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Seven things you may not expect about millennials

Lazy, narcissistic and demanding or social and inclusive on a quest for the authentic – millennials are often seen as the trailblazers of new technology, leading the charge for a transformation in the way we shop and live. But can this wide group of consumers be tied down to a single set of characteristics?

Millennial 2020 in east London

Millennial 2020 in east London

Millennial 2020 in east London

 A two-day summit in London last week sought to identify some common themes uniting a generation whose mindset stretches beyond age parameters. Drapers rounds up some of the highlights from brands and retailers including Trouva, Enclothed, FitFlop, SkinnyDip, Bloom & Wild and Go Pro.

  • Voice-activated search is coming and will be big

Accenture predicts that 50% of natural search will be done by voice by 2020. Think Amazon’s Alexa taken to new heights. John Sadeghipoor, global head of digtal marketing at FitFlop, said: “We’ll see many more personal assistants like Alexa, visual recognition technology and augmented reality combined with a great delivery proposition and when it all comes together that’s when it really starts. Millennials are spoilt for choice and we’re just scratching the surface at the moment.”

  • They expect full transparency over the customer journey

“Millennials expect to know where their package is at all times and faster, more traceable deliveries are becoming the norm,” said Lucy Ward, managing director at indie etail platform Trouva. She said customers expect things to go wrong from time to time but the best thing to do is be upfront about it, apologise fast and be personal. “We send a personalised cookie in the post to say sorry, which seems so simple but feels like someone really cares.”

  • It’s the authenticity of influencers, not the reach that matters

“We started by working with bloggers but we didn’t see the conversion we wanted,” said Vivien Laszloffy, chief executive of Budapest-based fashion brand Áeron, who was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 2017. “Then we started looking more at videos that showed how our products are made, which worked really well, and started working with women who were perhaps not as well known and had as many followers but had a much better relationship with the brand.”

  • They have a love/hate relationship with tech

“Tech is seen as the frenemy,” said James Guerrier, director of consumer insights at Viacom, the entertainment and media company which owns brands including MTV and Nickelodeon. He quoted Olivia, aged 20 in Australia as summing up it up well: “I hate how much I use social media. I hate it because it’s so addictive.” He also added that the target group is “instinctively inclusive”. “They follow their hearts more than their minds, and they are much more inclusive and non-judgemental than previous generations. 96% said that feeling comfortable in their own skin is important.”

  • The pace of change is faster than ever before

“There is a lot that’s been said already about millennials in terms of sharing, social responsibility and sustainability but for me the biggest surprise is the expectation of what’s new and what’s next,” said Accenture senior managing director for consumer goods and services Teo Correia. “Tech is moving the bar far higher and has fostered this behaviour of faster change. Millennials expect to be surprised all the time.”

  • Just because something can be personalised, doesn’t mean it should be

“We have huge amounts of data on our customers but it is about choosing what is right to use and what isn’t,” said Caroline Harding-Gelbard, senior director of international expansion and UK general manager at online and printed stationery firm Paperless Post. “We introduced a feature a few years ago for party invitations that told users that they’d been to a party recently with these people, but these other people were new. It became apparently quickly that this went too far and people didn’t want it so we rolled back very quickly. You have to listen to your users to see what they want.”

This was echoed by Alex Hall, UK marketing manager at action camera firm GoPro, who added: “Some things you can do might sound great in a meeting but the benefits need to be thought about from the customers’ point of view. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.”

  • They expect to be courted online, not sold to straight away

“I liken it to dating,” said New Look senior digital marketing manager Nadejda Tataciuc Birca on the process of acquiring new customers and enticing them through to conversion. “No-one would propose marriage on the first date and it’s the same with ecommerce: you start with the offer, the delivery proposition and entertaining content. The attention span is short and there is lots of competition so you don’t have long to attract the shopper. You need to engage them before the transaction will take place.”

The Millennial 2020 conference took place in east London on 3-4 May.

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