Retail customers have different needs than they did decades ago.
As Amazon continues gobbling up retail businesses, both big and small, corporate giants are a tad nervous at the moment. Even brands that have endured and flourished for decades are now faced with the potential demise of an entire empire. Businesses have two choices: Sink or swim (or become a snack for Amazon).
Recently, I was at Target for the first time in over a year. It was quite barren, sprinkled with a few shoppers and even the shelves looked a bit scant. Their sale prices were the red-flag clincher that screamed, “Help!” Sale items were listed as $9.99 and marked down to $9.49. Hardly a sale. A sad attempt to dupe shoppers who aren’t paying attention to the digits, just the red sale sticker.
Honestly, I only went to Target because my partner wanted to go. Myself, I’m a hard-core Amazon shopper who’s in love with Amazon Prime Now, which features a 30-minute delivery window to West Hollywood from order placement to having the purchase in your hand. Frankly, it’s a no-brainer. Fighting through Los Angeles traffic, 90-degree temperatures, hot parking garages, cranky cashiers and pushing a cart with a bum wheel? I’ll pass, thanks.
I recently attended a podcasting panel with seven popular podcasters on a rapidly growing network that’s just two years young. It was intriguing to say the least, since we’ve all been bombarded with the fact that it’s the “digital age” and video and online TV are where it’s at. Not so, at all. I was so enthralled by it all, I was the first to stand up and take the mic for questions, afterward. It's clear that branding has transformed greatly over the years.
A woman recently asked my advice on how to go about revamping the Michael Kors brand. My answer to this question lies at the heart of the retail industry's current problem.
As classy as it is, the brand is outdated and aimed more at the previously dominant demographical markets.
Enter stage left: Millennials. They're actually frugal to some degree, however, will pay for something they deem is worth the value of the price tag. Although I'm not quite a millennial myself, this resonates with me, too.
That said, the demographic markets for fashion, accessories and the like, are actually the boomers and millennials. Seemingly two vastly different groups, so how do you brand in order to appease both?
Fortunately, the boomer generation is in the midst of a total foundational restructuring. It's a global phenomenon. Instead of retiring in droves and putting a strain on the economic systems as once expected, they've charted a much more unexpected, yet highly agreeable pathway. Many of these group members, who are approximately 50 and older, are instead saying, "I've worked this job all my life, but now I want to do 'this.'" The "this," is vastly different than one would expect, because it's not about finding another career "working for the man," it's entrepreneurial in nature.
For the past two and a half years, I've had pretty much every client that comes to me within that age group say the exact same thing. The boomers grew up with the mindset that "My dad was a dentist, so I'll be a dentist." At least it may have been expected of them. Perhaps they might have been expected to continue the family business or some other pre-laid out endeavor. They didn't realize they had the freedom to be whatever they desired. At that time, due to many societal factors, they didn't have or didn't feel they had a say in who they would be when they grew up.
Fast forward about 50 years later and the boomer crowd, thanks to science, medicine and consumer knowledge, is living longer, has better health and the "money, power, greed" era went out with the 20th century.
The vibe has totally changed. We're not one, but almost TWO decades into the 21st century and haven't had any major advancements - just more tweaks on the old. The millennial crowd isn't big on "changing" the world but focused more on "enjoying life" or just "being." Hence why they've been dubbed the "lazy" generation, with no ambition or goals. This, of course, is NOT the case (society loves to label what it doesn't understand.)
With all that said, what will these newly-shifted boomers and practical millennials who care less about materialism want in brands, and how will corporations grab their attention? Certainly not with their old, outdated models of marketing and image.
Of course, “classy" will never go out of style and what woman doesn't like to feel classy, still? However, it wasn't just the class factor previously, it was also the status of owning a particular brand driven by the "money, power, greed" model. You were judged based on how high up the corporate ladder you were and if you had 2-3 kids, a dog, a white-picket fence, fancy cars, a sizeable bank account and bling.
Thankfully, some of the more timeless brands like Michael Kors are classy and simplistic labels, but it does have that "status" factor associated with it. The name brand-chasing days are coming to an end and being replaced with the desire for class (we still want to look great), or better put, a well-crafted or quality item, practicality, versatility and the ability to use it with multiple outfits in multiple situations. Retail businesses need to cater to this desire.
Think of those fashion makeover shows where they reduce their wardrobe to a staple of practical, yet stylish pieces, that can be intermixed with each other. That's the new tone of fashion-trending. Less is more.
Millennials are also keen on catchy names and acronyms. Michael Kors, and many other brands, would do well to create more products that are multi-use (convertible from a sideways over-the-shoulder purse, to a clutch, for example) and even give the pieces trendy names to encompass their meaning and functionality, yet in fun and interesting terms or words. Somewhat like a subtitle, under the Michael Kors name and label.
The right verbiage can mean all the difference, depending on the people you're aiming to please. Speak their language, and you've got them, hook, line and sinker.
In my personal career, I’ve worked with larger brands like Chanel, for instance. Also, many recognizable celebrities and professionals. Chanel has actually done a great job with its new line rollout, hitting boutiques everywhere, this year and next. Their pieces are fun and interesting, yet still classy and versatile.
Unfortunately, timeless pieces are extinct since it’s a vastly different world out there. In the midst of a huge global paradigm shift, think of it in terms of trading in your rose-colored glasses for clear lenses. Both boomers and millennials want truth on every level. No whipped cream or cherry-on-top branding. Give it to them authentic and straight up.
Bottom line? Transform your image or be transformed. The choice is yours, whether you’ve got a multimillion-dollar corporation or a “mom and pop” shop. Some businesses may even take a major hit financially, in order to vastly revamp. So much so, it’s almost a re-do of the entire business structure. Virtually every brand has work to be done in order to align with the new “in" crowd.