Want Millennial Loyalty? Embrace the Strength of Social Media and Texting
It’s no surprise that retailers have long been witnessing a sharp decline in customers who visit their brick-and-mortar stores — even the big-name behemoths. Still, data shows that physical stores still account for 90 percent of all retail sales in North America. What accounts for this disparity?
Millennials (yes, we can blame them for this one).
As the largest generational group in history, millennials are responsible for a massive (and still growing) percentage of today’s consumer spending. More than ever, retailers need to think about what matters most to them. Largely because of millennials, consumer attitudes have shifted so sharply that immediacy and convenience are now demanded, even outside of internet transactions. For local retailers to sustain customer loyalty and stay relevant — much less survive — business owners need to focus on convenience and rapid response. That means they need to double down on communication tools like social media messaging platforms and texting.
We’re Living in a Culture of Convenience
In a recent survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, Podium discovered that convenience ranked No. 1 (67 percent of respondents) among the top five factors that influence a customer’s loyalty to local businesses.
Among the differentiating benefits local retailers have over their internet competitors is the convenience and proximity they can offer to customers. Finding the right technology tools will help local businesses continue to stretch those advantages.
For millennials especially, retailers that offer social media messenger connectivity or SMS texting as a means of communication are more likely to earn their loyalty. In fact, according to the study, respondents aged 18-34 were twice as likely than respondents over the age of 45 to be more loyal to a business that offered social media or SMS texting for their customers.
Use this information to your advantage. Technologies exist that allow businesses to communicate with customers that don’t require additional staffing. And, incidentally, using these technologies will help businesses respond more quickly to consumer concerns.
Respond Right Away … or Face the Consequences
There’s a side effect to the new normal of convenience and immediacy on demand: timeliness. That was made clear by the 20 percent of survey respondents who indicated they expect a local business to respond to questions and concerns within five minutes. Otherwise, they’ll move on to another option. Nearly half (48 percent) said they expect a response within 30 minutes.
What’s more, one out of three consumers noted that they will outright refuse to patronize a local business if it hasn't been responsive for 24 hours. These shifting consumer expectations have strong implications for brick-and-mortar businesses. Many still depend on phone calls to reach their customers, but 84 percent of respondents said they don’t answer calls from unknown numbers — even though they also ranked phone calls high on their list when it comes to creating loyalty. So even if a retailer does call back in a timely manner, they run the risk of having their call going unanswered.
Store owners of all sizes can combat this issue by offering social media messaging, SMS texting and other forms of more relevant, convenient communication options. However, businesses must also have the ability to respond promptly when contacted through each of these channels.
Quick response in a customer's channel of choice can improve customer loyalty, but it can also become a significant bottleneck as usage grows. Hiring a team of customer service agents just isn’t an option for most local business retailers that don't have the revenue or bandwidth to justify it. This problem has mostly arisen from local retailers adapting e-commerce solutions that weren’t built for them.
However, powerful resources are readily available and built specifically for local businesses to collect and manage social media messages, SMS, and online reviews to simplify the process and shorten response times. Not only do these technologies allow customers to have a more personalized experience with a retailer, but they continue to build on the advantages local retailers can offer.
Engaging with customers through the channels they’re already comfortable using isn’t just better for convenience and quick responses, it demonstrates that you’re attuned to customer preferences and are eager to accommodate them. Finding and implementing the right message technology can be a quick and easy process with the right partner, and its benefits will have a lasting, positive impact.
Adam Edmunds is the president at Podium, a customer communication platform for local businesses.