News flash…the oldest members of Generation Z are joining the workforce. This means that – in the blink of an eye – Gen Z-ers will be making purchasing decisions, as well as determining the overall retail landscape. In fact, Forbes reports that Gen Z already has around 143 billion in buying power and will make up the largest demographic of consumers in just a few years. It’s time for retailers of all sizes to start putting in the effort to understand these discerning young shoppers, and to position their companies to better align with Gen Z’s unique values and preferences.
Here are 5 takeaways that you probably didn’t know about Generation Z’s path-to-purchase, along with what you can do to influence their shopping behavior.
Reviews Are (Almost) Everything
All commerce is social commerce for next generation shoppers. The ability to share their experience with a brand and/or to read about experiences others had with the same company is of utmost importance to Gen Z – and the ability to review purchases will remain important as next-gen customers come into their own in terms of spending power. According to RetailDive, “Outside of a need or a want, user reviews ranked the highest among 18-24 year-olds for which factors influence their buying habits – and the same trend followed for 25-34 year-olds.” As a result, enabling customer reviews is one of the most important (yet cost effective) measures you can take to encourage Gen Z (and Millennial) customers to have a social shopping experience with your brand.
Counter-Culture Influences Spending
To find out what truly influences Gen Z’s purchasing behavior, you need to look beyond the expected sources. Counter-culture is a prime motivator for young customers, as there’s a premium on being the first to know a specific trend or product. As Steph Wissink, Managing Director & Consumer Research Analyst at Jeffries, told Forbes, “Gen Zers represent the tech-natives in their household but we find Gen Zers are equally looked to for anything/product categories most inspired by youth culture. These are oftentimes the products and services that are experiencing counter-cultural changes to the standing normalities – aka the disruptors…” But buyer beware: Gen Z customers are pros at sniffing out inauthenticity, hashtagging it (#LOL!), and then making it go viral on social media. (Hello, Pepsi/Kendall Jenner.) So, unless you want to be a #POSER, only identify your company with causes and cultures that actually align with your brand.
Social Commerce Trumps Loyalty
As we discussed in point #1, bouncing product and style ideas off of their peers is a key touchpoint along Gen Z’s path-to-purchase. In fact, Adweek refers to Gen Z’s purchasing behavior a “kudos economy,” since social capitaland peer validationare more important to this demographic than the traditional methods to generate customer loyalty, including points-based rewards systems and tiered rewards status. Adweek also reports, “Brand loyalty for Gen Z is less about a ‘program’ and more about how the brand experience aligns directly with their lives.” In other words, creating opportunities for customers to come together around your brand, such as online forums and user-generated content will play more of a factor in gaining Gen Z customer loyalty than traditional loyalty programs.
A Preference for Ownership
Here’s some good news for retailers: ownership is back. Gen Z prefers owning to leasing and is always on the lookout for a hands-on experience. According to MediaPost, “Gen Z has a sense of pride in ownership. Rather than rent, lease or take an Uber around town, this demo wants to own a car and eventually a home.” So, when Gen Z decides to make a purchase – whether that purchase is a new car, a music download, or a set of false eyelashes – hands-on experiences continue to set brands apart. This bodes well for those who make a living selling 3-dimensional products that you can hold in your hand. If your store presence is physical, digital, or a combination of the two, you can rest assured that Gen Z values good, old-fashioned products over the rental economy brought about by their Millennial predecessors.
Corporate Values Still a Priority
Generation Z is, in many ways, a very different demographic than Millennials. However, the generations do share one core purchasing behavior: the preference to shop with brands with values which align with their own. WWD reports that Generation Z “is always ‘on’ and they expect everything to be available in seconds. Marketers who consistently provide value and relevancy in their messaging, and their corporate actions, will earn Gen Z’s respect and dollars.” In other words, corporate social responsibility is not a one-and-done proposition for Gen Z shoppers, but rather an ongoing focus that needs to be reflected in your brand’s messaging, online and physical presence.
Above all else, be authentic when marketing to Generation Z customers. Authenticity cuts through all of the marketing noise and makes a brand memorable… no matter how competitive your particular niche of the industry may be. Make your brand a platform for Gen Z to be their subversive, hyper-social selves and you’ll win their engagement (and their long-term business).
Take advantage of ASD Market Week’s 90+ free retail strategy sessions this July 29-August 1, 2018 in Las Vegas.
By Jasmine Glasheen, RetailMinded.com