Headspace: Gen Z & the pursuit of a human touch
by Tenielle Maris. There is a new wave of shoppers who’ve entered the retail landscape, bringing a new set of beliefs, experiences and behaviour along with them: Gen Z. They’re the digitally native generation who’ve never known what it means to be without technology, and the instant gratification and access to information that comes along with it. They are embracing new ways of shopping directly from visual, social platforms (including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat) and retailers had better keep up with this formidable force of shoppers driving household shopping decisions.
A recent IBM study, which surveyed 15 000 respondents in 16 countries, revealed that as much as Gen Z is shaping the retail landscape — with how they instinctually turn to their mobile devices to conduct research while standing in-store, to receive advice from family and friends and to make final purchases — 67% still prefer to purchase in-store, wanting to touch and try before they buy.
With ecommerce growing faster than any other business sector, and the impending mall apocalypse on the horizon, the value proposition for bricks and mortar needs to evolve if those businesses plan on enticing young shoppers to spend time in their stores. Beyond simply placing interactive tech in-store, retailers need to offer them an experience that compliments both their shopping behaviour and their lifestyles.
Next level sophistication
Gen Z’s engrained digital behavior, coupled with their experience-hungry mindset, makes them arguably one of the most-sophisticated and -complex consumer groups in history: they demand hyper-efficient online retail and curated experiences in physical stores simultaneously.
To add to this dynamic, Gen Z is a far less trusting generation than others, making them more cautious spenders and more likely to trust the advice of influential individuals, rather than big institutions. The implication is that brands need to ensure that each human touchpoint along their customer journey (from store assistants to influencers on social media) is able to deliver the type of customer service and brand experience that will keep them coming back time and time again (if not, you’ll be tossed aside for a smarter and shinier alternative).
Apple’s new and larger stores have been designed to represent “town squares”, complete with 24-hour wifi, trees and bright and airy spaces where shoppers are able to gather, connect and learn with the option to engage with new Apple gear.
Both Nike and Adidas have also launched concept stores as innovation labs to serve their customers in new ways: immersing those customers in the world of pro-athletes and giving them the platform to engage with complimentary apparel, if they so desire.
By understanding that the shopping experience is so much more than pure consumerism, this evolution of retail immerses shoppers in brand worlds where education and experience are at the forefront. The result? An intuitive retail experience that integrates the brand in a personal, authentic and unobtrusive way.
Getting it right
Brands and retailers cannot ignore the importance of the role of the in-store environment, especially for a generation who expect the world to be filled with seamlessly integrated, curated and share-worthy experiences.
What this means for forward-thinking retailers is that they need to continuously succeed at creating personalised, visual and interactive representations of brand worlds if they hope to serve this always-on, mobile-focused and high-spending demographic. Most importantly, they need to be one step ahead of the game if they plan on keeping their doors open — proactively thinking of new ways to innovate and disrupt the norm.
- Flux Trends
Tenielle Maris is strategic director at TTL agency, 34°, in Johannesburg. Beginning her career in branding and communications, she has spent the last decade in the marketing industry where she has worked upon big brands spanning the African continent. Having found her passion in understanding what drives human beings to connect with particular brands, her time is spent getting up close and personal with the people whom brands are trying to connect with. Tenielle contributes the monthly “Headspace” column, which unpacks anything and everything that helps marketers and advertisers understand why people connect with brands, to MarkLives.com.