Millennials, Gen Z want relationship with brands, bookstore finds

Competing on price is not enough


By Allie Sanchez

Barnes and Noble College kept itself from being zapped into oblivion among the younger generations with an old-fashioned tool: market research.

And its examination of millennials and the Generation Z revealed that they are no different from other market segments, according to Barnes and Noble College chief marketing officer Lisa Malat.

Malat noted that the company was able to stay relevant even in the age of borderless trade by making an effort to know its market better.

 “We established a dedicated research platform two to three years ago where we have a group of 10,000 students—called our student point of view—who weigh in on a lot of issues with us. It’s what has been driving our business lately,” she related.

Further, Malat explained that their research has provided valuable insight into the needs of the younger set when it comes to engaging with a brand.

She said, “Millennials and Generation Z want to develop a relationship with businesses they visit, so the research we do allows us to make those connections and deliver more of an experience to the students.”

“We learned that students were coming to college very overwhelmed, very stressed out and looking for support. It was from aha (moment) that we realized we cannot be and we will not be just about a retail transaction.”

“We have to become a complete support system for the students. We communicated to the new students all this information about what it’s like to transition to college, tips about how to get along with your roommate, how to set up your dorm room or how to save the most money on textbooks,” she further explained. 

Malat added that these market segments tend to be attracted to brands that make an effort to engage them in relationships.

“If you’re going to just compete on price or if you’re going to look at yourself as a retail transaction, you’re going to lose, especially with this generation. The brands that do well are the brands that are able to build experience, build relationships and add more value to the equation. Brands that align with students’ values and can deliver a relevant message to the consumer at the right time, as we were able to do with the freshmen,” she concluded.

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