• rethinking retail shopping for millennials

Hacking Retail

ILab Notes
This is what happens when millennials like me go shopping!

What do we - the massive and massively digital generation - turn to when buying new clothes? Furniture? Even the most basic equipment for your household? Soon, it will be something very very different...

As for me, I know very well that I won’t buy something without consulting the voices of the internet by checking reviews or comments of almost every single product or service. The gap between offline and online is being smudged and I think it’s great to have the best from both “worlds”, why not take advantage of the digital transformation while exploiting the physical space to showcase important stuff. I am born in the mindset of a generation coined “Millennials” - and we are quite a bunch! In fact, Millennials happen to be the largest generation out there; some 80 million individuals born after 1980 and before the early 2000s make up this young but influential demographic in the United States alone - and we rely on word-of-mouth and reviews conducted by other customers far more, than we rely on ads and campaigns. And nowhere is this influence being felt more than in the retail industry: Recent research reveals that Millennials are changing the rules of purchase habits and revolutionizing the shopping experience as we’ve known it for decades. In other words, people like myself are forcing in-store retailers to reevaluate how they attract and communicate with consumers.

Nowadays, the term “online shopping” is just as common for us as tying our shoelaces. As e-commerce is fast approaching, a lot of great possibilities for the retailers out there emerge. But fear not if you are a retailer, more into the physical and yet still want to to lure the Millennials (and Generation Z) away from the comforting online platforms and down to your local store - with some minor adjustments, we will move. The key to this is understanding the new terms for buying, which has emerged in the wave of the digital revolution. But what exactly are those terms?

New terms for buying

In a recent survey of retail industry leaders conducted by Accenture, nearly 40 percent said the No. 1 concern they have about Millennials is their lack of loyalty. But that is not the case. Actually, Millennials can be exceptionally loyal customers, if they feel like they have been treated with a customer-centric shopping experience. Put more simply: they want to feel like they are being valued as an individual, and have in-store experiences that are tailored to their exact wants and needs. No personalization? Expect me to go buy my phone online instead!

Furthermore, be aware of the show-rooming; the practice of shoppers visiting a brick-and-mortar store to see, touch, and try out products before ultimately go home and buy them online. This call for that little extra oomph, if you want me to purchase the things I want, while I am actually in your store. That could be i.e. a special interactive experience related to my new product, which I wouldn’t have received, had I bought it online. It could also include me having an associate that can provide me with a concierge experience while buying, since 60% of consumers say they’re more likely to make an in-store purchase if they receive assistance from a trustworthy, knowledgeable store associate. Or maybe - considering that I most likely will be using my phone while in the store - just something as simple as me receiving a coupon, which I can redeem at the counter, would be a reason for keeping me there. Here, the technology of Geolocation might help. For example, geolocation can help promote nearby retailers that offer skiwear when a customer visits an area known for skiing. And while we are at it, Did you know studies have shown, that smartphones and tablets are now significant point-of-purchase tools, with 50% of consumers aged 18-24 using their devices to check store coupons or promo codes and another 42% comparing competitor prices while actually being in the store?

Let’s get physical, physical

“A physical convenience store, which allows consumers to select these items physically and then order the rest of the items in-store via an app, can work well for consumers”. - Forbes

Let's look at some examples of companies, doing successful physical retail-experiences. The Amazon Go Store - which, in itself is quite an interesting case, seeing that they have went from purely digital to now also being physical - is a company, pleasing the customer regarding in-store involvement. The Amazon Go store opened to the public in Seattle in January 2017 and it has no lines, no supermarket cashier and no waiting. You simply just walk into the store, check in via the app, pick up whatever you want and walk out. Afterward, you’ll be charged directly from your bank account and the receipt will be stored in the app as well. It’s almost like magic - except it’s not! The mix of computer vision, AI and censoring data creates this exceptional grocery shopping experience, which meet the need for simplicity and provides a possibility for the customer to make use of their device while in the store. China’s biggest online commerce company, Alibaba, is going down the same path. They are and buying physical spaces to open up offline shops. Long term they want the retail industry to be integrated in a single value chain including offline, online, data and logistics.

The Amazon Go Store just opened in Seattle this January. (photocredit:

But what about the personalization I’ve talked so fondly about? Boon + Gable is a great example of a company, understanding the requirements for physical customer-centric experiences in a world, in which everything is digital. Yes, Boon + Gable, may merely consist of a mobile app, and not a physical store per se….but actually, it still does in some way - it just bring the store into your own home instead. Hence, Boon + Gable sends a personal stylist to your house with 20 specifically chosen items for you. All you need to do is give them an hour, pay for what you keep, and forget about the rest. Now that is a company, giving the customer that individualized, personalized, consumer-centric experience, they ask for.

Finally, one can also contemplate, whether a physical store could benefit from just not being permanent. Intel, the chipmaker, has temporary stores in retail spaces in New York, Chicago and Venice (California). Here, store employees rearrange the spaces up to three times a day in order to showcase various activities — in the morning, for example, coffee is served at breakfast tables with devices showing the most recent newspapers. Also, the devices in the Intel shops are not fastened to desks with security cables as they are in most other physical stores - this gives potential buyers a better sense of how light they are, prompting them to go ahead and purchase.

One of Intels many pop-up stores - easy, simple, fun. (Photocredit:

Next steps

The main take-away, which you can gain from these recent surveys and successful new cases on retail, is that it’s time for a change amongst retailers, if they want to stay in business being physical in a world of digitalization. But what that change should be, depends on a lot of underlying factors. First of all, we can’t (and shouldn’t) all be either Amazon or Intel - and that is okay, since a little goes a long way. Second of all, in my experience, devoting time for the process of exploring what would work for your exact store, is by far more crucial, than what you might actually end up with. At HACKS by Innovation Lab, we have worked with retailers, who started up with wanting a huge showroom, interactive screens and “something with virtual reality” (because it is cool and quite the buzz these days) but, when we actually sat down and they really reflected on their own business, it was not the adding of some cool factor items that was needed. Merely, we were talking minor, rather inexpensive adjustments. I sense, that my clients aren’t the only ones, in need of this wake-up call.

The next step from here? Now you’ve gained some insight into my generation, and how we purchase. You also know, that the need for gaining insight into your exact target audience and your company-values before adding the cool factor is crucial. And I’ve given you my favourite cases of great retailing. Now, it is time for you put this information into perspective, relating it to your exact company, and start re-defining retail in your company!

In need for extra inspiration? We have created a concept catalog with containing retail ideas that we would like to share with you - just send an email, or drop by the office for some coffee!