Millennials comprise almost a third of the US population and spend about $1.2 trillion yearly, more than any other generation, respectively. To attract and keep this highly valuable audience, online brands must pay close attention to how their fulfillment experience impacts the high expectations of these internet natives between the ages of 18 and 34, most of whom have been raised on e-commerce.

    Welcome In-store Returns

    Despite their attraction to buying products via computers and smartphones, 55% of shoppers in their twenties prefer to return products in-store. Most of these consumers find the typical e-commerce return process – printing a label, repackaging the product, and scheduling a pickup or dropping the package off at a post office or other carrier location – to be a bother. The inconvenience of this process is compounded by a feeling of angst for many millennials, who are not comfortable with the uncertainty of when they will receive their refunds. For these reasons, many elect to hold onto the unwanted items to avoid the headache, along with hard feelings towards a brand.

    To prevent this, e-tailers should refine their return processes and policies to gain market share with younger shoppers. If millennials and Gen Zers, who may be on the fence about a purchase, see that they can’t utilize their preferred return method, they may avoid buying the item. In-store returns are a must whenever possible. Clearly defining refund reimbursement time expectations to customers can also create a positive brand perception by eliminating the aforementioned stress of a typical online refund. For online retailers without a brick-and-mortar presence, make returns easier by including re-printed or scan-based return labels in packages to save customers time and provide convenience.

    Provide Innovative Fulfillment Options

    In the not-so-distant past, brands often sought to get ahead of the competition by allowing customers to choose delivery methods based on time and cost. That is no longer the case, especially with millennials who now expect free and fast shipping for many products. The bar for what is considered fast has been significantly raised to the height where consumers expect same-day or next-day shipping in many cases. Additionally, more retailers offer discounted shipping rates and options to influence more purchases, creating a downward shift in what is defined as an acceptable cost.

    These preferences cause further difficulties for e-commerce sellers, but there are ways around this challenge. Omnichannel brands can utilize ship-from-store methods to choose the closest store with the available item, reducing costs and time needed to make a delivery. Additionally, buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) should be an option, as it allows customers to pick up items themselves to forego shipping costs. In fact, 88% of shoppers in the largest generation prefer this option to save money. Though Generation X uses this capability the most, it yields increased sales among millennials, as indicated by the fact that 75% of shoppers aged 18-34 buy more items when picking up their purchases in stores.

    If you’re unable to provide this option due to lack of a physical presence, establishing minimum order values to qualify for premium shipping options should be considered. Customers would be encouraged to buy more to satisfy thresholds to receive free and potentially faster delivery.

    Give Greater Visibility

    Transparency is a shared value among young shoppers. In fact, Dotcom Distribution’s 2017 eCommerce Study discovered that greater visibility when an order is in transit plays an increasingly important role in influencing repeat purchases. This capability can be achieved with proper order management systems (OMS), inventory management systems (IMS), and transportation management systems (TMS). The same visibility can be applied to the steps leading up to the purchase, as well. Providing accurate estimates of shipping costs and delivery times can improve trust and lead to frequent future purchases, improving the lifetime value of the customer. While inability to provide this information may result in missed sales, failing to commit to them can result in permanently lost customers.

    Slow shipping estimates were responsible for 26% of cart abandonments in 2017, which was a four percent increase from 2016. As shopper populations become more dominated by millennials, the importance of expected delivery estimates grows. Younger consumers will move to competitors if they notice that their products will take too long to arrive. Another study found that 28% of carts abandoned were due to unexpected costs, further emphasizing how transparency plays a role in conversion rates. With millennials’ increasing influence in the e-commerce sphere, these capabilities will become more valuable.

    Millennials have been considered the Holy Grail for retailers due to their size and spending power. E-commerce brands can best meet the needs of this audience by implementing strategies that emphasize convenience, transparency, and a variety of options.

    As a founder and CEO of third-party logistics provider Dotcom Distribution, Maria Haggerty leads the charge toward helping retail brands achieve loyalty and return sales by acting as a catalyst for improvement. Recognizing that the e-commerce journey does not end at delivery, Dotcom guides clients in transforming lackluster packages into unboxing experiences worthy of excitement, praise, and sharing. Previously, Maria was a CPA at Arthur Andersen and CFO of GoodTimes Home Video, where she helped grow the company’s distribution business. Follow on Twitter @dotcomdist, @mhaggertyceo, or email info@dotcomdistribution.com for more information.

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