How to adapt your distribution ERP to millennial buyers' needs

There are about 80 million millennial people in the US alone.* These were born between 1980 and 2000 and the younger ages are yet to reach their spending potentials. By 2020, this cohort will account for $1.4 trillion in annual spending. Their needs and shopping habits should be known and used to plan our distribution businesses.

Return options

More than half of millennials look for the cheapest return options when placing orders. Distributors could take advantage of this desire by developing excellent return processes that are simple to the customers and provide them with low cost.  

The design of those processes will be up to each distributor and the processes stored in their ERP. The options could include a return authorization for nearly any reason and the distributor could absorb the cost by providing no-cost return labels to the customer. Other distributors might collaborate with 3PL businesses and use their expertise in return logistics.

Touch it, smell it, pick it up

Despite popular perception, millennials do want to use brick and mortar stores and do not want to rely on a photo on a website for many purchases. A distributor could partner with store customers and provide speedy deliveries of exact style, size, and color products. A store would not need to keep every option in their stock. The distributor could set up daily routes to stores providing the store with the ability to satisfy customers that day when a purchase is made before a cut-off time. The distribution ERP would have that “ship via” available on orders from customer stores in addition to parcel delivery and other methods.

Find the right distribution ERP for your customers with this seven-step guide to selecting distribution ERP

Loyalty is here to stay

Millennials have a great deal of loyalty when they feel they have been treated right. A distributor selling directly to user customers would tailor their storefront software to be extremely easy to use and fast. Then they tightly integrate the storefront system with ERP so that orders can be fulfilled with speed and efficiency ensuring the customer is quickly satisfied.  Millennials’ loyalty should be captured in the CRM component of ERP.

The CRM system might offer discounts based on order volume or other factors to deserving customers.  The system could also suggest items based on previous orders and items related to the customer’s search patterns.

Millennials are looking for a seamless online experience

Whether a distributor sells directly or through retail stores, the millennial customer wants a seamless experience.  Develop ways to have a single conversation with customers.  The conversation continues whether on a computer, a smart phone, or in person.  When there are third party retailers in the chain, work with them to maintain that single conversation.   Integrate merchandising and marketing.  Price is only one consideration for a millennial customer.

Millennials are transforming both their own shopping habits and their parents’.  Distributors and the way they use distribution ERP must stay aligned with customers and their shopping styles.

*Data in this article was sourced from Accenture’s report Who are the millennial shoppers and what do they really want?

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at

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Tom Miller

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