Good retailers are all about nurturing. If you’re doing it right, you’re perpetually taking care of the customers you have — even as you look to the future to attract and nurture the next generation of consumers. However, for many long-established physical retailers, built for an era that no longer exists, it can feel challenging to reach the new generations of digital natives.
Or is it as hard as it seems?
Our new research says maybe not. Reaching the up-and-coming Generation Z (ages 18-24) might be easier than conventional wisdom would suggest. And it’s fairly urgent, given that 53 percent of Gen Z consumers shop in retail stores at least once a week, and the National Retail Federation estimates they hold $44 billion in buying power. Talk about a tremendous opportunity for retailers to attract and engage with a new set of customers. Here’s what we know.
Make That Connection
This might seem counterintuitive for a generation so digitally adept that will likely invent the next Facebook, Snap and Reddit, but 66 percent say they want to check out things in person — to hold, touch, see and feel — before buying. And 28 percent want to talk to a store associate (incidentally, the most of any generation, including millennials and baby boomers). That tells us that Gen Z is interested in a connection, whether it’s with the product or through that personal touch with a knowledgeable salesperson.
Which retailer does it well: Nordstrom, of course, has always had a sterling reputation for amazing service, from personal stylists who cheerfully curate outfits to a generous return policy to free on-site tailoring. However, a recent index on consumer satisfaction shows Dillard’s is holding the No. 1 spot right now.
Hunters or Gatherers?
No need to choose: Gen Z is both. Influenced by digital touchpoints — social media, email, websites — members of Generation Z use online sources to hunt down what they want. However, they reap the actual reward by purchasing in-store. What does that mean? The smart play is to showcase what you offer through a digital channel that entices them into the store to actually buy (because just 47 percent like to browse and 31 percent think it’s hard to find items in a physical store). For example, think about hosting YouTube beauty vloggers on your channel to do some tutorials with the launch of a new product line.
Which retailer does it well: Shop Jeen, founded by a millennial, gets props for its quirky offerings and heavy Instagram presence, according to one study. That’s a smart play because our research showed 45 percent of Gen Z uses Instagram to find cool new products. On the luxury brand size, Kate Spade and Michael Kors resonate.
It’s All About Me
More than any other generation, 26 percent of Gen Z shoppers expect some level of personalization that shapes the shopping experience based on their habits and preferences. Winning the hearts, minds and wallets of Generation Z means thinking carefully about how to blend that personal touch into an experience that feels authentic and on point. Retailers should avoid falling victim to the “cool dad” syndrome (you know, trying too hard to speak the lingo) and own what makes them unique. This is a no-BS group, and at the faintest whiff of "trying too hard," they’re out of there.
Which retailer does it well: Sephora is setting the bar high here. It has a beautiful app that’s highly functional and fun to use (for example, you can take a selfie and “try on” lipstick colors). As an additional check in the win column, the in-person sales process is also great — it feels consultative in nature, like the associates just want to help you look and feel your best. It seems likely that Sephora deploys it CRM in a way that aggregates customer interactions across touchpoints to be as useful as possible. To me, that feels like the company emphasizes building long-term relationships in lieu of a transactional approach that prizes wringing every dollar from a customer.
How are you thinking about reaching Generation Z?
Brent Franson is the CEO of Euclid Analytics, a provider of insights and attribution for the physical retail world..