The usual talk goes like this: Brick-and-mortar retailers are in trouble. Consumers are flocking online for convenience and low prices and don’t want to schlep to local stores anymore.
But is that really the case?
Retail analysts are pointing to a very promising trend for brick-and-mortar stores: Millennials—those in their 20s and early 30s today—seem to prefer the experience of shopping in real stores. Sure, they use social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook to find out what their peers are buying. But when it comes to actually spending money on something, many Millennials head to the local mall.
The reason is that Millennials are financially conservative (thanks to the Great Recession) and want to browse and get a fulfilling shopping experience before they pull out their wallet. “Their idea of material goods is not as important as experiences and relationships,” Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer for The Intelligence Group, told OZY, a news site.
That said, retailers must understand that what Millennials want from their shopping experience is much different than what their parents’ generation wanted. They don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements, because they do independent research before heading to stores. They want a true, authentic experience they can tell their friends about. They want a place to hang out.
Trendy chain Urban Outfitters is perhaps the shining example of how brick-and-mortar retail is changing. A massive new Urban Outfitters store in New York City includes a beauty salon, a coffee shop, a record store and photo booths scattered around the store. The men’s department even offers a printer for shoppers to put custom-designed prints on their Chuck Taylor shoes, according to the New York Observer. The store brings in celebrity guests like director Gia Coppola for special events and signings.
While not every store can be Urban Outfitters, it does point to where brick-and-mortar retailers is headed: Stores need to give their shoppers an experience they can’t get online. They need to make themselves destinations—not just places where you can buy things.
“Millennials are a lot more concerned with brand ethos,” Aria Hughes, an editor for the online trend forecaster WSGN, told OZY. “Boomers are more interested in abundance.”
Read more articles on customer engagement.
Photo: Getty Images