Why Empathy Is Key To Online Retail For Millennials

By: Luke Griffiths

When approaching the millennial generation of online shoppers, retailers need to develop emotional intelligence, and alter their customer journey to nudge shoppers towards a smoother and less turbulent online experience.

Increasingly, they shoppers are short on time, demand value for money, and have a need for speed and convenience.

This is particularly important to remember when it comes to successfully tapping into the millennial market and Generation Z, who, according to our report with Ovum, account for over half of all online retail purchases in the UK.

This article will look at some of the findings in that report, and explain why empathy is key to online retail for millennials, and how retailers can use it to convert shoppers in that demographic.

The state of the market

The online retail space is in a constant state of transformation.

With consumer confidence in short supply and demand lagging, retailers are continuously rethinking and remodeling the online shopping experience to accommodate the ever-changing needs of customers. And what is it that today’s online shoppers really want?

Our new research shows that the shopping journey for millennials resembles a rollercoaster, marked by highs and lows of emotion.

Millennials reported feeling pangs of anxiety and guilt while shopping, with 52% saying that they worry they can’t afford the purchase during checkout, compared to only 16% of over 55s. On the other hand, two thirds (68%) of millennials also reported feeling excitement when adding items to their online basket, compared to less than a quarter (24%) of people over 55.

Drive immediacy

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a universal anxiety. It describes the angst that arises when you believe that, somewhere, exciting things are happening – and you’re not there to experience them.

While not excluive to millennials, FOMO is certainly felt most keenly by this age group. According to our research, 58% of millennials are more likely to complete a purchase if an online offer is going to expire, compared to 39% of shoppers over 55. The FOMO phenomenon is a powerful incentive, and when used correctly, can be highly persuasive on the path to purchase

By tapping into the transience of seasonal sales, promotions and limited edition items, retailers can urge millennials to follow through on purchases and maybe even put an end to the dreaded dropped basket phenomenon – where customers close to finishing their purchase drop out of the process before reaching the confirmation page.

Reduce form frustration

All consumers will be familiar with the exasperation of multi-stage checkouts.

While several of the leading online retailers have perfected straight-forward, one-click checkouts, many others have not updated their systems and still expect customers to go through lengthy forms and fill out a large amount of personal details. Even worse, these forms are often prone to glitches or have been poorly designed, meaning customers sometimes need to fill them out multiple times.

This is particularly frustrating for millennials, with over a quarter (28%) of those we surveyed stating that they felt annoyed at having to enter so many details. This irritation alone is enough to make shoppers abandon a purchase altogether.

With more and more young people shopping on their mobiles – on-the-go and in a hurry –  their tolerance is lower when it comes to long, outdated checkout forms. In fact, 30% of the millennials we surveyed said they didn’t complete a purchase because they became distracted by other messages on their phone.

Retailers hoping to earn a share of the millennial wallet must up their checkout game, and streamline forms to allow for a fast and frictionless checkout. Enabling one-click payments, eliminating the need to ‘Sign-in To Buy’ and optimising the design to create a mobile-friendly checkout process will all be key to offering a more straightforward payment process.

Offer a variety of payment options

The next emotion that retailers must consider is anxiety – the worry that 52% of millennials feel when confronting the total cost of their shopping basket.

To help combat this anxiety, retailers would do well to offer customers multiple payment options, such as pay after delivery. Our research shows that 20% of millennials would feel less guilty if they were offered deferred payment options, and one in five would be more likely to complete a purchase if they knew they could spread the cost over time.

Offering various payment methods can also help when dealing with returns. Today’s consumer will often buy multiple items in a variety of colours and sizes with the intention of returning the pieces that were ill-fitting or not quite the right colour or feel. The downside of this is that customers can find themselves out of pocket, waiting for refunds to find their way back to their bank accounts.

Granted, returns can be frustrating and costly for retailers, but they are now an inevitable part of e-commerce. Retailers need to adapt accordingly and be prepared to absorb the costs of returns – which in turn will ultimately boost their bottom line.

By offering pay after delivery and allowing shoppers to try before they buy, or allowing them to pay in instalments, retailers can soothe financial anxiety and help customers better manage their cash flow.  

Be social media savvy

Social media platforms – such as Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest – are a huge source of inspiration for the millennial market, demonstrated by our research showing that 30% of 16–24-year-olds are influenced by social media when making a spontaneous purchase.

Interacting with customers on social media is particularly important when it comes to younger shoppers who value brands that can provide a personalised experience. Retailers should prioritise engagement with influencers and stay informed when it comes to the newest social media functions, like Instagram stories and AI lenses. By regularly updating your channels with fun and inspiring content, you can showcase a range of products and build brand affinity.


While retailers may be concerned about the operational and financial steps needed to improve the customer’s online journey, offering discounts and incentives, adding a variety of payment options, and making the most of social media will go a long way towards securing a share of the mass millennial market. As peak season approaches, what better time to move towards optimising your customers’ online retail experience?

By appealing directly to the most prolific online shoppers, retailers can ensure that they are staying relevant to the next generation of consumers and staying one step ahead of their competition.


By: Luke Griffiths - General Manager at Klarna UK


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