How Retailers Can Better Engage and Sell to Gen Z Shoppers
Amidst the sea of struggling retailers, a few brands stand out as industry leaders when it comes to effectively engaging and selling to Gen Z shoppers. These retailers include Supreme NYC (streetwear), GameStop (video games and consumer electronics), and NTWRK (home shopping). They each have one key strategy in common that's winning the hearts and wallets of today’s youth culture: they create a sense of belonging for shoppers.
Each retailer brings Gen Z together in unique ways that are relevant to their targeted young audiences while staying true to its business model. For example, Supreme has done away with outmoded seasonal product releases, and “drops” (launches) new products or smaller, limited-quantity collections every Thursday. This approach drives demand that creates long lines outside of its store, where young people gather in hopes of getting the latest products before they're sold out. However, the true genius behind this strategy is that the experience of waiting in line itself builds a strong community of passionate fans, who look forward to connecting with other like-minded peers. The brand’s appeal goes far beyond its physical store, however. The exclusivity of the products has fostered a new economy of Gen Z resellers, who sell or trade Supreme items online after they're no longer available. It works because the strategy is as much about creating a deeper connection and elevating the status of shoppers as it is about the retailer making money.
At GameStop, it’s an entirely different strategy to engage and sell to Gen Z shoppers. This national video game retailer builds a strong sense of community by employing incredibly knowledgeable staff known as “associates,” who are authentic experts in the field (many are rising eSports players themselves). The associates create a powerful comfort level among parent buyers, who are often disconnected from the latest gaming trends, products and technologies. It’s also worthy to mention that GameStop has remained nimble enough to pivot into collectibles and other must-have products, which are popular among Gen Z and many multigenerational fandoms.
The latest retailer to step in and get it right when it comes to engaging Gen Z shoppers is a drops-driven QVC-like shopping network for the YouTube generation. The company is called NTWRK, and features daily content segments focused on e-commerce sales hosted by creators, musicians and other pop culture figures. NTWRK's strategy is to create the next wave of video commerce: a mobile-first, home shopping experience that brings curated styles from big personalities directly to consumers. Young shoppers typically want the most exclusive products, content and experiences, yet gaining access can often be a serious challenge. NTWRK is dedicated to making exclusivity more accessible. The first content released was a shopping show hosted by youth culture icons DJ Khaled and Sean Andre. NTWRK is now partnering with top brands in fashion, tech, sneakers, toys and collectibles.
5 Engagement Considerations for Retailers Targeting Gen Z
- The world is a fast-growing global generation. Look to emerging geographic markets such as Nigeria, Southeast Asia, and Mexico for opportunities to reach some of the largest audiences of Gen Z shoppers.
- Practice good storytelling. In a world where the greatest prize is attention, content must capture young shoppers’ attention and inspire them to participate and take action. Don’t take Gen Z for granted; they expect authenticity and will quickly see through any lack of relevance.
- Create retail experiences that elevate a young shopper’s status. Create content and real-world experiences that positively showcase the coolest, most meaningful and original things you're doing as a brand. This provides young shoppers a currency that can be leveraged to elevate their status.
- Be where they are; build a presence on emerging social platforms. YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are among the top social channels for engaging Gen Z. However, the algorithms work against everyone — including retailers trying to reach young shoppers. Consider opportunities to be a “big fish in a small pond” by establishing a presence on fast-growing social platforms like Twitch, Discord, TikTok, and YouNow. You’ll reach millions, and with less algorithm resistance.
- Future-proof your retail business and embrace the conversational economy. Start developing strategies that use chatbots to create two-way conversations with young shoppers. Focus your efforts on channels those customers are already comfortable using.
Gregg L. Witt is a renowned youth marketing strategist and generational expert, author and public speaker. He has spent 17 years in consumer insights, media and youth marketing, and is currently chief strategy officer of Engage Youth Co. He co-authors the insightful new book, "The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In and Build Credibility," now available from Amazon and other retailers. Visit www.thinkwithwitt.com.
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Gregg L. Witt is a renowned youth marketing strategist and generational expert, author and public speaker. He has spent 17 years in consumer insights, media and youth marketing and is currently Chief Strategy Officer of Engage Youth Co. He co-authors the insightful new book, The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In and Build Credibility—now available from Amazon and other retailers. Visit www.thinkwithwitt.com.