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Customer Experience for the Digital Non-Native


Retailers are urged to provide a customer experience fit for the “digital natives” of the Millennial generation, who have grown up with constant connectivity and limitless personal choice. These all-important young consumers need to be able to buy any product on earth at any time with any electronic doodad they happen to be surfing the Net with at a given moment, or so it seems.

But what about using IT to create a comfortable customer experience for digital non-natives? That doesn’t just mean old fogeys, either. I’m a member of Generation X, one generation removed from the Millennials, and I remember the days when ice cream came in three flavors and phones had rotary dials. While serving the needs of whippersnappers – I mean digital natives – is important, retailers should also be mindful of the experience their slightly more mature customers will find user-friendly. For instance:

Make Your E-commerce Site More like a Physical Store

This piece of advice may seem counterintuitive, as retailers have been hearing for the past several years that stores need to function more like websites. But while Millennials may appreciate e-commerce sites with lots of promotional videos, interactive games and personalized settings, many older consumers simply want to perform a quick web search and purchase the items they came looking to buy.

Thus e-commerce sites should be designed for easy navigation and quick product lookup, with the ability to ignore all the cool digital engagement stuff if a customer so chooses. Default navigation and product display features should err on the side of simplicity, with more engaging add-on features available at the click of a button.

People Who Need People

Retailers are increasingly using customer-facing kiosks, scanners, tablets, self-checkout terminals, and even customers’ own mobile devices to perform many in-store tasks that were once the province of human associates. For tech-savvy customers, this IT-enabled, self-directed store environment saves time and also extends store assortment and the amount of available product information.

However, for the less tech-savvy shopper, the sight of a human face in the store is a welcome one. Digital non-natives lose time trying to figure out how to manipulate self-service technologies and as mentioned above, are generally less interested in virtual extensions of the physical storefront. Well-trained, knowledgeable associates remain as essential part of the store experience for many consumers. Making sure that associates are fully trained in using self-service technologies ensures that even digital non-natives can benefit from them.

Generational Shift

The distinction between which technologies are appropriate for digital natives and which appeal more to older customers is fluid and constantly changing. For example, email is now generally considered a legacy technology and Facebook has little cachet with the under-30 crowd.

Retailers need to stay on top of what solutions are actually “native” to digital natives – making sure your marketing, design and IT staffs include a few Millennials is an essential step toward keeping up with rapid pace at which “leading edge” technologies lose their edge. What shakes up the of kids today is what inspires fond memories in the parents of tomorrow – which explains why acts like Pearl Jam and Guns n Roses are in heavy rotation on my local classic rock station.

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