Millennials have been one of the most analyzed and influential generations in recent history – everything from their impact on the economy to their technology habits have been dissected and talked about. The succeeding generation of people born after 1996, Gen Z, may have an even bigger impact, and brick and mortar retailers stand to reap the benefits.
Research from the IBM Institute of Business Value and the National Retail Federation (NRF) shows that 67% of Gen Z shoppers do most of their shopping in-person at a retail store. In other words, 3x as many Gen Zers prefer a brick and mortar store as compared to online shopping.
This fact should make brick and mortar retailers rejoice. However, the truth behind Gen Z shopping behavior is far more complex, and in the end Gen Z shoppers demand more from the retail experience than ever before.
Gen Z Shopping Behavior and Brick and Mortar Retail
Gen Z shoppers have higher expectations for retailers than any other generation. They have little patience for unmet expectations, especially in terms of the in-store experience, and are quick to share on social media. Gen Zers like to be catered to. In fact, the NRF states that Gen Z shoppers even prefer to be a part of the product creation process and are willing to share suggestions for product improvements.
Predictably, Gen Z shoppers are digitally-savvy. They’ve grown up with technology as a central part of their lives, and they expect retailers to give them a technology-enabled experience. While shopping in a store, 52% of Gen Zers look up products at other stores to check prices, and 53% check for out of stock items in case there’s something they want more than what’s available in the store.
Gen Z shopping behavior may be different from what most brick and mortar retailers are accustomed to. In order to capitalize on the growing spending power of Gen Z shoppers and their penchant for shopping in-stores, brick and mortar retailers will have to cater to their demands.
How Brick and Mortar Retailers are Accommodating Gen Z Shoppers
Some of the more innovative brick and mortar retailers are beginning to adapt to the demands of Gen Z shoppers. First and foremost, technology is often a central component of adapting to Gen Z shoppers. Sephora, recently named a favorite Gen Z brand in a Goldman Sachs and Conde Nast study, may be one of the best examples of this.
Sephora leverages a highly unique augmented reality (AR) mobile app that allows people to virtually try on make up in the comfort of their own home. This also allows them to find the perfect shade and try newer, more daring combinations.
But beyond mobile apps, brick and mortar retailers have to leverage technology in other ways. Point of sale (POS) systems are an often overlooked source of potential innovation – Amazon has shown just how radical this can be with their cashier-less grocery stores. Retailers can also offer real-time inventory levels online to help merge physical and digital channels for a better, multi-channel experience.
Social media is a heavily influential technology in the lives of Gen Z shoppers and it can be a powerful way to engage this generation. Wholesome Culture, a small fashion outlet with a strong core value of sustainability, leverages social media in ingenious ways. Their audience is largely vegan or vegetarian and Wholesome Culture caters to this by posting new recipes, popular animal memes and environmental causes. Additionally, they post potential new products and let followers voice their opinions on the product.
By jumping off of pop culture trends in their posts, integrating their core values into their messaging, and focusing on community building, Wholesome Culture has found a winning Gen Z strategy.
Innovative brick and mortar retailers are finding many different ways to engage Gen Z shoppers, but the solution often involves the implementation of some new type of technology that engages the shopper or streamlines the shopping experience.
Gen Z shoppers are different than Millennials or any other generation before them. They demand more and brick and mortar retailers have to step up to accommodate their needs.
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