The digital natives are restless

By 2020, the world’s population is estimated to be composed of up to 2.6 billion Gen Zs (anyone born from the mid-1990s onward). This Gen is the first of the digital natives: people raised in an era of high-speed internet and sophisticated digital devices.

So what does that mean for their shopping preferences? Given their proclivity for mobile, content and discretionary spending, retailers might be forgiven for thinking that switching to an always-on model might be the way forward… however, that does not appear to be the right approach at this moment.

Recent reports from KPMG and IBM and the National Retail Federation in the US revealed shoppers aged 35 and over buy online more frequently than their Millennial and Generation Z counterparts.

The IBM study of 15,000 Gen Z consumers from 16 countries showed that 98 per cent of Gen Z makes in-store purchases.

According to Erica Stewart, owner of online-only retailer Hardtofind, these results aren’t all that surprising. She says the findings are attributable to various lifestyle factors.

“Life stage and wealth plays a big part, with Gen X enjoying higher incomes. They’re at peak career ages, they own their own homes and they’re incredibly busy – Gen X are more likely to be juggling work with home and kids, and therefore, looking for convenience wherever they can find it.”

While Stewart certainly acknowledges the findings (Gen X and Baby Boomers are her most profitable customers, namely women aged 25 – 44), they aren’t entirely consistent with her experience.

“Gen Z tend to have more leisure time, so shopping in-store is something they have time for and enjoy doing. However, despite the research, we’ve seen a 57 per cent y-o-y increase of Gen Z shoppers on Hardtofind and a 30 per cent increase in millennials, and they’re spending more than ever,” she says.

Stewart chalks up the increase to her focus on mobile UX. “When Millennials and Gen Z do shop online, they shop from their mobiles, so technology plays a big part – Gen Z want the latest digital advances. There’s a lot that can be done tech-wise to make the online shopping experience more personalised and interactive, such as product recommendations based on a customer’s browsing and purchasing history, or adding elements of gamification and interactivity.”

For those who aren’t at the forefront of tech, don’t worry, it’s not time to panic. Stewart maintains it’s crucial to get the basics right, no matter which demographic you’re targeting.”
“Whether your business is big or small, I don’t think the fundamentals of good retail need to change to attract the younger generations. Brand, curation, a positive shopping experience, and good customer service will always win,” she says, adding, “It is important for retailers to stay focused on technology however, particularly mobile. And from a marketing perspective, social media is king for Millennials and Gen Z.”

Erica Stewart, Owner, Hardtofind