What do Gen Z shoppers really want?

by Warren Richmond | CEO Situ Live

May 27, 2021

Generation Z (those born between the mid-1990's to mid-2010’s) are the first generation of true digital natives, having witnessed the explosion of the internet, social media, and mobile networks from a young age. While they share some characteristics with Millennials, their diverse and digital upbringing has led to key differences in attitudes, inclinations, and outlook.

Their consumption patterns reflect their values. They favour community and authenticity, often relying on their tech savvy social networks to help them make informed purchases. They are shrewd consumers who favour personalisation and are drawn to brands that share their stance on political or environmental issues.

Retail as therapy

Given their digital upbringing, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Gen Z would always favour online experiences and digital convenience. But recent studies have shown that they still value the brick-and-mortar experience for all phases of the shopper journey.

According to a recent Kearney study, 73 percent said they used in-store for discovering products; 65 percent liked in-store for trial; and a 81 percent like to purchase in-store.

Being born into a world of peak technological innovation, Gen Z are hyperconnected—able to extract data from an abundance of sources and integrate between digital and offline experiences. But over-exposure to the digital world has its negative effects, with too much screen time known to compound feelings of anxiety and isolation.

Compared to Millennials and Gen X, members of Gen Z are more concerned about their mental health, reporting higher stress responses to both the news and social media. These concerns are shaping how they shop, and they are increasingly turning to physical retail as an opportunity to digitally detox and destress. They are craving real-life immersive experiences as respite from the growing screen time fatigue.

Craving curated experiences

When you have so much information at your fingertips, it can be overwhelming. In fact, psychologist Barry Schwartz believes that having too much choice negatively impacts decision making—a phenomenon known as “choice paralysis”. 

Initially more options lead to more satisfaction, but as the number of choices increase it soon peaks and people feel increased pressure, confusion, and potentially dissatisfaction with their choice. That’s why Gen Z prefer retail venues where the items and services offered are carefully curated.

To cater for this demographic, retailers need to prioritise the in-store experience, investing in their merchandising capabilities and recruiting competent, motivated staff. It’s also worth noting that Gen Z are unimpressed by unengaging, minimalist store displays, preferring to seek out one-of-a-kind immersive experiences which help them expand their horizons.

Exceptional customer experience is key, as Gen Z are far more sensitive to sub-par shopping experiences and will rarely tolerate poor service. And when you consider the potential lifetime value of a Gen Z consumer to a brand, it is critical to deliver the best experience, first time.

The experiential revolution

So, what does this mean for brands and retailers?

Gen Z are the next generation of retail consumers, so it is important take these factors into account if you want to attract and retain a loyal following of Gen Z fans. Given their fondness for physical stores and pent-up demand for live, meaningful experiences, it has never been more important to have a presence in brick-and-mortar retail.

That said, to gain traction with this group, brands and retailers need to be acting with purpose and adding true value to the customer experience. Gen Z are looking for authenticity, often preferring “real” people in adverts compared to celebrities.

Retailers need to be digitally minded, offering charging outlets and providing an option to pay online—this alleviates any frustration Gen Z may have with queuing.

The high street needs an injection of inspiration

So, we’re reimagining the in-store experience for a new era. Situ Live is a multi-brand destination where consumers can fully immerse themselves in the products on display.

Our first venue at Westfield London will play host to live demonstrations and immersive storytelling featuring a world-class collection of innovative brands. It will provide customers with the chance to experience products before deciding to purchase them online using a QR code.