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Why Millennials Don't Buy Black Friday

Brenna Johnson
Senior Product Strategist

Millennials are killing the one-day holiday shopping
event. It won’t be this year or the next, but it’s coming. 

The fact is, Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t
really even one-day events anymore. “Holiday” has evolved in to a season of
rolling discounts and events, with Amazon and other major retailers setting the
pace by publishing their entire promotion schedule and lowest set seasonal
prices right after Halloween.

The holiday season will always bring an element
of shopping craziness, but the path to win the sales holiday sales war is changing.
It’s no longer rock-bottom prices and doorbuster sales. Black Friday and Cyber
Monday are great tools for retailers to get shoppers in their stores and not
their competitors, but this model won’t hold up as millennials take center
stage.

Millennials have shopped online their
entire adult lives. In their eyes, Black
Friday incentives rarely outweigh the hassle and frustration of setting foot in
a crowded store, rolling the dice with limited options and inventory. They may
take in the decorations with a gingerbread latte, and want a hands-on
experience for select gifts, but the reality is they steer clear of the mall
for holiday shopping.

Cyber Monday is more appealing to millennials, but
it is still a one-day event that doesn’t excite them as much as it does older
generations. Managing Cyber Monday sales and sitting at the computer in the
early morning hours is becoming the new, stressful Black Friday sidewalk campground.
Outside of being part of the competition and excitement, Millennials know they
can get deals after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They don’t want to be
pressured to make buying decisions with certain retailers and certain products
on specific days. Most of the population doesn’t have their act together in the
days after Thanksgiving – and frankly, they don’t need to. In 2014, more
shopping
was done December 20th – 24th
than during the hyped-up shopping days, and the deals continued to come right
up until Christmas Eve.

As more and more Boomers gravitate to online shopping and Cyber Monday numbers continue
to climb
, retailers need to think three steps
ahead to how they will address the next wave of shoppers - millennials
(and it goes way beyond price).

The
Millennial Shopper: Super Efficient, Lots of Expectations

What do millennials want during the holiday
shopping season? Fewer of them are braving the stores to shop, so they take to
screens. Millennials are mobile research experts/addicts. They get lots of
targeted emails (an incredibly effective way to reach them) and know they can
get deals on an ongoing basis. They’ll wait for sales. They’ll research all of
their options. They’re not in a rush.

Millennials expect a deal. They expect free and
fast shipping, which takes the pressure off to get gifts early in the season; they
can screech in to the curb waiting for the right products and prices. 7-10 day
standard shipping may as well be an eternity (or a non-starter if they’re
shopping the week before Christmas), so shipping options must be fast, and pick
up in store (if applicable) should be available. They also expect free returns.
Many millennial shoppers over-buy with the intention of returning much of it.
Managing this along with shipping is a major
challenge
and roadblock to innovation for many in retail
ecommerce – but it’s critical to compete.

Millennials use technology to do their legwork.
If they are price-conscious, they’ll use an app like Shopsavvy to crawl the Web.

They also tend to purchase large amounts of holiday
gifts from a smaller number of retailers to simplify things and to get cleared
for free shipping thresholds or tiered discounts.

Millennials love to discover new brands and new
products through social media like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook and
word-of-mouth. As creative gifts and niche brands become widely available
through sites like Etsy, hitting the perfect gift bull’s-eye with something
unique can be more appealing than getting a deal.

These demanding shoppers will spend the most in
the coming years. Standard retail tactics like discounts, sales, and events won’t
guarantee success. It will become more about building relationships with brands
that are easy to do business with.

Engaging
Millennial Shoppers During Holiday (and Year Round)

How can retailers start selling to the
millennial shopper now to get a jump-start on competitors? While discounts and
coupons excite shoppers of all ages, think outside of pricing alone.

Be
fast
. If you can get the products shoppers want the fastest (at a fair
price) – you win. Shoppers will spend more to get something the next day (or
even same day in some markets) with a hard stop like December 25th. Checkout
is still a huge barrier to conversion, so make the process painless – one page,
few steps, limited questions (especially on mobile).

Over
communicate
. Email reaches a fever pitch in December, and while
inboxes get flooded with noise, use this influential
tool to differentiate your brand. You don’t need to extend rock-bottom prices,
but keep an active email conversation to stay top of mind. Offer deals of the
day. Integrate with social media. Extend exclusive VIP offers. Experiment with
opt-in texts. Retailers like Target, Best
Buy
and JCPenney
are have been collecting emails and phone numbers to send exclusive alerts.

Give
options
. Get ahold of your supply chain and make the digital customer
experience frictionless. Millennials expect flexible fulfillment options (buy
online pick up in store, fast shipping). Make returns simple (and free if you
can). Be present on social media with an authentic brand message that allows
shoppers to discover products.

To win millennial business, retailers must be
easy to do business with during holiday and year round. Retailers must deliver
a painless customer experience and lots of options. The days of retailers setting
up their holiday Web sites and freezing code in the summer won’t be around
forever. Brands should invest in solutions that grant them the agility to adapt
versus curating static experiences. Experiment. Tell your brand story in an
authentic way in an engaging, efficient shopping experience. Millennials expect
it.

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