As the younger generations grow up, it will become more important to allow them to fulfill their retail goals themselves, without requiring a staff member or third-party assistance. Stores will want to give customers many options for performing their desired interaction, many opportunities to seek customer service (in person or digitally), and customize their retail experience.
The tasks and functions that retail self-service should focus on are:
- Customer service;
- Customer-created and interactive content; and
- Customization, personalized experience.
Companies will likely shift to spending less on high-end formal ads and content with polished production quality to creating more unfiltered, authentic messaging. This authentic message can be easily shared via in-store (interactive) digital signage, for example. Interactive displays should provide more customized DIY options and an opportunity for customer interaction when building content, services and products. Self- service devices can be used to gather that information and allow users to create their own customization and personalized experience. The marketing automation that is becoming standard will also be leveraged on these devices, as programs and applications recognize the customer as they walk into a retail location. The ability to provide customers with the perfect message (for them) can be leveraged via all channels: mobile, website, social, television (especially digital channels) and an interactive display.
The future of the retail industry will soon solely rest in the hands of millennials and Gen Z consumers, who expect to shop and buy on their own terms. Embracing self-service strategies is imperative for retailers who expect to remain relevant as younger consumers come of age.
Laura Miller is an Internet marketing professional with 15 years of marketing experience and a background in qualitative research and marketing strategy. Her current position is as the director of marketing for KioWare Kiosk Software.