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Technology Meets Retail and the Millennials

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Open market concept design by Gensler | Courtesy of Steelblue

By Kristin Bentley

As millennial talent continues to migrate from regions such as the Bay Area to work in Seattle’s booming technology companies, retailers are adapting their store formats to suit their shopping preferences. Keeping in-store shopping relevant to this tech-steeped generation is among the foremost concerns cited by the retailer CEOs, according to a recent survey done by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The intersection of technology and retailing was the topic last Thursday at a gathering of Puget Sound retailers held at Seattle’s Fremont Studios. The event, hosted by Seattle Business Magazine, featured speakers from Google, Hotwire, Alaska Airlines, Zulily, Costco and Tommy Bahama, who discussed reinventing retail in store and online, driving retail innovation through cloud technologies, and cultivating a brand millennials trust and admire.

“Retail is going through a huge digital transformation”

“Retail is going through a huge digital transformation,” said Lindsay Bleier, Director of Strategic Alliances at Bellevue-based Smartsheet.

“I think Seattle is unique because of the services available,” said Dustin Johnson, a managing director for PwC. “Instacart, Postmates, Luxe and Uber started in just a handful of cities. Seattle is always one of those first cities, so I think that changes the market here.”

PwC’s global survey of 23,000 consumers confirmed that it is imperative for the retail market to stay technologically relevant in areas such as mobile commerce and online social communities as well as in traditional consumer mainstays ranging from brand equity to the overall shopping experience.

More than two-thirds of those that responded to the survey said social media influences their online shopping behavior. “Retailers are being driven by that millennial shopper to make sure their in-store experience isn’t old school,” said David Moore, founder and president of Navagis, a Google partner company focused on cloud-based software development. “It all has to be seamless and automatic, because their social profile will follow them, so we know that the millennial shopping requirement is driving a lot of the development that is happening in retail right now.”

Amazon reported that almost 70 percent of its customers shopped on a mobile device during the holiday season last year, compared with 60 percent in 2014. “One of the statistics that we have pulled forth is the fact that we have seen so much activity outside of the store, and yet store sales are going up,” said David Engelbrecht of Google Cloud Platform. “Visits are down, but activity inside the store is up from a revenue perspective. This clearly indicates that there is a changing paradigm of how people are doing commerce and the way they’re getting information.”

As millennials continue to drive the retail market, according to PwC, it is up to retailers to deliver both one-of-a-kind in-store experiences as well as secure mobile commerce options and supportive online communities in order to stay at the top of their game.