We have been hearing a lot about how millennials will rule the retail roost in the coming years. Presently in their 20s and 30s, by 2020 they alone will drive over 30 % of US sales – which will exceed USD 1.2 trillion. They will comprise more than 75% of the workforce. How they shop, where they shop, what inspires them is important for designing any customer engagement strategy in the digital world.

Meet Ron. He is a digital millennial, with ‘700 followers’, ‘2500 friends’ and lives in a virtual world. Ron is a dreamer, He dreams of becoming a professional marathon runner. He uses social media to discuss his gym regime, ask friends for diet recommendations and gym supplies. Moreover, he runs not just for himself but for a cause.

He ‘likes’ the Breast Cancer Foundation Marathon on his FB page, ‘shares’ the event on his profile page and social media starts buzzing. Ron realizes he needs a new pair of running shoes. He visits the local outlet of his favourite brand, but the model he is looking for is sold out. He asks his friends for recommendations on his social network, but not much comes out of this either.

But wait! There is this one company that has been ‘listening’ to Ron. They respond with recommendations on his ‘wall’ as they now ‘know’ him. Ron is pleasantly surprised at how well the retailer appears to understand him and his preferences. They also ‘share’ a link to an ‘app’ with store locators, inventory information and the facility to create a wish list and reserve in-store. Ron immediately downloads the ‘app’ and finds a store a couple of blocks away from the venue of a business meeting he has set up for the following Tuesday. He reserves a pair of canary yellow shoes in size 8.5 size (noting with satisfaction that only this brand offers ‘half-sizes’!) so that he can ‘experience it’ after his meeting.

The meeting over, Ron heads straight for the store. As he enters, he receives a ‘request’ for enabling ‘guest WI-FI’, which he allows. Within a couple of minutes, a shop assistant welcomes him by name, escorts him to the section for running shoes and hands him a canary yellow pair in size 8.5. Simultaneously using her iPad and a video demonstration, she tells him at length about the new sole technology that makes this pair unique and how it would help prevent injury during long runs. Ron is impressed and on the verge of being ‘converted’. While checking out some more shoes, Ron receives a coupon on his mobile phone offering a 70% discount on a sipper for marathon runners if purchased in- store. It’s a great deal and Ron falls for it.

Ron pays for the shoes and the sipper at the NFC-enabled till and asks for the invoice to be mailed to him. By the time he reaches his car, there is a ‘pop-up’ requesting him to rate the purchase experience. It comes as little surprise that Ron gives it a thumping ‘5 stars’ and that he also shares the experience on his wall. Ron has been turned into a true convert and a ‘brand ambassador’ of sorts.

This is a fine example of how a savvy digital enabler can influence a customer’s path of purchase, in incremental bits, and create long-term brand loyalty – which is why it is critically important for retailers to look at end-to-end engagements rather than one-point solutions.

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