Bold, brash, impatient, demanding… the millennial is a new breed of customer.

Bold, brash, impatient, demanding… the millennial is a new breed of customer.

One who doesn’t conform, isn’t loyal, wants everything now and ultimately could destroy your brand if they don’t get what they want.

Excite, engage, explore, expand – or die. That’s the message today and we hear the same or similar over and over but what is behind the race to digitise?

For that is what is happening on a high street near you; it’s a race like no other and if a favourite retail brand isn’t part of it then it can be safely assumed they may not be around much longer.

If you are reading this and were born before 1970, you and I see the world from a similar perspective.

We grew up with no internet (how on earth did we get by?), no mobile phones (yes, we were tied to the length of the landline phone cable) and as for music, film, TV streaming - forget it, what was wrong with Betamax anyway?

If however, you were born after 1985, you are probably wondering what on earth the last paragraph was all about.

Imagining a life without the internet must be pretty hard to do, let alone smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. How on earth did we share our lives before social media? We never socialised, never communicated, never engaged, never bothered to contact all those hundreds of (Facebook) friends we thought we knew?

Life and expectations in 2014 are light years away from even 10 years ago, let alone the 1980s and the pace of change is simply mind boggling.

Who do those demanding millennials want to engage with most? Well, I’ll give you a clue, it’s not their favourite utility company or their favourite bank; no, it’s with their favourite retail brand(s).

Why? Because, retail represents a large part of how they affirm their lifestyle, how they affirm themselves, indeed… ultimately how they perceive their place in the world.

Seems exaggerated? Farfetched? Well, consider your own teenage children for just a moment and you will quickly come to an amazing conclusion.

Whether it be clothes, gym membership, jewellery, make and model of smartphone, network, gaming prowess - the list goes on – there are a large number of critical, life-affirming dynamics which in the digital world are of complete and total importance and relevance to the millennial living with you.

Most existing retail business models are built on a 1970s baby boomer perception of a parent child relationship with their customers.

That no longer applies; that millennial upstairs has wildly different and perverse expectations of not only the world around them but of their favourite brands.

They expect to get what they want, when and where they want it. But scarily and all too frequently ignored by the typical corporate attitude of today, they expect to see a real cause and effect when engaging with brands.

To be able to influence, whether it be product, price, place, marketing – the list goes on - they expect to be able to be an integral part of the product development and not only that but to be rewarded for their input.

Yes, you read that correctly. Millennials expect to be rewarded for their input.

The retail business model as we know it is dead. The really intriguing question is who are the ones who realise this?

  • Andrew Busby is retail business head at Zensar Retail