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SuiteWorld 2018: Magic Johnson gives advice on adapting to the millennial customer

Entrepreneur and former basketball star tells SuiteWorld 2018 about the importance of adapting to the millennial customer in a technology-driven age

Businesses must be prepared to adapt their approach to cater to the millennial customer who is increasingly driven by technology, according to former US basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Speaking at SuiteWorld 2018 in Las Vegas, Johnson said young customers are more fickle than consumers used to be, and they also have different priorities, such as speed and a good experience.

“The new customer you might have is a different customer,” he said. “They want it now, they want it fast and if they don’t get it now and fast, they’ll go somewhere else. Especially with technology.”

Many have claimed that matching customer expectation driven by technology adoption is one of the biggest challenges faced by retailers today.

Johnson, now an entrepreneur, said that in the current environment, consumers expect a lot more from brands and retailers, and customers can often be harder to retain.

“It’s not enough in the marketplace just to deliver any more – we’ve got to over-deliver to get the retention we’re looking for,” he said.

Customers are becoming less loyal to brands, and where they are loyal, it is because of advance offerings, such as a personalised customer experience or a seamless experience across all channels which makes customers feel that a brand knows them and caters to them specifically.

Johnson said that part of delivering a good customer experience and retaining consumers is about knowing who your customer are and targeting them correctly.

“Always make your business about the customer and what they like, not what you like,” he said. “All of you have to know your customer and then you have to speak to that customer and over-deliver to that customer.”

Johnson gave the example of his partnership with Starbucks to develop a chain of Starbucks targeted specifically at urban locations to cater to the different types of customer found there.

In these locations, the menu and atmosphere of the coffee shops had to be adapted to ensure the business reflected the types of customer locally.

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He also cited his share in baseball team the LA Dodgers, explaining that the team had to invest money in its stadium to create more of a fan experience to deliver to the social-media generation.

Because millennial customers are more focused on the experience and social interaction than the actual game, Johnson said it was more beneficial to install pavilions where consumers can chat while the game goes on in the background. “We had to change the fan experience,” he added.

But Johnson also put his success down to mentors, both positive and negative.

Many people have said how important mentorship can be for career progression, especially for under-represented groups such as women in the technology industry.

Johnson said that when he moved away from basketball and wanted to pursue another career, he sought the advice of many different people “because I didn’t know how to start a business”.

But athough positive mentors have an impact on your career and life, “competition can make you better”, he said.

“When somebody doesn’t believe in you or your business, you’ve got to keep going.” said Johnson. “Hopefully, it will help you to keep striving to be better to grow – and that’s what it’s all about.”

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