Industry Insights

Millennials, Mobile and Merchandise


Take these three factors very seriously – retailers that don’t have a strategy for the 3Ms won’t get into the Black this holiday season.   The companies that don’t get it right might end up with a big lump of coal in their stocking!

  • >50% of online shopping traffic (at Thanksgiving) will be on mobile devices – up 23% from 2013 – predicts IBM
  • 87% of Millennials say that they think brands should get consumers like them to give opinions before creating products
  • 585M packages projected to be handled by UPS in December, up 11% from 2013

We are in an age of continuous computing, using our mobile devices for a myriad of purposes (see below)!  So naturally interactions must be optimized for these devices – both visual and in context.  When using smaller screens to sift through the mountains of messages, apps, posts and sites, those that are image-based are attention-grabbers and becoming the default standard.  The mobile user experience can determine whether you have one-time visitors or loyal customers – retailers need to leverage this new way to connect and engage authentically.


Millennials (AND those of us who have a Millennial Mindset) are attached to our devices, addicted to technology, famously visual and vocal. Given that these users are less tolerant of struggles and friction, on-line experiences that have errors, poor navigation or broken links are quickly abandoned – there is virtually no second chance to engage.  MillenialNot only impatient, but Millennials expect complete transparency, customized experiences and want their voices to be heard – especially about products and services.

So how can retailers adapt their merchandise strategy for a world of mobile-using Millennials?  Well, first of all they can better curate their assortment.  Based on knowledge and values of key shoppers, retailers can tailor products by location and in-context on-line; ask for input and listen to feedback; source from sustainable, local and socially conscious vendors.  Second they can provide a wealth of information, optimized for mobile, on their products to research-savvy shoppers: images, manufacturing information, specifications and reviews.  And finally they must fulfill as promised.  Not necessarily everyone wants or needs same- or next-day delivery, but everyone wants to receive goods as promised.   The Christmas shipping debacle of 2013 taught North American retailers this lesson.

Retailers need to remake their strategy in time for the holiday season.  I invite you to follow the 2014 holiday shopping season via the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark to see who wins and who loses in optimizing Mobile, Millennials and Merchandise.


Retail Made With IBM at NRF 2015

Join us at the “Retail’s BIG Show” to see how IBM helps retailers to grow profitably by being relevant to consumers.  Visit us at Booth #1920 during NRF’s Annual Convention & EXPO at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York City between January 11 and 14, 2015. To stay in touch, follow @IBMRetail on Twitter and pair our official hashtag #SmarterRetail with #nrf15 to join the conversation.

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