For retailers, PWC’s Total Retail 2016 study (PDF) has a wealth of useful information about shopper behavior. But one statistic stood out for me because it’s so surprising: Millennial customers actually shop at physical stores  more — not less — than other generations.
Of course, that’s not to say that Millennials don’t shop online. Eleven percent do so daily, 28 percent weekly and 40 percent monthly. However, 16 percent of the younger Millennials (aged 18-24) buy products in a physical store daily. That’s more than any other age group, and impressive even to me. (And I’m practically a professional shopper.)
There are many reasons Millennials — both the younger crowd and those up to age 34 — are so desirable as retail consumers. First, the obvious: They are the future, and the older Millennials are rapidly moving into their prime earning and spending years as they get married, buy homes and start families.
However, Millennials as a whole are also less price-conscious and more brand-loyal than other age groups. Frequent shoppers, willing to spend and loyal to your brand – so how can you get your hands on these valuable Millennial customers?
How to Attract Millennial Customers
A whopping 80 percent of Millennials use their mobile devices in-store to research products and compare prices — more than any other age group. They also rely more on peer reviews online while shopping in-store, and they’re likely to get their friends’ advice on purchases by sending product photos. Make it easy for visitors to do all this quickly (and still keep their data costs down) by setting up a guest WiFi network that doesn’t require a password or login. (You should keep your own WiFi network separate for security.)
Make it Easy
Because Millennial customers do so much of their own research on their mobile phones, they don’t care as much about knowledgeable salespeople as older generations do. They value convenience more than other generations, and one reason they shop in-store so often is so they can get the product in hand immediately. Don’t stand in their way! Millennials rank “ease of checkout” as very important to their in-store experience. Speed things up by providing your salespeople with tablets and/or smartphones they can use to check customers out on the sales floor so they don’t have to wait in line.
Know it All
Of course, fast checkout doesn’t mean your salespeople can be clueless . “Deep product knowledge” is important to Millennials, too. Conduct regular training to make sure your employees are familiar with new products that come into your store, can offer suggestions for using them, and know how to use the store’s mobile devices to do additional research for customers if needed.
Use Digital Loyalty Programs
Millennials overwhelmingly prefer digital coupons to printed ones. Invest in a digital loyalty program that enables you to tailor discounts and promotions to Millennial customers’ preferences. Bonus: You’ll also collect lots of valuable information about their shopping habits. At the recent Microsoft Envision  conference, a panel of Millennials agreed that loyalty programs must be digital. They said having to carry a loyalty card, even the small keychain ones, would discourage them from participating with that store’s program.
Upgrade Your Point-of-Sale Systems
Millennials are more comfortable storing their payment information on a mobile device than other generations. To prepare for the near future, consider upgrading your POS system to handle near-field communication (NFC) contactless payment options such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet — especially if you have a lot of early adopters among your Millennial clientele.
Millennials, more than other age groups, are loyal to brands that they feel are authentic, trustworthy and reliable. They also care about supporting local businesses and promoting local employment. Your status as a small retailer can give you an edge with Millennial customers; so can selling unique products, locally made items or products that help support a cause Millennials care about.
Bring Social Media into the Physical World
Millennials love social media, so think of ways you can incorporate social media into your physical store. Promote your store’s presence on social media sites by posting decals from Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp or whatever social media networks you use. Get creative: Some stores create displays or signage spotlighting products that are popular on Pinterest or customer favorites. Do you sell products that have cult status, are well reviewed on online ratings sites, or regularly make year-end “best-of” lists? Call them out and promote them.
While all of these actions will help your retail store appeal to Millennial customers, they’ll also make it more appealing to customers of all age groups. Talk about a win-win situation.
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