How banks are missing the “millenials” mark?

“Banking is essential, banks are not,” Bill Gates, then CEO of Microsoft, famously said in 1994.Mobile phones, however, are essential. And many of us today are doing a majority of our banking transactions on the mobile.

Forrester had this interesting thought –“The moments that characterize the mobile mind shift are getting shorter. Simple triggers — messages, sounds, even tactile sensations — spur consumers to take action, both on devices and in the real world”. Forrester defines this quick-reaction subset of mobile moments as micro moments.

Millennials are digital natives — the first generation to have grown up with Internet-enabled devices and digital technologies — and they expect real time engagement with brands.

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According to a study by Viacom Media, banking, as an industry, runs the highest risk for disruption. 53% of the Millennials they surveyed said they didn’t think their bank offered anything different than a competing bank. 71% said they would rather visit the dentist than hear what banks have to say. 73% would rather handle their financial services needs with Google, Amazon, Apple, PayPal or Square than from their own national bank.

India has a strikingly young population, especially compared to China. It has 440mn Millennials, larger than China (415mn).

So what must banks do to engage better with the Millennials :

  1. “To service is to sell” will be the new philosophy

Banks will leverage the rich customer data to “service first” , rather than sell. Sales will happen because banks anticipate service moments that lead to a sale. This will need appropriate technology investments for banks to sense “customer moments” in real time & respond to them. Millennials will demand that. Customer service may completely morph with Marketing into a Customer Experience function. More importantly banks will need to control their “push selling” paradigm. Regulators may help by mandating an end to “mis- selling” …but that may not happen anytime soon. More progressive banks will regulate themselves & move to this new philosophy! Banks have huge data that signifies a “service need moment”-eg providing an NOC to an auto loan customer without any follow up. Also picking up a credit card airline transaction & converting that to a bunch of “partner privileges & offers for that country”.

Again research shows that “marketers will build their own contextual marketing engines to connect with customers not through campaigns, but through ongoing interactions. To do so, they will have to combine systems of insight and systems of engagement”. So the mass & blast campaign management will change & instead much more relevant service based messaging will engage customers.

2. Become “Gurus”
Financial marketers have a clear opportunity to become financial gurus to Millennials. This generation is hungry for knowledge, is ready to learn digitally, and would prefer simple, easy to understand content to make better decisions about their lives. But this content has to be created to connect to Millennials.
Bank of America’s initiative “Better Money habits” launched in collaboration with the non-profit Khan Academy is one of the examples of interactive education resources targeted at the Millennials.

3.Think ‘Outside the Bank’

 Millennials are the experiential generation. They focus on today’s needs and take on debt for vacations or education. Research from Facebook IQ has shown that Millennials tend to show off not through the ownership of things but through experiences. How can financial marketers leverage this knowledge to bring an “experience edge” to their marketing. American Express provides its members with live streaming concerts on its unstaged website, and Chase treats some of its Sapphire cardholders with VIP access to music shows who can then share their experiences via social media.

None of this is new & brands should find more exciting partnerships – with writers, photographers, Theatre artists, social sector leaders, and other influencers. Research shows that “Such collaborations could result in storytelling initiatives with advice on different experiential topics in connection with financial matters behind them. Communications should be built not so much around a transaction, but rather all the exciting things you can do with it”.

4. Tear down the silos

Define, and start executing an overall payment strategy. Not only is responsibility for payments split between retail and business banking teams, but even credit cards and debit cards are often run by separate teams. Marketing tends to be a central team but may not have as much authority across silos to own a consistent communication paradigm.

5. Embed analytics into Mobile banking: 

Help customers see an accurate forecast for their spending. DBS digibank leads in the Indian market with its budgeting and spending tool. This allows customers to manually categorize transactions and autopopulate transactions like bill payments; they can also choose to receive email alerts when they hit 70% to 90% of their budget. DBS digibank also provides a basic saving tool to enable customers to assess their spending and save money. In terms of advice and planning, ICICI Bank offers customers a few useful tools, such as calculators for mortgage payments, investments, and pensions.

Mobile banking offers the opportunity to cross-sell to existing customers and to promote additional services. “Yet few banks use the context of a customer’s current product portfolio,recent life events, location,past behavior,and other factors to offer personalized marketing in their mobile apps”.

The CMO’s guide to Technology & why Marketing Tech is different?

The chief marketing officer and the chief information officer have become the corporate board room’s odd couple.

According to Wall street Journal: “As marketing budgets shift to relatively newer channels like social media marketing and mobile advertising via complex advertising technology vendors, marketing executives have in recent years been tasked more and more with understanding technology — while technology executives have been pushed to understand marketing”.

But are Marketers really investing a lot in Technology. Two years back Gartner predicted that by 2017 CMO’s will spend more on IT than CIO’s. Is this happening? So how big is the market for marketing software today?

IDC has an answer to that question, $20.2 billion in 2014. IDC expects that the market will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4% for the next five years, resulting in a $32.4 billion market by 2018.


IDC breaks that market down into four broad categories:

  • Interaction Systems — the majority of customer-facing marketing software advertising, digital commerce, marketing automation, web experience management, mobile apps, social media tools, etc.
  • Content Production and Management — internal authoring and publishing tools, CMS platforms, DAM platforms, etc.
  • Data and Analytics — storing data and producing insights from it, such as business intelligence, predictive analytics, financial analysis, and broader marketing analytics.
  • Management and Administration — internal communications tools, workflows, budgeting, expense tracking, MRM, project management, collaboration tools, etc.

And yet Marketers are finding it difficult to adopt technology. Success rates are not so high. Vendor hype is far higher than on the ground reality. Research shows that CMO’s need to be better prepared to overcome some of the challenges & one key impact item can be a stronger Technology organisation supporting the Marketing technology implementations.


Forrester polled 308 marketing and tech leaders, finding that 44% of marketers believe the CIO hires staff with marketing experience, an improvement compared with the 19% figure from last year’s survey. But on the other side, 58% of tech leaders think that marketers actually understand marketing technology, compared with 71% of marketers who believe so, a gap indicating how marketers’ “self-confidence is inflated,” according to Forrester.

And further research showed the CMO involvement in Technology still lags


So what should CMO’s do differently in 2017 that will prepare them for this Tech invasion of Marketing.

Action Items for CMOs

  • Meet the CIO & set a common Marketing Tech budget for 2017:
    Does your company have a Tech budget for Marketing. Forrester research shows that only 47% of marketers believe that the CMO and CIO at their company work together to develop a tech strategy prior to allocating a budget.
  • Marketing strategy should drive Tech purchase:
    think through what elements of your marketing strategy you are trying to impact: Are you trying  to scale up 1:1 marketing based on analytics ?Or is it critical to create a solid data infrastructure for all the disparate data that Marketing has access to? First crystallise the strategy.
  • Carefully consider what technology you want to buy:
    Remember there are 947 companies at last count selling Marketing tech to you. Don’t allow a bundled sale where someone selling an Enterprise stack just bundles in some marketing software for a very low cost. Think about the implications about a wrong choice.
  • Look at building your Marketing tech operation with one primary Marketing technology provider as a hub & a few secondary best of breed point solutions as a spoke.
    This will allow you to get a maximum level of baseline capability from one vendor & so reduce the complexity of managing multiple technology partners.
  • Think about what changes in the structure of your marketing team are you & your company ready to make:
    Are you ready to hire a Chief marketing technology officer & will he report to the CIO or the CMO? Think collaboration rather than team expansion. The IT team can be your best friend if you get the structure right. Marketers who can truly understand the intersection of marketing and technology are rare. Most marketing organizations still struggle to find qualified people to support the evaluation, purchase, implementation and use of these new marketing technologies
  • Be more Process centric:
    CMO’s are buying a lot of technology. The intent is that it will help make us better, smarter and more efficient marketers, but with every license comes a new login and new processes that must be implemented to encompass it in our day-to-day workflows. Technology loses its value if you don’t adapt your processes to take advantage of what the software brings to the table
  • Think ROI & partner the CFO from the start:
    manage expectations about how quickly magic will happen, because it won’t. Process change & skill adoption takes time. Account for it. Don’t get surprised.
  • The Growth Hacker:
    The growth hacker is someone or a small team of people who understands technology and probably even have some coding skills. They understand their organization’s digital landscape to discover potential opportunities or loopholes. So this unit creates a Big data plan & has the all round skills to quickly create pilots & show impact. Sometimes external partners with such strengths can become your Growth hacker partners

Customer centricity-bringing customers in the boardroom!

Amazon aspires to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Numerous mission statements are sprinkled with customer focus. But in reality it is hard to actually be customer centric. Many companies talk about it but only a few achieve the holy grail!

I loved the concept that Prof Ranajoy Gulati speaks about:  “In fact the big leap that companies need to make is to “not sell what they produce” but to “solve customer problems” & then suddenly “who produces the product is no longer important “because you start “owning the problem space”.

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Customer-centric companies tracked by Gulati between 2001 and 2007 delivered shareholder returns of 150 percent while the S&P 500 delivered 14 percent. While research like this looks great, one wonders why there are not too many companies who “really put the customer at the centre”. Only companies who are great at “disruption” seem to truly belong to the category of obsessively customer focused. A customer-centric organization’s business is built completely around the customer. This kind of company has a strong understanding of the customer’s value and what the customer represents to the business’s profitability. With this knowledge, a customer-centric company adapts everything it does – from R&D to Customer service – to deliver the best value at the right cost to their customer.

The old adage that customers are always correct may not always be right. Current breed of customers are spoilt for choice & empowered. E commerce industry in India is a classic example where consumers are getting pampered with discounts. But there is a difference between “customer friendliness” & “customer centricity”. Companies create value for customers but also have to capture value in their business to be sustainable.  So are companies like Amazon & Zappos the outliers? Zappos actually says that If a customer calls for a product and Zappos does not have the product in stock, they recommend a competitor who has it. While Zappos will lose the sale, in the long run it’s best for Zappos because the customer appreciates the help and tells their friends the story. It creates word of mouth.

Peter Fader, of HBS, has this interesting take: “Customer centricity is a strategy to fundamentally align a company’s products and services with the wants and needs of its most valuable customers. That strategy has a specific aim: more profits for the long term. This is a goal that every business would like to achieve… But you’ll only be able to get there and put customer centricity to use if you are willing to start thinking in new—and in some cases, truly radical—ways.”

So how should companies become more Customer centric:

  1. Sort customers into –who gives value & who does not?
  2. Operations-develop the ability to deliver different products & services to different customers-not easy! At first the operations folk will always say no!
  3. Creating a customer-centric culture where you don’t script every interaction. Therefore, employees need to be able to make the right judgment calls on their own when dealing with customers.
  4. Focus on customer satisfaction & retention over customer acquisition. In a 2013 Forrester survey of global CMOs, 63% listed acquiring new customers as their top priority, while just 22% said retaining current customers was their top goal. In India this is particularly hard because of low penetration of products & services.
  5. Customer-obsessed enterprises must migrate investment budgets from areas that traditionally created dominance — brand advertising, distribution, mergers for scale, and supplier relationships — and invest in Retention & customer experiences

Prof Niraj Dewar, Professor in marketing at the Ivey Business School has this interesting comment:  “Companies’ upstream activities, such as sourcing, production, and logistics are being commoditized or outsourced, while downstream activities aimed at shaping customers’ perception and reducing their costs and risks are emerging as the main sources of competitive advantage. To compete effectively, companies must shift their focus from upstream to downstream activities, emphasizing how they define their competitive set, influence customers’ purchase criteria, innovate to solve customer problems, and build advantage by accumulating customer data and harnessing network effect”.

I had written about this earlier as well. What does Customer centricity mean to you? I would love to have your feedback. Here is what I feel:

  1. Being loyal to customers & not the other way around (customers needing to be loyal to the company). This needs companies to have a longer term view of customer lifetime value & not a short term view of immediate profit. It needs an internal senior level stakeholder who champions the customer cause (CMO?)
  2. Become more accessible to customers & respond faster to their needs. This needs companies to move from “insight to action”. To act faster, companies need to break silos within their organisation to be able to respond to customers.
  3. Use information to make every interaction relevant & use customer data to more powerfully personalise company’s interactions with the customer. The Big data world is only producing more such information for marketers to leverage. This amounts to a mass customisation strategy where the CIO & CMO need to work very closely together to make meaningful changes in the company’s operating environment. And most critically, to do this keeping the customers sensitivity to privacy as paramount!
  4. Strategically think through what culture changes the enterprise needs to become more customer centric. Today technology & Big data based insights can help you accelerate this process.

For those of you in Mumbai, we at Cequity are doing this wonderful conference called Customer centricity world 2015 which has a keynote by Dr Bala Balachandran. Do join us for this conference & you can learn more here:

Banks & the new Amazon bank!

Newspapers are getting disrupted by online resources. These same web destinations are becoming less relevant as people simply lift and filter the information they want using RSS feeds. The music CD is being unbundled as customers buy individual tracks online.

Power has shifted to customers: it’s no longer about the products that marketers want to sell but about the content components that users want to consume & mash up together.

The new battlefield lies in the control of the user interface and the customer intelligence system that supports it. Companies that build highly equipped Customer intelligence units will win in the coming days.

The internet is disrupting retail & I am sure Retail banking is also waiting to be disrupted. According to Capgemini’s 2014 World Retail Banking Report, less than 40% of customers globally reported positive customer experiences with their financial institution. But banks still push products on their own terms. Take a term deposit for at least 6 months? Well, why can’t I have it due on April 24th, which happens to be my birthday?

Google is launching its own mortgage calculator, and imagine what an Amazon Bank would look like,wish they launch soon!

But who are the startups disrupting banking today?

Check out the infographic below from CBInsights to learn more about the startups that are disrupting every part of bank business models:

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Rajesh Kandaswamy of Gartner has this interesting take:

The checking account solves many of the needs of customers in personal finance –to keep money safe, to be able to pay others, and the need for a place to receive money on their behalf. It bundles a few things – a uniquely identifiable account, check writing, ATM privileges, interest payment (very less nowadays) and wire transfer to name a few. Product bundling made sense for these services as it makes it easier for the consumer, while offering economies of both scale & scope to the bank. Moreover, the marginal cost of bundling is low.

Now, internet and mobile make new services possible for some of these needs, either in isolation or bundling with others. For instance, the T-Mobile’s service offers an account, debit card, bill payment and a few other features, but it does not offer check writing privileges. Square Cash is a service only to send money to others. Internet and mobile make it easy to reach a larger market, while it reduces fixed costs need for costly branches. Such technologies are available for banks as well, but as incumbents, they have to worry about cannibalization.

So a lot of the banking disruption will really be about how banks adopt Digital & simplify processes for customers.In fact,in the new digital world, banking & creativity may not be oxymorons!Adaptive Path, a design and user experience consultancy has been acquired by Capitol One. And just before that Daniel Makoski, founder of Google’s modular Project Ara phone project joined Capital One.

New banks in India have a unique opportunity to embed “digital” in the fabric of how they do business. But banks are complex with structures that don’t allow for speed. In many cases, eBusiness teams own the mobile banking strategy, but few eBusiness teams have an exclusive mandate over their firm’s mobile banking initiatives. This division of responsibility creates silos and adds significant complexity to the coordination and optimization of Digital efforts.

As the infrastructure of digital technology — the chips, network connections, computing — becomes ever cheaper, they’re becoming commodities, and the value of tech products is shifting to the design and the user experience. But the real value starts to flow when companies orchestrate the User experience with Personalisation.

Personalization, it seems, is really about gathering exactly the data that’s needed in order to perform a particular task. Think about how Amazon asks users whether purchases were for themselves or as gifts, or how streaming services like Netflix and Pandora ask users to rate content. But personalization is a complex process involving multiple components & it takes a lot of effort to get it right.

Some areas to ponder about:

  • What do you think about the internet & mobile disrupting banks? Which areas can the banks defend and which are vulnerable to disruption?
  • What do banks need to do to modernise their architectures to compete against the new wave of startups?
  • What is the new age Customer intelligence unit that can be the nerve centre for competing in this landscape? How do they capture unique customer data & create a competitive differentiator by mapping the Customer DNA & building Digital analytics capability.
  • How will banks completely transform their digital experience? “Mobile apps will go beyond banking … and banks will offer different flavors,” says Jeanne Capachin, principal of Capachin Research. “For example, an app for people buying a home will have home prices, mortgage rates, and advise from specialists. It’s all about selling mortgages, but selling with an experience that offers advisory services – not just low rates.”

Unloved, undifferentiated & intrusive-is that a Bank?

Unloved, undifferentiated, and incapable of innovation — that’s what today’s  digitally savvy users, primarily including high-school students, entry-level  workers, and thirty-something professionals, believe about the banking industry says a recent survey of Millenials.

But often a bank’s marketing only reinforces this image. Pushing hundreds of irrelevant communications to customers despite having data about them frustrates customers.

And now consumers are begining to have choices.Nonbank solutions for financial services are not just imminent — they’re already here. Today’s digitally savvy retail banking customers are rapidly turning to Geezeo, Personal Capital, LearnVest, and others for personal financial management solutions. And they’re looking forward to other technology giants entering the market such as PayPal, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Most of these new entrants are far more marketing savvy & have disrupted other industries by bringing the customer into the boardroom.

And yet, Banks often think of Customer centricity as a “fluffy” topic. Most bankers are hard wired left brain types & the retail banking business is such that customers are often prisoners & cannot leave very easily. According to Capgemini’s 2014 World Retail Banking Report (WRBR), less than 40% of customers globally reported positive customer experiences with their financial institution.

And yet there are contradictions: banks are probably amongst the few businesses that have an “extreme level of data” about customers. Banks know when you move your house, when you get that bonus & they even know when you are eating out at a restaurant or travelling internationally for the first time. Banking also was amongst the early adopters of analytics & so has the institutional capacity to understand customers better. And Banks have invested in huge amount of technology that can enable customer centricity. And yet Technology is transforming the way digitally savvy customers think about and manage their finances. And this is where banks may not be moving fast enough.

Banking tops the list of industries at risk of disintermediation by digitally savvy customers including millennials. And banks seem secure in the belief that this business is very hard to dislodge & too regulated to disrupt. Key findings from the Millennial Disruption Index (MDI), a three-year study of industry disruption at the hands of teens to thirty somethings (Millennials) found that 71% of Millenials would welcome a new bank from Amazon, Google, Square, Apple or Paypal.

I had written about the unbundling of banks earlier.

digital banks

In India, there seems to be a mad race by private sector banks to show Digital superiority. A lot of Apps are being launched. But at its core, the issue of being Customer centric still eludes many banks. Banks need to be committed to having an innate knowledge of their customer and using that knowledge for the customer’s benefit. Today most analytics teams in banks spend most of their effort in doing analytics that will benefit the bank: reduce risk, increase cross sell & reduce cost.

Chris Skinner, Chairman of the Financial Services Club and author of the book, Digital Bank, said, “A digital bank is a bank built with a vision to reach out to customers through digital augmentation. It is built specifically to offer the customer the service of their choice through the access of their choice.”

And yet banks do an extraordinary amount of push based marketing-pushing messages to customers which may not be relevant through emails, sms & calls. Banks set up campaign management teams that mine data & use marketing technology to automate campaigns for customers. But sometimes we need to be cautious about technology & automation. Our campaigns are not customer centric; they intrude & do not provide relevant information. In such a case, automating & increasing the volume of this campaign is pointless. You are only automating a more intrusive form of marketing, that doesnt work.

Often there is this belief that complex analytics is required to become more Customer centric by providing appropriate offers.But you don’t need too much fancy analytics to become more customer centric. There is so much data that exists with a bank that you can create hundreds of examples of campaigns that connect to customers.

I saw this wonderful example from Jim Bruene at Finovate:

“Card reissues after a data breach, or lost/stolen situation, are annoying for cardholders. But it’s even worse for the issuer who has to pay for a new card, hound the customer to activate it, handle customer service calls, and then risk losing recurring revenues from now-broken automated pre-authorized charges.

So kudos to Capital One for taking an important step in solving this problem.

Earlier this week I received a new card and number from Capital One, presumably because my card had been involved in a breach. I am not aware of any unauthorized attempts to use it.

In a followup email this morning, the giant issuer reminded me to activate the new card. That’s a fairly typical technique these days. But the help didn’t end there. The bank provided a list of likely merchants where I may need to update card info to avoid the charge being denied (see screenshot below)”.

Simple communication like this can diffrentiate a bank & make it more relevant to consumers.

Here is what I believe banks need to think about:

  1. Treat customer communication with the same intensity that FMCG companies treat their advertising.
  2. Look at their data to “help customers”. Banks have rich information & everyone should be thinking about simple ways to connect with customers. Most times banks engage with customers only to cross or upsell. Bankers may want to think of a paradigm where sales begins to happen because you connect with customers at relevant moments with personalised communication like the example above.
  3. Set up a Customer Intelligence unit-use them to derive insight “about customers for customers”.
  4. Use that insight to create engagement programs with customers which help them lead their daily life.
  5. Cross sell will happen as an outcome.
  6. We believe that Marketing will move towards relevancy:
    • “Marketing that is done so well that it feels like a service”
    • “Marketing as a relationship”
  7. At Cequity we call this philosophy-“To service is to Sell”.

Surfing Omnichannel

The West has Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year weekends, but in India, the most hectic shopping season of the year kicks off right around Onam & Ganesh Utsav and continues well into the New Year.

Many years ago, when I worked in retail at Shoppers Stop, this festival period is what we in Marketing worked for. Organised Retail then was new & a lot of focus was around creating a powerful differentiated customer experience inside the stores. One Diwali at Shoppers Stop we recreated a shopping experience based on the theme of the 7 wonders of the world. Another time we brought in Indian artisans & created something called Parikrama.

Today the focus thanks to e commerce companies has changed almost entirely to “deals & discounts”. E commerce companies in India are currently burning cash at an average rate of 1.35X of the GMV sold, through heavy discounting. Goldman Sachs estimates that the e-tail industry will invest at least US$20bn of incremental cash infusion to sustain before it reaches a steady state in FY20. This is going to cause huge disruptions & will lead to dramatic changes in consumer behaviour.

Marketers in Brick & Mortar retail will have to prepare for this. India is at an inflection point of consumption moving online at a rapid pace as digital transformation commences. This should see the country emerge as the second-largest digital market in the world by 2020, based on connected smartphones. Goldman Sachs estimates that over the next 15 years, India will have more than one billion digital users. And yet online is going to take a while. The Indian Internet user base is just second to China but only 14 per cent of Internet users shop online in India compared to 30-35 per cent in Brazil and Russia, and 55 per cent in China. Also, the ticket size of online transactions in India is nearly 70 per cent, lower than any of the other three BRIC countries.

Yet most Brick & mortar retailers in India are still talking about a conservative 10% of their business coming from online in the coming years. But consumers are not waiting for this & unless traditional retailers move faster they will lose market share. The evolution of e tailing depends on two factors: the depth of the market (the number of online shoppers) & the breadth of the market(the categories of merchandise available for sale online)

This festival season, if you really want to beat Amazon, you need to do a few things: Allow your customers to purchase and have your products delivered anywhere they please. Transform your physical stores into interactive zones. And, meanwhile, learn as much about the people buying from you as possible. That overall approach can be encapsulated in one easy buzzword: “Omnichannelization”.

I wrote about this in Business Today at:

First it is critical to agree on what role the physical store will play in this. Over the next 6 months as brick & mortar retailers like Shoppers Stop, Landmark & Future group launch their omnichannel initiatives, they will need to put in place a huge bunch of technology middleware to enable this strategy.

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Source : Implement consulting group

According to the National Retail Federation: in 2013, 4% of customers selected BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store), and in 2014, 64% of customers selected BOPIS.

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Here’s what Brick & Mortar retailers need to do to beat Amazon:

  1. Make Customer experience inside their stores a very large focus area
  2. Seek customer information proactively-Cequity research shows that consumers don’t mind sharing information as long a marketers can show value for it. You can download the Cequity research here:
  3. Introduce Click & collect. Get consumers to shop online but pick up offline. Shoppers who use click and collect don’t want to go inside stores. Consumers prefer convenient drive through services.
  4. Shoppers don’t want to go to the back of the store to pick up merchandise. Placing click-and-collect pickup in the back of the store doesn’t offer the convenience that customers want.
  5. Malls should focus on multi-retailer click and collect lockers. Millennials want malls to do the collecting for them and bring all of their purchases from multiple stores together to a locker or concentrated area according to Lee.
  6. Improve Self service within stores.Customers who use “self care” of any sort are great customers. They also leave a tonne of data behind as they also would tend to use credit cards for their transactions. Companies can use analytics to profile these customers and market better to them.