It is possible to keep up with the increasingly plugged-in consumer. Smart companies focus less on shiny objects and anecdotal evidence, choosing instead to base their decisions on larger, documented trends in consumer behavior and preferences. When looking at some of the most tech-savvy shoppers, those aged 18-34, recent data shows that the things they desire from an online shopping experience aren’t necessarily new, but more firmly entrenched than ever. From an impressive new study conducted by ATG (a Bazaarvoice platform partner), we’ve extracted the following 3 ways to deliver what this group expects.

1. Be easy to “like”

Brands that have a social presence appeal to this age group more than any other. In fact, when asked, “How important is it to you that online merchants provide an opportunity to engage directly through social networks?” 57% responded that it is at least “somewhat important.” 32% of those using Facebook while shopping choose to Like brands, while 18% hop on Facebook to find discounts like coupon codes, and 16% share their shopping finds with friends.

Takeaway: Your young customers won’t define engagement as Liking your brand alone, and you shouldn’t either. Facebook is a chatty medium, built on two-way conversations. Number of fans should never be your end goal – it should be a step in the path to getting customers to interact, both with each other and with your brand. Share interesting content that’s relevant to your fans – content they’ll want to share with their friends – to get these young consumers engaging.

2. Invest in SMO

Search engines are still the powerhouses behind finding out about your products, but those in the young adult group are more than twice as likely to encounter your offerings through social media than those aged 35-54.

“17% of those 18-34 cited information on social networking sites, while just 8% of those 35-54 and just 2% of those 55 and older said social sites played a role of their discovery of new products and services.”

Not surprisingly, a full 29% of this group indicates that they have “discovered a new product or service through a social network,” as compared to 16% in the 35-44 group, 14% in the 45-54 group and 4% in the 55+ group.

Takeaway: You’re likely already thinking about search engines from the perspective of product discovery, but now is the time to apply this same lens to social media. Recent updates to Google mean that tweets about your product are often showing up higher in search results, while also being displayed in real time. To stay at the top, make it effortless for shoppers to share your products in ways that will boost your rankings. Know that consumers are talking about your brand, and embrace this by giving them fresh, relevant content to spark this online conversation.

3. Think beyond research for a seamless mobile experience

Consumers are using mobile devices in every stage of the purchase process. While 37% of those aged 18-34 are browsing from their mobiles, this is only part of the picture. Forty-one percent of this same age group has completed a purchase via their mobile devices—and 6% of them do this every day. Top mobile shopping activities for these young adults include finding coupons, price comparison, text message alerts for sales, and browsing online reviews while in-store.

Takeaway: Understand that every phase of the buying process should be optimized for mobile—not just the research phase. If young consumers can’t take every step toward purchasing your products from the palm of their hand, they’ll go to a merchant that provides a more seamless mobile experience. Especially for this generation, part of that purchase process is validating their choices with other “people like them.” Making sure your young shoppers have mobile access to other customers’ opinions is crucial to earning their wallets.

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