Making Retail work for every generation

By : Bob Feher

March 31, 2017 12:00 PM


Many retailers these days seem to have a bit of an obsession with attracting Millennials to their business. And there are many reasons why they are considered a lucrative target for stores. This generation - roughly defined as those born between the mid-80s and 2000 - are now at the age where they'll be looking to further their careers and raise families, meaning they'll have disposable income and be willing to spend it.


In fact, by 2020, it's projected that this group will spend $1.4 trillion annually in the US alone, and represent 30 percent of total retail sales. But while they represent a significant a portion of shoppers, retailers shouldn't see this as the only place they should be focusing their efforts. After all, if they do, they could be missing out on the remaining 70 percent of spend made by other groups, including Generation X, Baby Boomers and - increasingly - Generation Z.


To build an environment that works for all these generations, it's vital that retailers recognize and adapt to the differing needs and expectations of each group. Only with the right mix of solutions that firms can build a system that works for everyone.


Taking the slow path


For instance, many retailers now have a focus on speed. Getting people through the checkout process as quickly as possible may be attractive to millennial and Generation Z consumers who've been brought up with the idea that they should be able to get what they want exactly when they want it. But not everyone will be happy with what they might perceive is a rushed approach.


That's why some retailers are making a conscious effort to slow things slow in order to better serve older consumers. For instance, one store in Scotland has introduced a dedicated 'relaxed checkout lane' for those unwilling or unable to get through the process as quickly as others.


Developed by supermarket Tesco with the help of Alzheimer's Scotland, the idea is to make sure people with extra needs don't feel pressured when they're shopping. Kerry Smith, a cashier at the store in the town of Forres, explained a wide range of shoppers have taken advantage of the initiative.


"[We have] people with social anxiety issues, depression, autism, learning difficulties or just basically a mom with three kids who just wants to take it easy when they get to the checkout," she said.


The right mix of tools


Such an offering doesn't just help make the shopping experience less stressful for these individuals, it can also help free up other lanes for people who are in a hurry. But in order to achieve this, retailers must make sure they have the right mix of technology tools at their disposal.


Many retailers have been keen to embrace fast self-checkout terminals, for example, but while these solutions are great for busy millennials who just to pay for their purchase with the minimum of hassle, older people could be less comfortable using them. Therefore, it's important that human-staffed checkouts aren't overlooked as an important component of the total store experience.


Giving staff tools that can help them better serve customers in a more relaxed fashion could help ensure that retailers are able to meet the needs of customers with different needs, without compromising those for whom speed is their number one priority. For instance, equipping staff with mobile POS solutions and providing the training to use them effectively can go a long way towards helping customers.


In today's environment, Millennials may welcome self-service options, and focusing on speed may help drive more transactions per minute, but it could come at the cost of alienating many of your key customers. The most effective retail operations are those that recognize the diverse needs and preferences of their shoppers, and work hard to make sure they're offering the right solutions for everybody.

Bob Feher

Analyst Relations & Market Intelligence

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Bob has been providing market and analyst insights at NCR for six years, working cross functionally across various lines of business. Currently, he works within Retail & Hospitality leading analyst relations and market intelligence.