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Tech Viewpoint: Three suggestions to make online retail millennial-friendly

Hard as it may be to believe, online retail has existed as a mainstream channel for more than 20 years.

The young Gen Xers who once pioneered online retailing are now comfortably into middle age. While they may still be satisfied with the traditional e-commerce experience, the Millennials who followed them are not. A new e-tailer called Verisale has announced its intentions to draw dissatisfied Millennials away from established e-commerce sites with a new online retail approach.

So far, Verisale is being tight-lipped about the specifics of its strategy. However, Chain Store Age has three suggestions to make your online retail efforts more appealing to Millennials, with an actual example for each one.

Visualize Millennial success
For Millennials, the Internet is a visual medium. This is evidenced by their preference for video- and image-focused social platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram.

To attract and maintain Millennial business, online retailers need to offer a visual shopping experience. Beyond merely providing eye-catching images or well-produced videos, online retailers need to create an entire path to purchase that can be traveled visually.

QVC recently unveiled a new iPhone app called “Q Anytime” that features a regularly changing feed of on-demand shoppable videos, presented in five-to-eight-minute segments. By tapping a video, customers can buy a product or get more details. Shoppers can also customize their feed by category or build a playlist by liking videos. Q Anytime users can conduct their entire digital QVC shopping visit, from discovery to checkout, via interactive video if they choose.

Making reality better
This is not your father’s, or even older brother’s, online retail environment. For the 18-to-35-year-old cohort, the Internet is simply an extension of the “real” world. Millennials view leading-edge technologies that blur the digital and physical worlds, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), as a standard feature of their omnichannel shopping experience.

Online, this means retailers must leverage AR and VR to create a more “real-world” look and feel for their digital retail platforms. Specialty eyewear retailer Warby Parker is making a new feature called “Virtual Try-On” available in some versions of its consumer app. Inside the app, customers can obtain a digital view of themselves with their smartphone camera, and then select frames and use AR graphics to place them on the image of their face to see how they look. Shoppers can select frames for home try-on, save them to look at later, or purchase in the app.

Mobile is as mobile does
For constantly connected Millennials, e-commerce is synonymous with m-commerce. Millennials utilize smart mobile devices to seamlessly blend digital and physical experiences, including shopping. Online retailers need to develop environments that are optimized for mobile customers.

1-800-Flowers included a number of mobile-friendly features among an array of new digital shopping options it released before Valentine’s Day. These included AR messaging and filtering, as well as text-based searching and shopping, for iOS smart device users. The specialty floral retailer also provides an optimized mobile shopping experience for Google Assistant users, including a curated gift collection and real-time order tracking capabilities.
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