Gen Z still shops in store but has high expectations for mobile integration and personalization

Much has been made of Gen Z’s preference for the experience of brick-and-mortar shopping but a recent study from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the IBM Institute for Business Value suggests that retailers who fail to integrate their online and mobile services with their physical stores may still be missing the mark with this key demographic.


Brandy Melville ranks consistently as one of the top brands among Gen Zers - Instagram: @brandymelvilleusa
 
“What do Gen Z shoppers really want?” surveyed 15,600 consumers between the ages of 13 and 21 in 16 different countries around the world, including both mature markets – such as the US, the UK and Japan – and growth markets, such as Brazil, India and China.
 
The study found that 67% of Gen Zers said that they shopped in a store “most of the time”, three times more than those who claimed to shop online with the same frequency (22%), a preference which has already been well documented, notably by an Accenture report published in March 2017, which found that 60% of Gen-Z consumers surveyed around the world favored physical stores.

However, the Accenture report also predicted that purchases made directly through social media channels would come to dominate the shopping habits of Gen Zers, and while the new NRF and IBM study agrees on the importance of these online and mobile platforms, it is not as retail channels in and of themselves.
 
Indeed, this new report seems to suggest that Gen Z is more interested in leveraging digital and social technologies to create a more cohesive and convenient in-store experience. 52% of respondents, for example, said they use smartphones when shopping in stores to compare the price of products in other retailers, while 51% said they use them to hunt down a coupon, discount or promotion.
 
A further 73% claimed to use their phones for interacting on social media while in store, with 47% using these platforms to tell family and friends where they are shopping, and 46% sending messages or photos asking for advice on which products to buy.
 
Harnessing these interactions could be an interesting path for retailers seeking to attract Gen-Z shoppers to explore, but the report also warns against investing in “technology for technology’s sake”: “Rather than buying into fancy features and gadgetry, Gen Zers prefer technology that empowers them and adds direct value. Brands need to carefully consider this when investing in existing and new technology that provides the value and convenience Gen Zers desire,” it advises.
 
And Gen Z is also very demanding about how well these technologies function and connect with each other. 51% of those surveyed said that being able to switch easily between platforms was important to them, while 62% stated that they would not use apps that load slowly, and 60% said they refused to use apps or other online platforms which are difficult to navigate.
 
When asked what shopping technologies they would like to see explored in the future, respondents overwhelmingly favored services improving convenience or offering product customization: 54% said they would like to see tools that would allow them to try things on in store, while 48% hoped to see the development of technology that would allow them to customize products for themselves and 42% wanted to be able to design unique products to be 3D printed on site.
 
This desire for personalization also plays an important role in Gen Zers’ expectations for service, particularly in growth markets, where 54% of respondents valued a personalized shopping experience, compared to 43% in mature markets.
 
Interestingly enough, 54% of Gen Zers in growth markets said they felt comfortable sharing their personal data with companies in order to ensure a customized brand experience, a figure which slips to 41% in mature markets. However, the number rises to 61% across all markets when respondents were assured that their data would be properly protected, and 54% of everyone surveyed also expressed a desire to have control over the information they share.
 
In sum, Gen Zers are tech-savvy consumers with real concerns about online security and high expectations for the quality of the digital platforms they use. Retailers would do well to invest in technologies that enhance and personalize the in-store experience for these shoppers that still carry out the majority of their purchases in brick-and-mortar locations. They should not, however, expect them to be fooled by gimmicky gadgetry or second-rate attempts at token inter-platform integration.
 
The full “What do Gen Z shoppers really want?” is available for download on the NRF’s website.

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