The Power in GameStop’s Authentic Connection With Millennials

People At Games Week 2013 In Milan, Italy

Millennials love video games. No retailer knows this better than GameStop because the success of its business depends quite literally on this group of individuals, which make up 59% of its PowerUp Rewards program members and almost two-thirds of its workforce.

In an interview with RetailWire, Mike Hogan, GameStop’s executive vice president of business strategy and brand development, said the company is focused on personalization largely through the insights gained from the PowerUp program.

Mr. Hogan talked about the importance of authenticity when it comes to interactions with Millennials.

“This is a generation that’s grown up with media. They can be somewhat cynical about prepared messages and they won’t tolerate things that are not authentic, so we try to be very transparent,” he said.

That transparency includes sales staff offering honest opinions of games. “If they [sales staff] don’t like the game, they’ll say it’s not so good or it might not be the right game for you because you like to play this way or you like another genre. It’s important that our [associates] are not just trying to sell you something. Their job is to help you find what’s right for you, which may not be what’s right for somebody else.”

In an online discussion last week, the industry insiders on the RetailWire BrainTrust saw power in the way GameStop is building authentic connections with its customers.

“The biggest challenge most retailers face today is the temptation for consumers to just bypass them and buy online,” said Ben Ball, senior vice president of Dechert-Hampe. “Nowhere is this temptation greater or more salient than with digital entertainment. (Remember record shops? Blockbuster?) Why hasn’t — or won’t — GameStop fallen prey to this brick-and-mortar retailer trap?”

“I think the answer lies in the words of advice given by RetailWire panelists almost daily,” said Mr. Ball. “If you are going to keep customers coming into your store you have to make it worth the effort. … You have to do it with the experience.”

“GameStop is succeeding by employing associates that can honestly relate to their customers, and who take the time to establish and build upon a more personalized and customized brand relationship,” said Jeff Hall, president of Second to None. “These factors are must-haves for Millennials.”

BrainTrust member Carlos Arámbula, vice president of Hispanic Marketing at MarcasUSA, did, however, point out that there was more to attracting future customers than just a Millennial focus.

“Any approach to Millennial consumers that does not include the multicultural factors is doomed — almost half are multicultural with Hispanic consumers being over 22% of Millennials,” said Mr. Arámbula. “Additionally, the multicultural influence on the cohort cannot be ignored. … ‘Generation Z,’ hot on the heels of Millennials, will be majority-multicultural and larger than Millennials.”

For the present day, though, BrainTrust members like Mr. Ball were as bullish on GameStop’s strategy as they are on some of the most successful brands in retail.

“Mike Hogan and the GameStop team get this better than 99 percent of all retailers,” Mr. Ball said. “Put them in the class with Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and the Apple Stores. As long as they focus on their most valuable customers and make the stores a place to live their dreams, they will remain as popular as that old corner store with the checker board and the pickle barrel by the stove did for our rural ancestors.”

This article was written by George Anderson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.