What makes the millennial shopper tick?

And how can retailers convert them into customers?

Home furnishings retailers are looking for new ways to attract and acquire the Millennial shopper. Most Millennials are educated consumers because they use the technology in their hands (the internet and social media) to learn more about products and services before they buy. They have increasingly adopted online shopping for fast and convenient purchases. Millennials are also less influenced by traditional advertising. Technology platforms influence almost all their purchase decisions, and their digital devices are their most preferred retail stores.

This year, Millennials will surpass Boomers in purchase volume. What does that mean for retailers? Millennial furniture shoppers are on track to have more buying power than all other generational buyers. They’ve spent more of their adult lives in the glow of two-day shipping and other convenient benefits offered by powerhouse online retailers like Amazon. And they are using this experience to change the way retailers in every industry sell products.

Furniture retailers are constantly looking for what makes Millennials tick. The Millennial shopper is the first truly connected shopper. Strategies that worked in the first and second generations of home furnishing retail stores are less effective today. Successful retailers are replacing television ads with YouTube ads; radio ads with podcast sponsorships; newspaper ads with Google ads. Facebook ads are the new highway billboards. The ways we communicate with and attract shoppers must be more data-driven so retailers can measure their return on investment.

Think Digital First

Connected shoppers look at digital technology first – before any in-store visit, if an in-store visit happens at all. Millennials spend the first stages of a buyer’s journey online. They research by using search engines like Google to find products that would satisfy their immediate need. Because Google search operates in such a competitive landscape, Millennials know they can find exactly what they want in the first few results.

Until the last few years, search engine optimization (SEO) was an afterthought. Retailers knew it was part of online marketing but weren’t sure how SEO could bring buyers to the store. Today, home furnishings retailers need SEO to stay competitive and grab real estate in the Millennial shopper’s line of sight.

Once you get Millennials’ attention on your website, how do you get them to make a purchase in your store?

The In-Store Experience

It might surprise you to learn Millennials shop in-store at least half the time. Although they do their research online, they go to stores to see the product and communicate with designers. Retailers should build an omni-channel strategy that includes both online and brick-and-mortar advertising to reach them. The Millennial buyer’s journey begins when you attract her to your website. It ends when you bring her to your store or encourage her to buy online.

Use your in-store experience to mirror the type of activity you’re showing on your website and social media channels. Millennials value experience over materials. Retailers can leverage this trait by making their store an experience. Host design events where Millennials can be educated and entertained while connecting with your brand. When you’re adding a new collection to the showroom, turn it into an event. Some of the most technologically savvy home furnishings retailers merge the digital journey with the in-store experience. We’ve seen incredible success with sales teams using online room planners on in-store tablets to collaborate with shoppers. This blend of digital and traditional is what we call an effective omni-channel strategy.

Developing an Omni-channel Strategy

Blending your brand’s online and in-store experience will make your buyer’s journey more seamless and desirable. Unlike their parents, Millennials view multitasking as a way of life. They disregard the advice to stay focused on one thing and take it for granted that they can simultaneously text on their phone, look up product information on a tablet and stream YouTube on their laptop. Being “connected” takes on a whole new meaning. This culture of multitasking has Millennials switching between devices and platforms to access and interact with information.
Because you want to engage all your online shoppers and convert as many Millennial visitors as possible, spread your advertising dollars across as many digital channels (SEO, SEM, Social, Email, etc.) as your resources allow. Use Facebook Live videos to conduct showroom tours. Share in-store customer testimonials on your blog. Create a paid advertising campaign to promote an in-store contest. The ways you can blend your online strategy and in-store reality are limitless.

Engaging your Millennial Shopper

Traditional methods of acquiring new customers are already seeing a decline in efficacy as Millennials enter the marketplace for home furnishings.

YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. The channels for distributing content are getting stronger and more widely adopted. The Millennials and the generations after are consuming content at an alarming rate. Visual content is invaluable for retailers. With a smartphone, you can create unlimited videos to post on all platforms to capture your Millennial shopper’s attention. Use your design staff to help Millennials get inspiration on Instagram-worthy living room decor. Entertainment value and educational value are both critical in your video content. Plus, videos have a significant impact on your SEO.

Written content such as blogs are not only great for your SEO but also for engaging Millennial shoppers during the research and buying stages. Think of your content strategy like a funnel. At the top of the funnel, you should create more content around the questions your Millennial shoppers are searching online. Topics like “How often should I buy a new mattress” or “How to care for leather furniture” are great for shoppers researching potential products to solve a problem. You’ll attract these buyers on the first page of Google with good SEO techniques. As the Millennial shopper get further into the buying process, their questions will be more specific. And your content should match those queries. Blogs are a great tool to attract new Millennials and give your current Millennial prospects a way to keep your brand at the top of their minds.

Create a Personalized Experience

Millennials don’t want a hard sell, they want “experiential and interactive marketing” that draws them into a buying journey to share with their online friends potentially. You may also consider surveys and other online tools to engage the online millennial shopper. The rise of media website Buzzfeed opened a new lane of entertainment for Millennials online. Style and personality quizzes like “Which ‘Friends’ character is most like you?” and “What your favorite breakfast says about your dating life” became the new way Millennials began to cultivate their personas. Retail technology began leveraging this behavior mechanism and saw incredible success in other industries. Some companies have found ways to incorporate the natural behavioral traits of Millennials and turned them into marketing tools for furniture retail websites.

Savvy furniture retailer marketers can get more Millennial shoppers to buy furniture by organically entering customers’ lifestyles. Just because Millennials have shorter attention spans doesn’t mean that all advertising and marketing ceases. It means that how you advertise and market have to shift.

Millennials prefer advertising tailored to them to mass media advertising that may not interest them at all. If they are not in the market for furniture now, the old-fashioned “mattress sale” blasts have no appeal and get your emails sent to Spam folders. These elusive furniture shoppers want the company they will shop with to be smart enough to know what they are looking for and when they want it. Instead of creating a one-size-fits-all email strategy, try creating emails for different segments of buyers. Retailers can use email marketing with behavioral data to create different audience segments with different messages based on the buying stage. You can keep your brand visible during each stage of the buying journey and provide consistent value by sharing tips, entertainment and more ways to engage with your store online.

Hire More Millennials

Bring Millennials into your team if you want your store to meet the Millennials where they shop. Hire Millennials who understand current and emerging technologies and social media platforms, or contract with a professional digital marketing firm. Engage Millennials in your entire marketing strategy and seek their advice on what appeals to them.

You need to acknowledge and value Millennials’ opinions, use your brand as a storytelling marketing engine, and understand that they are early adopters and will develop loyalty when they trust the brand. You’ll need Millennials on your side to help you acquire that millennial shopper to your store.

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