The Highlights of Millennial 20/20

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Authenticity, immediacy and transparency: these are the three main characteristics that Millennials look for when choosing a brand. This week the team at Verb had the chance to attend Millennial 20/20 and listen to representatives from world-leading consumer brands and retailers discussing what the future holds for eCommerce.

“Everyone talks about the use of technology, but it’s still essential to to understand the needs of customers and employees.” Tero Valkiala, Head of Digital @Finnair airlines.

The employees

The Head of Digital at Finnair reflected that companies need to adapt to the new generation from both angles. From an employee perspective, Millennials want to feel a significant sense of purpose in their jobs. According to Transferwise, full company transparency in a friendly work environment can help to achieve that sense of purpose and make young employees feel that they belong to the company and are aligned with its goals. It has often been suggested that Millennials don’t appreciate traditional company structures and prefer to work in more lateral, collaborative work environments. Hierarchy kills innovation – ideas should be able to come from anywhere not just from the top down.

The consumers

From a consumer perspective, values and authenticity in brands are the most important factors when trying to appeal to Millennial consumers. As discussed at the panel debate with Levi’s, Lego Group and Monster Energy, modern consumers now expect to gain a level of emotional engagement with brands in a way which they have not before. They want experiential shopping and products that allow them to become the best version of themselves, enjoying shopping as almost a cultural practice rather than something which was previously seen as more superficial and functional

“Millennial is a mindset, not necessarily just a demographic.”

The brands

From a brand perspective, most will agree that one of the biggest challenges has been integrating physical and digital into one. We are already seeing the use of AI and other automated software by innovative brands who want to appeal to their customers in more dynamic ways. For example, Wah London; a beauty salon in Soho, already takes bookings through chatbots instead of doing them through an app, moving even further into the realm of digital and away from traditional practices

“Immediacy is a necessity  for Millennial consumers. They want to have the ability to buy anywhere, at any time. Consumers are in control, rather than the retailer” Peter Williams, Chairman at BooHoo and Misterpex.com

debate

Jaimie Fuller, Chairman at Skins expanded on the issue of engagement between brands and consumers.  

“It’s about the influence you can have as a brand which is defined by how you engage with your consumers. It’s important to develop a brand but also to bring something tangible back to the consumer’s community.”

In order to achieve that, Fuller explains that it is essential to make sure the entire organisation and their practices are aligned with the same mission and goals.

Frederic Court, Founder and Managing Partner at Felix Capital explained how focusing on your consumers and the shift in their expectations should be the brand’s number one priority.

“There is a growing need for consumers to be part of a community, which growing numbers of retail entrepreneurs are coming to realise and therefore altering their practices accordingly.”

There is an evident focus on community development in all new business projects that Felix Capital are working on. Within these communities, anybody can have a voice and become an influencer in that community.

“The proof is in the emergence of new retail brands from all around the world who build a global reach completely organically” Court highlights. “They grow their businesses by forging partnerships with similar brands.”

The luxury industry

We also heard a very sharp analysis of the state of the luxury industry in 2017. Nick Blunden, Chief Commercial Officer at the Business of Fashion highlighted the 10 biggest shifts in the luxury market.

BOF state of the industry

Companies that can shorten the supply chain and go to market quicker are forming stronger business models. These companies are able to get closer to the consumer by offering that immediacy in their products and services.

Blunden also raised how a consideration of the Chinese market should be a priority:

“Companies, whether they’re large or small,  need to consider the sophistication of the Chinese market. Today there are just over 25 mega-cities in China (10M+ population) and this is expected to increase to 60 by 2020.”

This means that for luxury brands it is no longer enough to think of a country-focused strategy. They need to think of a city-focused strategy instead. Companies who consider that shift will be able to grow their market share and drive the development of their business more efficiently.

Something else worth highlighting is how mobile is having a huge impact in the way consumers engage with the luxury market. There is a huge emphasis on digital technology and the retail experience created through a combination of physical and virtual mediums.  

Finally, something which is increasingly evident in discussions on the millennial consumer is the way they embrace the ‘wellness’ market.

“Feeling good is the new looking good. Brands should think of the integrity of their supply chain in this regard; it is a holistic approach!”

Toms

We (us ourselves, we are millennials as well) want brands that deliver truth and authenticity, and that offer a creative approach to their products or services. We’ll definitely see a lot of new technology being integrated into retail practices in the next few years, but it is also key that brands stay true to their origins and core values.