I’ve seen my fair share of motel rooms these past few months traveling from food show to food show. Had some really good food, made some really nice friends and had some truly great conversations along the way. Everywhere I went though I kept hearing that same buzz word, that whisper of something a kin to a cuss word almost….that thing that has most retailers looking for new ideas that push themselves out of their proverbial comfort zones….”Millennials”. Sometimes the word Millennial was used as a noun, sometimes even an adverb, but no matter how it was used it was almost always used with a sense of trepidation.
Why is it that we fear what we don’t fully understand? It’s not like these are aliens who were dropped out of the sky from a hoovering spaceship! These are our children, our grandchildren, our future J. Edgar Hoovers, our next Shonda Rhimes and possibly even a Derek Jeter or two. These are dynamic technically driven young people changing the world by day and stumbling through their own fears at night. They’re just people like you and I. It’s not that they are more driven than we were at their age; it’s just that they have been raised with a level of digital exposure that we were not.
Yes, we’re all scrambling to keep up with technology so these new shoppers can order their food online, have coupons delivered to their devices, checkout quickly with automated systems and interact with us on social media. Let’s not forget to mention the whole credit card compliance debacle.…we are doing whatever it takes to make the shopping experience more convenient and engaging. And I believe for a lot of us Boomers we associate all these hoops we’re jumping through with the Millennial generation, and it leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
Isn’t it really just evolution? Aren’t we the very same people who wanted to put a man on the moon? Didn’t we dream up the first mobile phone? Well we raised these Millennials to strive for the unobtainable, the new and challenging. Didn’t we tell them there was nothing they couldn’t do if they only put their minds to it? Last time I checked we started this technological revolution with our own creation of the internet, computers and robots… it was our “own” Star Wars and Back to the Future obsession on steroids that started this ball rolling.
So I say “let’s embrace them”, not fear them and their technological dependence, just because it challenges us. Let’s challenge ourselves to take a deep breath and stop thinking of this whole generation as one to be feared and loathed. Open your arms and welcome them into your businesses, as employees and customers. Give them a home of sorts, a place to feel comfortable and welcomed in your store. They really do need it, believe it or not. For most Millennials social platforms are proving to be fickle mistresses that turn on them quickly. Think about it…Can they really be themselves, or do they need to be just a version of themselves so as to not be blasted all over social media? One simple breach of etiquette, a wrong word or a mistake and it’s out there permanently…forever… for all to see. Can they really have a true voice and be individuals or is the fear of being shamed too great? Can they voice an opinion without fear of retribution on Twitter or Instagram. Will mean hashtags follow them around? That’s a level of stress we never had to deal with.
So for all the fear and trepidation we feel trying to keep our heads and our stores above water providing for their wants, needs and desires, they themselves have just as many fears we won’t ever be able to fully understand. So let’s remove the stigma and technology fears associated with them and begin tapping into the humanity side of Millennials because that’s how you’re really going to reach them as shoppers….When we strip it all away, we’re really not all that different. Love, happiness, family, good friends, we all want basically the same things in life….the only difference is our technical highway of getting there.
Blue Skies Everyone