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Selling to Digital Natives

February 22, 2017

In today’s world, there are two types of people: digital natives and digital immigrants. This status has zero to do with where one lives physically, but rather, how they live online.

A digital native is a person born after the integration of computer technology into our society (young Millennials, we’re looking at you). They’re 30 and younger, and they either don’t or barely remember a time when computers weren’t an integral part of life.

Digital immigrants are the rest of us—the folks who’ve learned to adopt and adapt to these technologies as they’re introduced. We know that phones used to have dials, books were printed only on paper and keyboards were attached to this weird contraption called a typewriter.

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But being born a digital immigrant doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll stay one—it’s less about your generation than your mindset. Many digital immigrants have adapted techto new technologies and are just as comfortable in the online world as their younger counterparts.

For retailers, it’s important to be one of those adaptive folks. According to Lee Peterson, EVP of brand, strategy and design with WD Partners, digital natives have certain expectations, thanks to the rise of the on-demand economy. And they expect the stores they shop to offer all the digital conveniences—think online shopping, in-store pickup (to save shipping costs) and self-service kiosks.

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What’s more, according to Peterson, digital natives express feelings of disdain for their digital immigrant counterparts. And while it’s easy to write them off as just a bunch of youngsters, the truth is they are your customers, if not now, then in the future.

With that in mind, here are three ways digital immigrants can bridge the gap with their digital native customers:

1. Offer a robust online experience: You probably already have a website (and if you don’t, stop reading now and set one up!), but does it offer a shopping function? Can customers peruse your inventory? Can they easily reach you online via a chat function or a clear feedback link? If not, you’re likely losing the interest of digital natives who are accustomed to getting all these things in their e-commerce experience.

2. Marry your online and offline operations: You’ve got a great website, and a busy brick-and-mortar store—but do they work together? Simple services like adding a ship-to-store option or allowing online returns in the store can help attract digital native customers.

3. Speak their language: Don’t know the difference between an app and a bit? You don’t have to know all the technical jargon, but having some of the basic digital lingo down can help you better relate to digital natives. This site offers a handy primer.

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Technology isn’t going away. It’s only advancing, and those who dig their heels in and refuse to adapt will most certainly be left behind in the dust.

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