Retailers’ primary focus used to be well-off baby boomers—not anymore. More than ever, many have shifted their efforts to attract younger generations of shoppers. And while Millennials have been the target consumer in recent years, the landscape is again changing with Gen Z now central to retail strategies.
Generation Z consists of those born between 1995 and 2005. With 60 million Gen Z’ers living in the U.S. today, numerous industries are attempting to understand their unique experiences and needs. As one of the industries most affected by this generational shift, retail is having to make some adjustments of its own. Here are three ways Gen Z is influencing the industry—and how retailers can adapt for continued success.
An increase in social presence
Today, social media seems to influence everything from politics to what we cook for dinner. How is it impacting retail? Well, a recent study uncovered that 80 percent of purchases made by Gen Z’ers are influenced by a retailer’s presence on social media—particularly on Instagram. Given the access to mobile Gen Z is accustomed to, digital advertising and online engagement have become key to retail prosperity.
A shift in online shopping
While it’s no secret that younger consumers prefer shopping online rather than in-store, Gen Z has introduced a slight shift in behavior. Millennials have largely been content with traditional online purchasing: point, click, buy; but Gen Z shoppers place more importance on the total experience, like the speed of their delivery, opportunities to provide feedback, and a visually appealing online dashboard. With online retail giants like Amazon changing the game, Gen Z’s expectations have increased—and retailers can no longer get away with a two-week delivery window or basic web design.
A move toward social responsibility
While many may or may not be familiar with recent retail scandals, Gen Z is tuned in. From Nike’s reported sweatshop production to Sketchers’ allegedly false claims about the health benefits of body-sculpting shoes, Gen Z’ers are aware of these cases and have grounded themselves in the belief that companies have moral and ethical obligations. Many retailers have taken notice of this trend and invested numerous hours and funding to connect their brand with socially responsible initiatives that are important to this target audience. These efforts often come in the form of charitable giving, clear messaging on social media and online platforms, and brand transparency.
Patagonia is a perfect example. Knowing their target audience is environmentally conscious, the outdoor apparel retailer performed an ecological survey of every business function to highlight the fact that their products and practices are safe for the environment.
Currently, the oldest Gen Z’ers are just 24 years old, which means they’ll be influencing industries like retail for decades. To keep their businesses thriving, retailers will have to strategize and make conscious efforts to adapt to the needs of Gen Z. Starting with a focus on social responsibility, revamped online platforms, and a strong mobile presence can help solidify that critical Gen Z customer base.
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