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More than half of millennials prefer online retailer info to in-store assistance

Customers between the ages of 25 and 34 would rather look online for information than talk to a shop assistant, even when they are in a store

More than half of millennial customers would rather look for retail information online than talk to a shop assistant, according to research.

A survey of online marketplace OnBuy.com’s customers found that 53% of young people aged between 25 and 34 prefer to seek out details online rather than talk to store staff when they are in a shop.

The younger generation also prefer to avoid shops when they need information, with 61% of the millennial age group saying they find it easier to chat to a retailer via digital communication channels such as text, online chat or messaging applications as opposed to visiting a physical location.

Cas Paton, MD of Onbuy.com, said consumers increasingly want to see more retail technology in stores as well as an online offering.

“As technology is evolving so rapidly, it is important that companies incorporate new technologies into their business to help keep up with the times,” said Paton.

More than half of shoppers believe that in the near future they will increasingly be using mobile devices to make more of the in-store experience.

The purpose of stores has been slowly shifting since the arrival of e-commerce – stores are increasingly becoming showrooms for consumers to try out products before buying them online, with many physical locations becoming experience centres instead of just places to buy goods.

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Younger consumers often demand more from the shopping experience because of their use of technology, and as well as using mobile devices for information in store, want to be able to buy products through social media. Also, more and more consumers want to be able to collect loyalty points through their smartphones.  

This change in customer behaviour over the past 50 years as technology proliferation has increased also makes it more difficult to retain customers – but, surprisingly, the older generation are more likely to change between brands than the more tech-savvy millennials, perhaps because there is less social pressure for them to be affiliated with particular brands.

Onbuy.com found that just under half of customers between the ages of 18 and 40 could be persuaded to buy from a particular brand or retailer if its stores were more different or interesting. This was true of 65% of the millennials in the group, who would be more likely to be enticed by a more exciting store experience.

Almost three-quarters of consumers said retailers will have to keep up with changes in the technology landscape if they hope to improve the consumer experience and keep customers loyal.

Some retailers have been trying to address this shift to omni-channel by offering services such as voice-ordering through internet-connected home devices or click and collect.

But some larger retailers struggle to implement these new technologies because of legacy technology, and some have begun to turn to startups to help them test and implement new technologies.

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