As a business owner, it’s crucial to be able to evolve and adapt along with changing times. Just because your business model was effective with one generation doesn’t mean it will be with another. This has never been more glaringly obvious than it is with the huge rift between how businesses operate versus how the Millennial generation shops. If you think you can afford to overlook Millennials, think again. They wield way more power than you probably realize, and that’s only going to become truer as time goes by. Without taking steps to appeal to them through multiple shopping mediums now, you run the risk of losing out to the competition.

Why Millennials Matter

Like many business owners, if you’ve focused your marketing efforts on any generation in particular, Baby Boomers and/or Gen Xers have probably received most of your attention. Until recently, Millennials – who were generally born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – were considered by many to be too young to matter. That’s changed, and age isn’t the only factor that counts. What’s even more important is that Millennials were among the first people to grow up with computers in the home, and they tend to be among today’s most connected, Internet-savvy consumers.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 Millennials revealed some stunning facts about them that are of particular relevance to today’s retailers. Before delving into the results of the survey, consider these points:

  • There are more than 105 million Millennials in the world today
  • Millennials will make up 46 percent of the workforce by 2020 and more than 75 percent by 2025
  • All told, Millennials boast more than $200 billion in buying power per year

It’s plain to see that Millennials are a force to be reckoned with, and retailers stand to enjoy many advantages by catering to them.

Millennials Embrace Omnichannel Shopping

Unlike any generation that came before them, Millennials have practically grown up with online shopping. As a result, they are incredibly comfortable with it and often expect it to be an available option no matter where they shop. According to the survey, 33 percent of female Millennials and 40 percent of male Millennials stated that they’d buy everything online if they could. Now that mobile shopping is so well-established, most Millennials also expect to be able to buy what they need through their smartphones and other mobile devices. In this way, Millennials fully embrace three shopping mediums – in-store, online and mobile – and expect to be able to pick and choose from them at their leisure.

Unfortunately, many retailers miss the mark when it comes to offering options to Millennials. Incredibly, many don’t have an e-commerce presence at all. In 2013, those retailers missed out on more than $262 billion in e-commerce sales. Those that make an effort to establish and maintain online presences often fail to design them to suit the needs of Millennials and other savvy shoppers. The biggest problem lies in the fact that many retailers fail to realize the importance of offering a seamless shopping experience. Whether someone is making a purchase online, in a store or through their mobile device, they expect to enjoy a certain level of service. Retailers that fail to offer this type of seamless omni-channel shopping experience stand to alienate Millennial shoppers. Making this mistake now could cost your business dearly in the years to come. Making certain changes now, on the other hand, can lay the foundation for incredible long-term success.

How are Retailers Striking Out with Millennials?

By now, you should be convinced of the considerable buying power of the Millennial generation. What can you do to make the most of it? One way is by being aware of common mistakes that retailers are making and adapting your business to avoid making them yourself.

A few ways in which retailers miss the mark with Millennials include:

  • They’re Anti-Showrooming – It’s understandable to be averse to having people use their smartphones while browsing your store. Won’t they just find what they need for less online and walk out without buying anything from you? That’s always a risk, but savvy retailers are learning to embrace showrooming. One way to do so is by offering a price-match guarantee and prominently promoting it in your store. Another way is by simply having a top-notch e-commerce presence that shows in-store shoppers that you’re also the online authority to trust. One thing’s for sure: Attempting to ban or discourage the use of smartphones and other mobile devices in your store is a great way to scare Millennials away for good.
  • They Lack an E-Commerce Presence – When a Millennial steps into a brick-and-mortar store, he or she expects to be able to check online for additional products and other information. Retailers who don’t have e-commerce sites come across as relics from a distant past to Millennials. Furthermore, without a decent e-commerce site, people who search for your goods in the local area are far less likely to find your store and may never step foot into it in the first place.
  • Their E-Commerce Sites Leave a Lot to be Desired – If your e-commerce site is little more than a static online catalog, it’s probably doing more harm than good. It’s well worth it to invest the time and money that are needed to create a strong online presence. The best sites are interactive and incorporate social media channels into their designs.
  • They’re Not Accessible via Mobile – Mobile shopping is bigger than ever, and it’s getting more popular by the day. Expecting people to access your regular site through their mobile devices is a mistake. All too often, standard websites load slowly or are rendered incorrectly on mobile devices. One solution is to create a mobile friendly version of your site. An even better option is to revamp your site to have a responsive design, which means it automatically renders correctly across all devices.
  • They Don’t Offer a Seamless Omnichannel Shopping Experience – The retailers who appeal the most to Millennials do so by delivering the same shopping experience across all channels. Buyers can seamlessly make purchases online, in stores and through mobile devices without having to contend with confusion of any kind. Someone should be able to just as easily find out if something is in stock online as they could in your actual store, for instance.

Additional Tips

There are all kinds of ways to appeal to Millennials, who are considered to be the most mobile-savvy shoppers out there. Encourage people to post and share reviews. Encourage customer loyalty with a rewards or loyalty program that is accessible online and via mobile. Stand out from 88.8 percent of retailers by accepting mobile payments. Offer mobile coupons that are designed with your best customers in mind. Most importantly, strive to create a shopping experience that is consistent and effective in store, online and via mobile. Taking these steps may involve decent investments of time and money now, but they are sure to pay off again and again as the Millennial generation gains more and more clout.