As Boomers Warm to Mobile, Brands Look to Capitalize

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Millennials have been shopping on their smartphones for years, but a shift toward mobile-direct shopping among consumers in the boomer generation is creating excitement for retailers and brand marketers this holiday season.

Surveying more than 1,000 people about their mobile shopping behavior during the holidays, Verizon’s Oath found that 32% of baby boomers plan to use mobile in their quest for the perfect gift this holiday season, and 62% plan to shop both in-store and online. This is a sharp uptick from previous seasons, and one that Sarah Martinez, vice president and industry lead, retail, at Oath, says is especially intriguing for retailers and brands.

“We expect millennials to be shopping on mobile, but boomers have really increased compared to last year,” Martinez says. “This shows not only adoption, but an increased comfort level in using mobile for retail browsing and purchasing.”

Oath’s survey found that millennials are more likely than any other demographic to see something in-store and then buy it either online or directly from their mobile devices. Forty percent of millennials say they have experience “webrooming” (researching products online and then buying in-store) compared to just 35% of those in generation X and 33% of baby boomers. Millennials are also ahead of other generations in showrooming (30%), click-and-ship (27%) and scan-and-swap (23%). Scan-and-swap is when a consumer sees an item in-store and buys it from another retailer.

Despite being the most tech-savvy generation, millennials aren’t fully immersed in the mobile shopping experience—yet. Oath’s data suggests there’s still plenty of room for improvement in the ways retailers court millennial shoppers.

So what are retailers doing wrong?

For starters, Martinez says brands need to understand that millennials aren’t only looking for innovative technology and mobile prowess. They’re also looking for authenticity and a real connection with the brands they use.

“Studies show that millennials are increasingly loyal to specific brands. [The National Retail Federation] notes that half of millennials will make purchases from a retailer or brand they’re loyal to, even if there’s a cheaper option available,” she says.

In the quest to merge brand connection with savvy technology, Martinez and her colleagues at Oath are seeing retailers adopt more innovative mobile and ad experiences, like augmented reality and 360, with the goal of capturing attention and more seamlessly sparking consumer browsing activity.

Martinez is also seeing more consumers complete transactions across environments, both in-store and online, as a way to maximize deals and coupons.

“Retailers should expand their presence online and create incentives to visit brick-and-mortar stores, whether that be specific in-store deals, pop-up shops, or experiential events, that help to enhance the fun of shopping,” she says.

One example, notes Martinez, is a mobile wallet ad campaign that Oath recently ran with Macy’s. The campaign was designed to highlight deals to drive foot traffic and appear when shoppers were ready to check out. By creating a consumer-first mobile strategy, Martinez says Macy’s was able to connect with shoppers and create new brand loyalists.

“Successful brands will use mobile as more than a way to reach their target audience; it’s a conduit to provide shoppers with the utility they’ve come to expect,” she explains. “We expect mobile and online usage to continue to grow, which will push advertisers toward the latest innovative formats to reach consumers where they are and with what they want to see.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.