Since the breakthrough of technology, Millennials have changed the way retailers must accommodate shopping patterns. However, as “digital natives” Gen Z shoppers are creating an even bigger impact and challenge for retailers to provide the desired retail experience. Although Gen Z’s are typically thought of to be heavily reliant on technology, their shopping habits are not what you may expect.
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While it may seem like e-commerce is the perfect fit for Gen Z shoppers due to their high technology usage, quite the opposite is true. Though most, if not all of Gen Z consumers are comfortable with online shipping, many still believe in the importance an in-store experience has on the shopping journey. A recent IBM study suggests that 98 percent of Gen Z shoppers prefer to shop in a physical store some or most of the time. Now this is not to say Gen Z shoppers don’t still want to use technology within their shopping experience, however many prefer this technology to be built into their in-store experience. With the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, retailers are beginning to overcome this challenge Gen Z consumers have created through integrated experiences which help eliminate friction points. So, what does this mean? Retailers must find a way to create an interactive consumer experience through all of their market channels, including physical locations.
This generation of new shoppers has created a new “normal” called Omnichannel Marketing. From researching and evaluating alternatives, to making a purchase decision and getting a strong post purchase experience, Gen Z consumers are looking for an integrated, interactive experience throughout their entire shopping journey. Successful omnichannel marketing will have all marketing channels integrated and unified, where the same message is being communicated throughout each layer. A common desire of Gen Z shoppers is convenience. Omnichannel marketing fulfills this want by allowing consumers to seamlessly “channel hop”. Consumers are commonly in a store while looking up product reviews on their mobile devices or browsing a website on their desktop while comparing competitors’ prices on their phone. While integration through all channels can be a costly and time-consuming investment, it is becoming essential to create a seamless retail experience for consumers.
Now that we know the importance of omnichannel marketing, let’s take a look at top Gen Z companies who are executing this very well:
There are three ways Nordstrom utilizes omnichannel marketing. The first being through social media. Every product picture posted on Nordstrom’s Instagram and Pinterest account has a button that takes viewers to the exact page on their website once clicked on. This eliminates the steps, as consumers see a product they like on social media, and then have to search the Nordstrom website to find that product. This method acts as a win-win method for both parties as consumers avoid the inconvenience of having to search for the product themselves, and Nordstrom will see an increase of traffic to their website ultimately leading to an increase in sales. The next way Nordstrom creates an integrated shopping experience is through ease of accessibility to staff members. Through Nordstrom’s website, consumers can book an in-store appointment or chat online with a personal stylist free of charge. This added bonus is another way Nordstrom communicates their brand quality service and builds strong customer relationships. The final way Nordstrom has used omnichannel marketing is by offering their loyalty program through all shopping channels, allowing customers to get rewards when shopping online or in-store. Nordstrom has done an outstanding job of appealing to what Gen Z consumers want by creating a seamless shopping experience from start to finish.
Sephora has been extremely successful in connecting with Gen Z consumers by integrating in-store Augmented Reality while still keeping the personalized touch of human interaction. AR has been implemented in many Sephora stores allowing shoppers to virtually try on various make up products. With this new innovation Sephora has been careful to still maintain quality service through in-store beauty stylists who offer complementary makeovers and beauty workshops. Another experience offered to shoppers is a virtual “My Beauty Bag” which tracks in-store and online purchases, a customer’s favorite products, rewards and more. This can be used by shoppers anywhere, and at any time, as it is easily accessible on any mobile device. The integration of interactive in-store experiences and an easily accessibly “shopping bag” clearly gives Gen Z shoppers the experience they expect.
What does the future look like?
With the increasing use of technology in retail, it is difficult to know what future Gen Z expectations will be. It is safe to say that creating a seamless experience should continue to be a priority for all retailers. Ultimately, an integrated shopping journey with the elimination of friction points will create a memorable customer experience that will foster Gen Z loyalty. While previously, companies put heavy investment into how they can drive sales of their products, it is becoming more of a necessity for brands to sell experiences instead. Customers want to walk into a store and instantly feel immersed in the retailer’s brand and message. With technology at retailers’ fingertips, the possibilities for creating a riveting shopping experience are endless.