By Lisa Calhoun
Jennifer Silverberg is spending a lot of time on Sand Hill Road these days. That’s because her startup, SmartCommerce, is unlocking the code for creating shopping traction with millennials, a generation that doesn’t fall for big ads, TV commercials, and coupons the way previous generations did. As the first fully digitally native generation to shop, they see past slick and even make it the butt of their hallmark tone: sarcasm.
“Great offers on SnapChat aren’t a solution,” she says.
83 million millennials redefining relationships
Instead, millennials are more serious as they enter their shopping prime. Neilson research shows they do thorough research in advance of any purchase approach the brand can detect.
Over half of all millennials discover products on their phone first, according to a recent study by Nielsen. 77% of millennials always carry their phone with them—it’s a body extension. A full 51% of observed online purchases are made by millennials (and perhaps even more).
That is part of the problem. The very customer profile (early-adopter, passionate, engaged, authentic) that should be a perfect fit for brands that boast generations-long legacies isn’t working. They’re being left in the aisle.
It’s a $750 billion opportunity that customers like Nestle, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble are counting on SmartCommerce to solve.
The digital native is a different shopper
The 83 million millennials are the largest generation yet. They are now starting families and feathering nests—they’re are entering their shopping prime as a group. And yet, it’s not going well for big brands on store shelves. Grocery store sales, for example, are stagnant. They’ve only grown 2.4% the last two years.
“There are two issues,” says Jennifer, a 20-year veteran of creating global CPG successes. (The previous startup she worked for, Channel Intelligence, was sold to Google a few years ago.) “The first is discovery. Brands have been dis-intermediated through retailers. Millennials hunger for authenticity—they don’t want to be sold to. The way retailers reach them with coupons and ‘slotting’ feels inauthentic to them.”
She says the missing link has been purchasing-technology that’s brand-centric that gives companies the ability to share the details millennials seem particularly to need. Jennifer also says companies have been blind to the last steps of retail purchase, and this keeps the brands from partnering with the retailer in improving the actual buying experience.
“SmartCommerce solves both of these issues,” says Jennifer.
Invisible “Amazon” built for brands
SmartCommerce does this by creating an online purchasing technology built for brands with the full background millennials need. It even lets millennials choose their retailer.
“Millennials are over twice as likely to research food and grocery items online first, before seeing them in a store, if they ever do see them in a store,” says Jennifer. “Our technology makes it easier for them to get the information and the connection they deserve directly—without having to jump through distributor marketing mazes.”
She points out that in the context of stagnant grocery store sales, grocery ecommerce sales grew 42% year over year. “Brands on grocery and convenience shelves today need to re-establish their relationship with millennials in order to grow,” says Silverberg. “And it’s definitely a time to grow—the brands that gain in the next five years are going to determine the next 25.”
This article first appeared at Inc.com.