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In conversation with Rupa Ganatra, co-founder of Millennial 20/20

Following the success of the maiden summit last year and a brilliant New York leg in March, Millennial 20/20 returns to London for another series of talks, conferences and drop-in sessions covering all areas of nexgen commerce.

The Rare team are in attendance to listen in and, of course, contribute to the discussion with our panel discussion. And we were fortunate enough to grab a few precious minutes with Millennial 20/20 co-founder, Rupa Ganatra, to talk about this year’s event and what the future holds for brands and retailers in 2017.

Rare Design (RD): Can you explain to our readers why Millennial 20/20 exists, and what the event is about?

Rupa Ganatra: Millennial 20/20 is all about the future of business, retail marketing, innovation and e-commerce in a changing environment. We believe that the “millennial” mindset of today’s customers – the way they shop, interact with brands and consume content – is evolving at such a pace that it has never been more important for big brands and retailers to keep their fingers on the pulse and understand where the market is moving. This includes showing how small businesses are disrupting those sectors and spaces to find new customers and untapped niches.

RD: You’ve talked about the pace changing; what’s new for this year’s Millennial 20/20?

Rupa: Last year we launched in London, then Singapore and New York, and now we’re back in the capital. First of all, we’re at a bigger venue just through pure demand from exhibitors who want a bigger space to have their showcases, more content, conference stages and all those sorts of things. We’ve had some really exciting developments like PepsiCo launching their own sessions, hackathons and solve sessions on site where retailers come together. There is a whole wave of brands and people who believe that the future of business is about co-collaboration and co-creation, so they’re inventing other attendees of Millennial 20/20 to come and solve those challenges.

“Millennials are too often depicted as lazy. I believe it’s the opposite: they are one of most disruptive and innovative generations.”

We’ve also got some incredible showcases that we didn’t have last year around the future of auto, travel and content. In terms of the conference stages we have launched a finance track and an auto track for the first time, so we’re trying to get more industries into the mix as well.

RD: What are the major changes that you’ve seen in digital and e-commerce since last year?

Rupa: Last year there was a lot of talk about authenticity and building trust, but I think now there are a lot more examples of brands and retailers having gone away and started implementing these new ideas, innovations and technologies. So they are all coming back to the stages to talk about where that’s heading for them.

RD: At Rare Design we’re interested in building a brand and innovating with a design-led approach. What do you think that brands mean to Millennials, and how important is the design and aesthetics in that equation?

Rupa: I would say that it’s all about design of the product and the brand. It’s become way more important, partly because there are far more people out there like Rare Design solving those design challenges. Also, people value experience as much as the product now, so design and functionality are even more important to ensure you are creating the best user experience. If your USP isn’t strong enough and there’s a competitor out there with a stronger brand, then you’re not going to stay relevant in the long term.

RD: In a recent interview with Forbes, you talked about Millennials thriving in a fast paced environment. How important is it for a brand to keep up with fast-moving trends?

Rupa: That’s a really good question because sometimes people think that with Millennials they should drop everything as a marketer or digital designer or whatever, and focus entirely on this audience. I don’t believe you should drop what’s working, but instead look at what isn’t working so well and how you can change that. For big brands it’s almost like changing their behaviour to that of a start-up in terms of trying new things and being willing to fail. It’s now acceptable at a corporate level that if you try something and it doesn’t work out it’s ok because when it does work it can become your best new channel of marketing through a process of trial and error.

Millennial mindset: Over 50% of UK businesses are launched by Millennials

So it’s important to encourage people to try new things, but not to give up on what’s working. For example, advertising on billboards – it’s still an effective channel for brands and retailers. A push towards digital doesn’t mean that all print is dead; far from it. It’s just about finding the right touch point for your customers. I really believe that begins with defining who your customer is, including where they spend their time and how you should target them.

RD: Building on this, how do brands create something that is longstanding in such a fast-moving landscape?

Rupa: I would say trust, authenticity and transparency. Some of the new business models that have been really disruptable around the world are those like Everlane where they actually show the price of the supply from the materials to the label so that people feel that they really own a piece of the product. The second is part is being experience-oriented. Embed it into all customer touch points, so that it’s not just about the in-store retail experience – it’s what you can do for the customer experience-wise along their digital journey.

RD: What are the biggest misconceptions about Millennials?

Rupa: If you Google Millennials or search on Youtube, there are a lot of videos and articles about how they are lazy, live at home with their parents, are narcissistic and so on. I believe it’s the opposite: they are one of most disruptive and innovative generations, with Gen-Z even more so. I learn everyday from my younger millennial counterparts and think that we are now at a place where there is no longer a hierarchy even in the employment system because everyone can learn from each other.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, over 50% of UK businesses are launched by problem-solving Millennials. They look at things in a different way and are always thinking how can we improve that process? Just because deliveries work in a certain way today doesn’t mean that’s how they should work forever. They’re changing the world through commerce and business in incredible ways. 

There are some speakers at this event who are talking about how over 70% of Gen-Z are already entrepreneurial on platforms we don’t even know the names of; they’re co-creators, co-sellers, co-buyers and there’s a whole ecosystem being built that we are not even a part of. It’s important that we nurture that spirit of “anything is possible” and the fact that Millennials will go out to solve things that we’ve taken for granted.

RD: Finally, what do you see as the biggest disruption in the future of commerce in the next decade?

Rupa: While I believe there will be an increased reliability by brands and retailers to lean on technology to solve today’s challenges, at the same time human face-to-face interactions will still be just as important. I definitely don’t believe that robots are going to replace everyone’s jobs or anything like that! I also think the brands and retail space will have to become more transparent than ever before to survive, as more and more disruptive companies enter the market to take a piece of the pie.

Huge thanks to Rupa for her time.​


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