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Mimi Gerrard-Morgan, Insights Executive

Millennials love being connected; it keeps being proven over and over again. A recent article in Forbes proclaimed that 87% of millennials use between two and three tech devices at least once every day. But these statistics no longer have the power to shock.

Just looking at the stats for Millennials in America alone, they represent about a fourth of the population and have $200 billion in annual buying power. How should retail brands adapt and take advantage of this hyper-connected generation?How are brands using their retail space to encourage participation in this online conversation? It’s been a steep learning curve, and there’s every chance it is going to get steeper, but some brands are showing great innovation in this area.

In this blog, we have been investigating the trend of ‘Social Media Currency’ and how the value of consumer participation is interpreted in retail.


First up is a great innovation from Topshop. This fashion brand has been at the forefront of innovating with social media for some time. Their recent fashion week idea was a ‘Tweet for Treats’ in-store vending machine. Yes, you read that right – all you had to do was tweet @Topshop and you could receive an instant Topshop Beauty treat for free from their in-store vending machine. Tweets became currency. Topshop is not alone with promoting this idea; there’s a proliferation of #tweatfortreat examples now live on Twitter, but the realisation of that idea into a vending machine is a fun in-store consumer interaction.

Topshop Tweet for Treats

User Generated Content

Is such a committed investment in encouraging social media engagement justified? A 2014 Ipsos‘ study revealed that millennials trust user-generated content (UGC) just as much as professional reviews. Partner that with UGC being cheap and having the ability to spread exponentially and things are sounding interesting. But the Ipsos study went on to report that UGC is also 20% more influential when it comes to purchasing and 35% more memorable than other types of media. Add that to the fact that millennials spend five hours per day with UGC, you’re dealing with marketing dynamite.

New-style Vending

Topshop is not the only brand placing a value on social media interaction, Nike has also used the vending machine as a mechanic to reward loyalty. Nike encouraged the exchange of fuelband points for branded items. Items were priced between 500-1000 fuel points and dispensers popped up in hidden locations all over NYC. The ambition was to promote Nike’s wearable fitness tracker through the creation of an online community who were searching for the next vending machine location. And in the process they were generating an online content stream from the mouths of trusted brand advocates.

Nike Fuelbox Vending Machine

Emoticon Currency

One company ‘Inmoji’ has taken this peer-to-peer monetisation strategy even further. Their “powered” Inmoji can monetise messages. Send a branded Inmoji to a friend in a text, for example, text a Starbucks logo Inmoji and receive a free latte in exchange. The ability to reach large audiences, drive loyalty and capture critical sentiment data is compelling. Inmoji has received substantial investment capital and is being labelled one of the AdTech companies to watch by AdWeek.



The retail environment is going to find it increasingly necessary to maximise the potential ‘social media currency’ of these hyper-connected consumers. It needs to facilitate the creation of UGC and then find inventive ways of rewarding brand loyalists for investing their time and sharing their personal databases. When done well the communication cuts to the core of what Millennials are looking for from brands.