What young consumers want: Local *and* digital experiences from brands

Millennials and Generation Z are redefining local brand engagements, according to a new study from Mitchell Communications.

FAYETTEVILLE, AR: Young consumers are increasingly seeking an "omnilocal" brand experience that blends digital and the geographic, according to a Mitchell Communications study released on Thursday.

The agency surveyed 2,000 millennials and Generation Z consumers in the U.S. this summer for the OmniLocal Consumer Report. The study found that any brand, including large national companies, can be considered local, and "local" can be anywhere in the minds of those surveyed.

"That audience wants the expansive connections and access that only digital can deliver, but they also want that geographically driven local experience defined by what they can see, hear, taste, or touch," said Sarah Clark, CEO of Mitchell.

In fact, the study found that being able to "see, touch, and inspect products" is the best part of in-store shopping for 53% of respondents. It also determined that 74% of millennial and Gen Z consumers do not define "community" by a specific geographic location; 55% define the term by shared interests and mindset, without regard to shared geography. More than half (51%) of omnilocal consumers found that digitally connecting with people of shared interest makes them feel that "local can be anywhere." Sixty-three percent of respondents agreed that brands demonstrating local knowledge of their communities is appealing.

Local brand interest matters, too. By more than a 2-to-1 margin, respondents agreed that a blogger or influencer who shares their interest in a local brand is a local influencer even if they do not live in their community.

Local news also matters, according to the study. The top three most trusted sources of local news for omnilocal consumers are local newspapers on mobile or digital platforms, local newspapers in print, and local TV news.

Clark said the big takeaway for PR and marketing pros is that brands "need to know local."

"The challenge for brands' marketers will be to determine all the ways they can be local along that full spectrum of customer touch points," she said. "They need to understand that nuance that drives that local culture, so the conversations that consumers are having in-store and online as well as the communities being built have to be along that physical and digital platform."

PR pros and marketers must also understand and anticipate when omnilocals want the expansive connection and access that digital can deliver and how those work together.

"They need smart, nuanced local strategies that tie that digi-local and geo-local together," Clark said.

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