Christmas is approaching. You’re getting ready for the most important sales period of the year. But in 2017, are the same tools to entice enough – or are customers now expecting a more meaningful experience?

This year we’ve heard much about Millennials, but how are retailers – in fact – responding to meet their expectations? Millennials are now asking much more from retailers than to just sell great products at a great price. 93% want to shop brands that have a ‘purpose beyond product’. But what does this mean?

There’s a deepening appreciation of how little the stuff we buy actually matters; that it’s the stuff of human connection, meaning and experiences, that’s truly valuable and worth ‘purchasing’. This explains why the travel industry is growing at over 12% annually where retail, at around 3% growth, needs some new ideas.

In the lead up to Christmas, this presents both a profound challenge and exciting opportunity. How can a retailer turn what are ultimately ‘just transactions’ into ‘meaningful experiences’ that touch our hearts, make our purchases memorable and keep us coming back?

We recently met Jeremy, founder of i=Change. A simple idea that’s became a powerful solution for online retailers, i=Change enables a brand to give back and empower their customers to send the brand’s donation to the issue they feel passionate about, via a customised platform that appears post-purchase (Pandora example). With a focus on giving back to women and girls, funds raised and the impact made can then be tracked in real-time, directly from the retailer’s site.

i=Change not only gives brands global impact they can be proud of, it tackles a big issue for all online retailers – abandon cart. Jeremy tells us their retailers have tested how a message about the brand giving back – at the critical ‘point of purchase’ – increases conversions (reduces abandon cart) up to 6%. Jeremy says, “customers report feeling relieved of their ‘pre-purchase guilt and uncertainty’ and feel better about completing their purchase, knowing it will impact someone else’s life”.

Interesting! Many successful brands now stand for much more than the products they sell. Some already ‘do purpose’ very well. Patagonia is remarkable in their transparency and cause-marketing. TOMS Shoes gives a pair away with every pair you buy. Thankyou donates 100% of profits. Research shows brands that clearly demonstrate their purpose, are often up to 6x more profitable than their solely profit-driven competitors. So, a clear purpose can drive significant additional revenue, but Jeremy cautions, it must be “committed to – and communicated – authentically and transparently”.

Also worth noting, Christmas shoppers are increasingly clicking to buy their gifts. Deloitte reports that for the first time ever, online spending will exceed in-store purchases this Christmas! This shift gives brands exciting opportunities to deepen engagement with their customers, and gives new meaning to ‘giving and receiving’ this Christmas.

So as the season for giving approaches, if you’re wondering how to stand out and truly touch your customer’s hearts, start with your ‘why’. Start with the issue you care deeply about and turn your business into part of the solution. Your work will have a profound new layer of meaning, and your brand a powerful point of difference. It will inspire and delight, and keep those Millennials coming back.

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