6 Ways to Make Your Retail Business More Appealing to Millennials

  •    Jennifer Pollock is the editor in chief of Square’s blog and business resource center, Town Square. She regularly writes on new payment technologies.

How do you attract millennial customers to your website or brick-and-mortar shop? The generation has a lot of purchasing power, so you'll want to give it some thought. According to Ad Age, 17 to 34-year-olds will spend $200 billion annually beginning in 2017, and $10 trillion over their lifetime.

Getting on millennials' radars — and staying there — requires you to constantly evolve your business. You’ll want to regularly assess everything from your marketing efforts to the design of your online store. Here are some ways you can keep your business relevant and attractive to this generation.

Mobile, mobile, mobile

One in five millennials relies exclusively on mobile devices to get online. That means if your website isn't mobile optimized, you're frustrating (and perhaps repelling) a huge swath of customers who may have otherwise bought something from you but instead headed somewhere else.

A mobile-optimized website is mission critical, but increasingly, so is a mobile-optimized brick-and-mortar store. A recent Accenture survey found that 23 percent of millennials use "contactless" mobile payments (NFC) at least once a week. And at the Coachella music festival this year, more than 10 percent of all card transactions on Square's readers were contactless. To provide the customer experience that this demographic will soon come to expect, it's worth upgrading to a POS that can accept not only credit cards but also mobile payments like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.

Be strategic about pricing and value-adds

Millennials are hyper-aware of pricing. Forty-one percent of respondents in the Accenture study said that they shop around for the same product at a lower price before purchasing it more often than they did one year ago. This is likely due to smartphone usage, which allow them to search for items easily and compare prices, even when they're inside your store.

To keep millennials' business, you need to offer more value than what they can find from online mega retailers like Amazon. This can be tricky when it comes to pricing, but think of ways you can add value to shoppers — like a discount for in-store pickup, for example. Eighty-eight percent of millennials say they would consider buying online and picking up in the store to save $10 on a $50 item.

Make the online and offline shopping experience seamless

Although millennials shop online a lot, that doesn't mean they're eschewing brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, millennials may prefer to shop IRL (in real life), where they can touch and feel products in person but purchase later online

It’s important to ensure the experience is consistent between your online and offline store. Nine in 10 shoppers know what they’re buying before they even walk through your store's door. That means that if they see something in your online store, they also expect to see it in your physical store — and at the same price. So make sure you're offering a seamless shopping experience across all your channels.

Consider loyalty programs

Millennials respond well to loyalty programs. In data released by Bond Brand Loyalty, 68 percent of 20- to 34-year-olds said they would change where they shopped if it meant getting perks. And one-third said they've bought something they didn't want just to earn rewards. One type of loyalty program that may be particularly effective is free shipping. Of millennials surveyed in a recent report by LoyaltyOne, most said they most value free shipping as a reward-program benefit.

​A simple, uncluttered store design

The generation can be picky about the type of environment it chooses to shop in. Seventy percent of millennials surveyed in a recent report by Cassandra, an organization that studies millennial trends, say they dislike loud and busy stores and instead gravitate toward more calming environments. So make sure your space is clean, relaxed, and not frenzied. The same goes for your online store. Be sure to choose and clean, easy to navigate theme that is user friendly.

Rethink your social media strategy

Social media is how most millennials discover new products. Although keeping social accounts updated, relevant, and interesting is important, it may not be enough to get millennials' attention. Studies have found that millennials trust expert opinions from "strangers" over brands (and even their friends) when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Toward that end, businesses should consider adding customer reviews on their website to earn the trust of shoppers.

To grow your business, you need to be constantly evolving. That means making sure you're staying up to date with how younger generations are shopping — so you can strategically adjust your business.