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Retail and Generation Z: Keeping retail relevant
  • 26 June 2018
  • Tiffany C. Wright

Retail and Generation Z: Keeping retail relevant

Generation Z is made up of those born between 1995 and 2014. They are elementary school students, teens and tweens, and those starting into their early twenties. You might hear Gen Zers referred to as digital natives, never having known a world without Internet, without smartphones or without 24/7/365 access to information from anywhere. In the spirit of social media, these individuals are more collaborative than other generations and rely heavily on reviews and feedback from others to influence their decisions.

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It’s predicted that within the next year and a half, Generation Z will account for 20 percent of working adults. That equates to a lot of buying power! As a small business owner, how do you make sure your small business is primed to capture and win the attention of this up-and-coming audience?

Focus on convenience and reliability.

In today’s world that offers a variety of options to do pretty much any task, shoppers want a consistent experience, regardless of where they’re browsing and buying. That means that the experience you deliver in-store, online and across social media needs to be tightly synced. These potential customers expect a wide selection of product/service options, and they want to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

Tell a story.

With the popularity growing behind live video and social storytelling – think Instagram Stories and Facebook Live, younger generations are focused on their outward personal messaging. With the younger generation, they’re much less focused on status and branding, but rather the experience, the memory, the photo evidence of something worthwhile. As a retailer, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. How do they access, use, consume, etc. your products and services? How does what you offer impact their lives? Once you have a grasp on that – then you can tailor your messaging to help convey that narrative upfront.

Ramp up the engagement.

Generation Z has grown up on sharing information, adding commentary, posting reviews and creating short videos as a means of communication. These individuals are highly engaged, with their peers, instructors, coaches, teachers, bosses, etc. The digitally connected world facilitates this engagement, and these consumers expect the same from the businesses they interact with. As a small business retailer, you need to leverage today’s communication and marketing tools so that you can meaningfully engage with your current and target customers.

Craft interesting, funny, short videos that you can share online. With so much stimulation, it can be hard to hold a Generation Zer's attention. You want to keep in mind that audiences vary across the different social platforms. A YouTube viewer may watch a little longer (e.g., three minutes) than a Facebook user (e.g., a minute and a half), where a video on Twitter should be very brief (e.g., :15 to :30). Strive to deliver brief but highly engaging content.

If you sell clothing or other items that work well in photos, take pictures and post them regularly on Snapchat or Instagram. If you sell items that come across better in motion, such as remote-control cars, post 20-30 second videos of that action on Snapchat, Facebook or other social media sites. Perhaps you can share quick how-to videos, depending on the type of product or service that you offer.

As you share more and more of this type of content, be sure to monitor and listen to the commentary from your audience. Look for opportunities to pull them in, and be sure to interact and respond.

Consider a subscription service.

If you sell clothing, consider establishing a subscription service. According to Accenture, nearly 75% of Generation Z buyers want to buy via a subscription. Again, it is engagement that drives this preference. Subscription businesses tap into the highly valued personalized experience model – tailoring each order to an individual’s buying habits, preferences, size, etc. Think of a subscription service as the equivalent to a store employee that knows the name of each customer when they visit.

Deliver timely communication.

With younger folks carrying their phones all the time, they’re actually spending less time on the computer. Email lists may still work for Millennials, but text messaging is typically more effective for Generation Z. As you craft your marketing and communication strategy, be sure that it leverages the different social media, email marketing, and messaging tools that allow your customers to customize their preferences in how they want to receive communications and interact with you.

Get help from external resources.

If you come to a point where you get stuck, there are different tools and resources out there to help you execute your online and social media strategy. Through apps like Fiverr or Upwork, you can access freelance individuals who can help you with specific tasks – whether it’s creating video content or helping you with your digital marketing.

Need inspiration? Talk to the Generation Z individuals you know – your own children, nieces or nephews, or neighbors. What are they watching? What are they reading? Through your ad hoc market research, you may even find one to hire, in lieu of using Fiverr or similar site.

Use technology to integrate into the digital places they frequent.

If you’re not located in a thriving neighborhood or if you sell strictly online, you’ll need to get creative in order to capture the attention of your prospective customers. You need to understand where your target audience is in the digital space and find a way to insert yourself in a meaningful way. According to Accenture, YouTube is the primary go-to for shopping not only for Generation Z but also largely for Millennials. More and more users are purchasing goods through ads run on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Younger users want to be able to browse goods across an increasing number of channels.

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