Candy Crush, Instagram, Netflix, then maybe Walmart
The attention economy and the millennial retail problem
This is an opinion piece by Jeremy “JJ” Khoo, CEO iFashion Group. He is also involved in crypto project MegaX.
We are the millennial generation. We are disillusioned, disenfranchised and typically dismissed. We aren’t impressed and value is always relative. We know so much, but we learn so little. We asked for the world and we got it, right in the palm of our hands. Too much is always going around us, yet we got this. I think we do…
A Millennial is loosely defined as a person reaching adulthood in the early 21st century. Millennials are typecast as the internet generation, unaware of life without being online. It is this particular attribute that shapes the way millennials interact socially and with the environment. This is a key difference between baby boomers and millennials.
Enter the smartphone. The internet became instantly omnipresent, striking out with all-pervasive advertisments and social endorsements via push notifications and 140 characters. For a millennial, it is no longer about opting-out. It’s a case of multi-tasking, and paying attention to everything at once — fastest fingers first.
Under the millennial mandate, the value-driven economy has quickly evolved into one of attention-span, with everything from food to games competing for the same instant gratification on a 4.7 inch retina HD display. But then things got real. Its not so much about what is in front of you, but what you may be missing out should you not have it in front of you — classic FOMO. A call, a message, a snap, Kim Kardashian’s feud with what’s-her-name-again, who is to say which are not important?
The attention economy forms the crux of the retail problem. Millennials and millennial-marketers, simply exacerbated it. It is hard enough to get a millennial to walk into your store, let alone have them part with their dollars (can’t do this now, my village in Clash of Clans just got raided by Sophia Lee!). Banner blindness is real — what’s crazier is mall blindness, try that. Mainstream advertising is at best present, but highly ineffective. An online ad being ubiquitous suggests poor CPC/CPM management.
After all that, we are left with the mangled remains of retail casualties, both online and offline. Millennials do not support brands that don’t command their attention in a massive way. Millennials demand a thousand tricks and more from the same brand. Content refreshment is absolutely necessary to deserve a revisit or click. Retail cannot keep up with this. Refreshing content is expensive, and the results are a gamble. The customer is always right indeed.
Yet landlords, retailers and operators continue to fight the good fight. Many, blissfully unaware that they are completely out of their depth in a tussle with the smartphone, continue to play tag with prospective customers with “cutting-edge technology” and “social media” or worse, the good old discount.
Truth be told, there are 2 ways to win any battle (or argument) — roll with resistance by playing along or just down-right dominate. In retail speak, this means either augmenting your presence by being part of the smartphone environment or bring on an experience the smartphone cannot yet emulate (live music anyone?). In practice, Pokemon Go gave us a clue on how this could be accomplished, bringing out millions of millennials (in need of the sun) to physical locations dictated by the game.
What does this mean for retail? Can we solve this with retail 3.0 or 4.0? There is nothing to solve if we acknowledge that this isn’t so much a problem as pay-per-play was a problem for the music industry- it ushered in a new age of music consumption. There are always casualties during progress. For retail, it has been said that 2017 would be the year of bankruptcies. Perhaps the relevant question is what would emerge from this transformative period — is it still retail or something else? A new way to consume products perhaps.
For brands and retail landlords who prefer to stay in relevancy and possibly outlast the retail onslaught and embrace future fruits, it is pertinent to be agile and quick to fit into future retail. Less predicting, and more of developing the business into a conduit for a fresh system to flow through with little resistance.
Become the equivalent of a multi-plug adapter that is future-proof. Be ready to adopt new payment currencies, new channels of interaction, new communities, new locations, things that transcend simple marketing and selling. When the wave comes soon, be ready.