Retail Steamrollers: Power Shoppers and Millennials

Don't get flattened by the competition.

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you are not part of the steamroller, you are part of the road,” says author Stewart Brand, editor of The Whole Earth Catalog and founder of the Global Business Network.

Retailers who do not stay ahead of the technology curve are likely to get flattened

Consumers are adopting new technologies more quickly than ever before.  

As a recent Accenture study points out, it took more than 50 years for the radio to achieve a 50 percent adoption rate; mobile phones took only 15 to achieve the same level, and social media only 3.5 years. 

Click here to download whitepaper.

Click here to download whitepaper.

Driven by this pace of change and the demands of online today’s tech-savvy shoppers, it’s likely that the retail landscape will change more in the next five years than it has in the past 50.

The 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study bears this out. 

We looked closely at the shopping behavior of 5,300-plus avid online shoppers and found that an important audience for retailers has emerged — the Power Shopper

We categorize anyone who’s made nine or more online purchases in a typical three-month period as a Power Shopper. We found them very similar in behavior to another critical retail audience, Millennials.  

Like Millennials, these Power Shoppers are confident and comfortable with all things digital.

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Click to Enlarge

They use technology more often to do more things.

Ultimately, they press the buy button more often, too, so they represent significant spending power.

Within our survey, the Power Shopper group consists of: 43 percent Millennials(ages 18-34), 29 percent Gen Xers (ages 35-50), 24 percent Boomers (ages 51-69) and 4 percent Seniors (ages 70+)

While Millennials get the lion’s share of media attention, it’s the Power Shoppers who retailers would do well to focus on: they spend more, are comfortable crossing channels and do it more often.

There seems to be a lot of old dogs capable of learning new tech tricks.

Power Shoppers over index on omnichannel activities, including ship to store and return to store. They are more likely to use in-store technologies and conveniences, such as beacons and kiosks. They also exhibit a higher rate of retailer app use.

[Also on Longitudes: The Smartphone Is Changing Retailing for Good]

Power Shoppers in training

It’s clear that Millennials, and soon Generation Z, will have a profound effect on retailing for years to come. This first generation of tech natives grew up with PCs, tablets and smartphones, and using all three is second-nature to them.

Our study found, for example, that Millennials are more willing to try new things, especially new technologies. 

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For example, 22 percent have used a grocery app from a large retailer within the past year, compared to 14 percent of non-Millennials. And 14 percent of Millennials have participated in “sharing economy” services, such as AirbnbUber or TaskRabbit—compared to only 6 percent of non-Millennials.

Similarly, Millennials are almost twice as likely to have already purchased a connected home device, ordered from a grocery or meal delivery service, or used a GPS receiver or health monitor.

They are at least two times more likely to purchase any type of wearable device and three-times more likely to purchase a smartwatch.

When it comes to online behavior, mobile and social resonate with Millennials. They are more likely to start a product search with a retail app, look at ideas on social media sites and seek advice from friends or family.

They’re more influenced by product reviews, Q&A’s and photos posted by other consumers—and viewed retailers’ social media posts more often. 

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Retailers who do not stay ahead of the technology curve are likely to get flattened. 

[Also on Longitudes: Get Ahead of Shifting Customer Loyalties]

The takeaway for retailers

To avoid getting flattened by the competition, retailers need to take a close look at every channel and “touchpoint” with consumers, and gear up in each one of them, so that everything works together seamlessly. 

The Pulse study shows that Power Shoppers and Millennials alike expect their shopping experience to be seamless, convenient and user-friendly. Among the steps to consider taking:

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Optimize your experience across devices
Both Power Shoppers and Millennials are apt to use multiple devices for browsing and researching, and four out of five mobile shoppers have used a retailer’s app instead of a web browser. The ideal state is for the consumers’ information and data to be transferred as they move across platforms. 
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Integrate the customer experience across channels. 
The goal is to have “a single conversation” with customers, not one that changes from desktop to smartphone to in-store. This requires tighter control over omnichannel issues, such as inventory transparency, pricing, coupon offers and customer service posture.
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Make the in-store experience stellar.
Nearly half of the online shoppers surveyeagree that shopping in store is still a major part of their shopping route. Plus, 48 percent of Power Shoppers and 59 percent of Millennials report purchasing additional product when making a ship-to-store pickup.  
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Consider rewarding your loyal customers. 
Discounts, free products and access to special offers are among the ways retailers can reward shoppersIt seems that online loyalty programs are proliferating recently for good reason.
For more details on the many ways tech-savvy shoppers are transforming the retail landscape, download the complete study in an easy-to-read e-book format. The study fully explores the way digital shoppers have evolved, reviews the latest in channel dynamics andthe new logistics challenges retailers face. Data was collected from more than 5,300 online shoppers.goldbrown2


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Bala Ganesh is Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group at UPS. He oversees efforts to apply cutting-edge technologies to create the company's Global Smart Logistics Network.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.