3 Millennial Expectations Every E-Commerce Business Needs To Address

Tracy Vides

Ah, the millennials – the generation brought up with the Internet and the rest of the digital revolution! While there may be a good deal of stigma attached to this crowd, there’s no stopping the fact they are flooding the job market and are predicted to spend $1.4 trillion in the U.S. retail market by 2020.

Due the fascinating point in history this age group grew up in, they are an extremely tricky bunch to market and sell to. They have essentially caused a lot of brands to throw out their entire playbook and start from scratch.

Let’s a take a quick look at a couple of the top brands today: Amazon, the leading retailer, does not own any physical stores. Uber, the leader in transportation, does not own any cars. Both of have one thing in common: the point-of-sale happens electronically.

This phenomenon is a big indicator that e-commerce is taking over. Modern shoppers (particularly millennials) have much different values and expectations than shoppers did 20 to 30 years ago. No surprise, therefore, that for most online companies, appealing to a millennial audience has become a top priority. Let’s discuss three of the most prominent expectations these shoppers have for e-commerce businesses.

1. Persuasive social media presence

Hundreds of years from now, when historians discuss the biggest breakthroughs happening early in the second millennium, the rise of social media will undoubtedly be one of the most debated topics.

What took off in the early 2000s now has a collective user count around 2.5 billion, many of them millennials. In fact, a recent survey found that 88% of millennials get their news via Facebook.

With this many eyes on social media, having a strong brand presence on popular outlets is no longer an option. The harsh truth is that millennials are not responsive to traditional ads or played-out sales tactics. While social advertising is proving to be very effective, one of the main goals of your brand’s social media presence must be to give your messaging a playful and humanized tone that connects with the younger audience on a more in-depth level.

Red Bull is well known for its superior social media presence. It uses its accounts to become so much more than just an energy drink. If you follow Red Bull, you’ll see how good it is at promoting original, branded material such as films, competitions, live shows, and of course, user-generated content.

In addition to favoring e-commerce brands with a human touch, millennials value consistency and responsiveness across channels. Be sure you are keeping up with all your accounts in all networks to remain in touch with your audience.

2. Personalized user experience

Even though the development of technology and the evolution of the Internet have done a lot to bring us together as a species, e-commerce is getting more individualized. Millennials are not fazed by traditional marketing and sales pitches. They want interactions to be tailored to their needs.

Unfortunately, there is no formula written in stone about how to deliver the perfect personalized experience.

However, there are certain things you can do to embrace this concept. For example, Amazon’s homepage looks different to each and every customer. Using workflows and user information, it recommends relevant items to customers based around their online behavior.

The overarching goal for retailers is to understand customers’ needs throughout the entire sales funnel. The most effective way to do this by implementing marketing automation within your e-commerce platform. For example, Shopify lets you profile customers, map their journey, market to them across digital channels, and provide a consistent shopping experience across multiple devices, online and in-store.

Personalization has become a staple in many e-commerce operations. In fact, a study by Gartner predicts by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%.

Basically, younger audiences want e-commerce companies to show them exactly what they want to see.

3. Transparency

Sales techniques have seen a huge shift as millennials gain spending power. Smartphones have literally given people all the information in the world in the palms of their hands. With this in mind, e-commerce brands need to come to terms with the fact that each buying decision will be well-researched.

“Millennials have changed the old retail model of price obfuscation, especially in online commerce,” says Jason Goldberg, VP of strategy at Razorfish. “They have grown up with transparency and information available to them at their fingertips, so brands have to design their business around transparency.”

Everlane, a luxury clothing store, is a prime example of how to use this concept in a business model. It openly promotes how all of its products are made, from A to Z, directly on its e-commerce website.

It doesn’t hide any manufacturing costs or warehouse details from the public. A lot of companies are known for relying on cheap labor, and the stigma around that helps get Everlane’s transparent approach into millennials’ good books.

Additionally, it maintains a strong social media presence that constantly reinforces its values. For example, it famously gives its audience behind-the-scenes glances at its factories in action via Snapchat. Using raw footage like this puts customers in a better state of mind about their purchases.

Transparency and authenticity are essential for gaining traction with millennials. It’s not just about what you sell anymore. It’s about how you promote it.

Parting words

Millennials are a fascinating group. Apart from the selfies and constant social media updates, they have a lot to offer in terms of digital consumerism. The truth of the matter is the online shopping landscape is incredibly crowded. Regardless of what products or services you provide, chances are there hundreds of other businesses working towards the same goals. Since millennials have been brought up in the middle of this reality, they have no problem looking around until they find an experience that really speaks to them. It’s up to you to differentiate yourself as a brand that meets them where they hang out.

For more on marketing to today’s consumers, see 5 Steps to Your Customer’s Heart with Emotionally Aware Computing.

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About Tracy Vides

Tracy is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene, Tracy has started off well by building a good reputation for herself, with posts featured on Steamfeed, Business 2 Community and elsewhere. Hit her up @TracyVides on Twitter.

Why Executives Should Follow Kylie Jenner

Arif Johari

How do we convince executives to invest in social selling?

Start by telling your CEO, CIO, CTO, and CMO: “Well, Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, Michael Dell, and Bill Gates, are all social CEOs – they’re on Twitter, LinkedIn, and they’re setting an example of thought leadership for their employees.”

If that doesn’t convince them, try these insights to convince your C-suite.

The online-shopping world that we live in lacks the warmth of great customer service that a brick-and-mortar may provide. We are social beings! We want to buy from, work with, and engage with PEOPLE! That’s where the human element of social selling comes in – we want to connect with the leaders of the corporations that we affiliating ourselves with.

Why do you think Kylie Jenner made $420 million in just 18 months and is on track to have a billion-dollar beauty brand by 2020? In comparison, it too Lancôme 80 years to became a billion-dollar beauty brand!

By connecting with her fans through Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram, she gives her followers a glimpse into her life, and she’s an exemplary user of her own products. The consistent product placement shows followers the applicability of her products and allows her followers to live vicariously through her. Once they buy her lip kits, they review and praise the products on social media, which exponentially multiplies impressions of her products. Love her or hate her, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due.

So why aren’t executives getting onboard the social selling train?

They might be thinking: “I don’t understand the value; therefore, I’m not going to do it.” We have a habit of doing things we think make us successful, and if executives have been successful without using social media, they might wonder: “Why do I need to use social media?”

Most company executives get a little excited about the idea of “disruption.” There might be a few out there who are holding onto the reins tightly, not wanting to rock the boat too much, but most executives are visionaries in their industry and they understand the power of disruption, especially after seeing how some disruptive companies have changed their industries. For example, Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.

In order to convince executives to embrace social selling, you have to answer the question that is probably giving them pause: “How do we do this so we can remain relevant and authentic to our personal brand and the company’s brand?”

They’ll also want to know the ROI, so start with what’s in it for them:

  • 77% of buyers are more likely to purchase from a company whose CEO uses social media (MSL Group)
  • Social enterprises are 58% more likely to attract top talent and 20% more likely to retain it (LinkedIn)
  • SAP’s social sellers lift quota attainment by 60% and increase opportunity ownership by 200%, resulting in deals that are 600% larger in revenue on average (SellingPower)

How to get started

Executives may not have the time to update their social media profiles, so they’d need hand-holding, especially when they starting out with social selling.

Coach them to improve their social branding on LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s going to be pretty hard to convince employees throughout the organization to embrace social selling if the executives don’t even have a LinkedIn profile.

To maintain momentum, executives can use a prescriptive program that consists of social sharing, social listening, and social engagement, which they can execute in about 10 minutes per day. Tools like Grapevine6, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and Videolicious play a big role during this execution stage.

A successful social selling program requires all employees to be involved, not just quota-carriers. As you move down the organization, develop a comprehensive social media training and enablement program. You’ll need guidelines, not rules, when encouraging employees to adopt social selling.

When every employee is actively communicating on behalf of the organization, they are increasing the visibility of the organization. Content shared by employees has 2x higher engagement versus the content shared by a company. And data like this – not to mention the example of Kylie Jenner – shows how valuable social selling is today.

Social selling has become such a hot topic that Coffee-Break with Game Changers is dedicating an entire series to exploring its various facets and promoting best practices for salespeople. To listen to other shows in this series, visit the SAP Radio area of the SAP News Center.

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Arif Johari

About Arif Johari

He is a Communications lead, Digital Marketing generalist, and Social Selling advocate. He trains marketing and sales employees to become experts in Social Selling so that they’d leverage social media as a leads-generation tool. He is responsible for executing innovative marketing strategies to increase engagement in social media, customer community, and landing pages through content, events, and A/B testing. He is passionate in making the work processes of the marketing and sales team more efficient, so that they can generate more revenue in a shorter time.

Why Customers Love Online Shopping And How You Can Take Advantage Of It

Andre Smith

It’s no secret that consumers are flocking to online stores in droves. The retail industry is struggling and projected to continue doing so, as online shopping continues to grow. It’s essential for retail leadership teams to understand this trend in order to take advantage of it.

Customers love being able to shop online for a number of reasons:

  • It’s more convenient
  • There is more selection
  • They can compare products/prices more easily
  • Prices are often better
  • It allows for discreet purchasing

Successful e-commerce platforms are based on an understanding of the reasons online shopping has become so popular.

Consult the best resource: your own experience

You likely have done a lot of online shopping yourself. One of the simplest ways to figure out what works and what doesn’t is to reflect on your experiences as a customer. What online stores have you bought from that impressed you? What impressed you about them? Take note of what you like and try and integrate those points into your own online e-commerce platform.

Pay attention to how other online stores (good and bad) handle the following:

  • What are the return and exchange policies?
  • Was the site easy to navigate?
  • Was the customer service personable and of good quality?
  • What unique features, products, or services do they offer that appear to be popular?
  • How is their selection?
  • How is their pricing?

Facilitate impulse buying without looking like you’re doing it

One important thing to remember is that many customers say they prefer to shop online because it often costs less and, most importantly, decreases impulse buying. Retail leadership can respect their wishes while still encouraging impulse buys with several strategies, including:

  • Display similar products when a customer views an item or goes to checkout.
  • Suggest other products that pair well with the product they are buying – for example, a case to go with a camera.
  • Offer free shipping when spending a certain amount of money, which encourages people to buy additional items to meet that threshold.

These strategies net more business while making customers feel like you have helped supplement their purchase or provided them a good deal.

Gather data

When customers shop online, both at your store and elsewhere, they leave behind a virtual treasure trove of data about their habits you can use to your advantage. It might even be worth hiring a data analyst or having a dedicated member of your marketing team constantly monitoring this data. After all, the Internet changes fast, and your customers’ habits and wants are likely to change over time. When something in the data changes, particularly if it is part of a trend, you need to make changes to accommodate it.

Display tour trustworthiness

Except for a handful of online retailers that nearly everyone knows and trusts, it’s not always apparent to customers whether an online store is trustworthy or an item they are considering purchasing is genuine. It can be especially hard to establish yourself when your business is new.

There are some measures you can take, such as being part of professional associations and having a website and storefront that look exceedingly professional, to demonstrate your integrity. For example, if you sell gemstones, certificates of diamond authenticity can reassure a customer and make them feel comfortable buying from you.

Online shopping is how products are sold now and will be into the future. All businesses that offer products must, at the very least, seriously consider opening up a digital storefront. As a leader, it’s important to understand what customers are looking for (and what they aren’t) when they go shopping online, then not only give them what they want, but use the medium to your company’s advantage.

To learn more about customer behavior, interactions, and habits, read the Digitalist Magazine Executive Research, Primed: Prompting Customers to Buy.

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About Andre Smith

An Internet, Marketing and E-Commerce specialist with several years of experience in the industry. He has watched as the world of online business has grown and adapted to new technologies, and he has made it his mission to help keep businesses informed and up to date.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!

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