Gen Z: Seven ways to win the next big consumer market and purchasing powerhouse

For good reason, retailers in recent years have sought to understand the shopping habits and preferences of the millennial generation. The oldest millennials, born in or after 1980, are now well into their thirties – and have certainly reached maturity as consumers. It’s now time to shift the focus and look at the next generation behind these millennials to see if they differ from their digital-savvy counterparts.  
 
If you think of everything that millennials have set the pace for change, think again. With the rise of mobile shopping and ongoing innovation in data analytics, it’s clear that the next generation of consumers – Gen Z who are those born after 1987 – will have some very different expectations, especially when it comes to digital shopping. 
 
Recent Accenture research – based on a survey of almost 10,000 consumers from 13 different countries (750 from the U.S.) – highlights a number interesting trends regarding Gen Z’s shopping habits and preferences.
 
What is this generation looking for? Here we outline seven ways that retailers can win their loyalty and a share of their wallets:
 
Fully embrace social media
With 72% of Gen Z consumers in the U.S. enthusiastic about purchasing directly from social media, retailers should do more to build up their brand presence on the leading platforms and channels. With Gen Z, videos and pictures are becoming more important than text for many younger shoppers. Retailers should also take note for where they are spending their time; 89% of Gen Z are regular users of YouTube while Facebook remains a firm favorite and Gen Z consumers are also more likely to be regular users of Instagram and Snapchat than their millennial counterparts.
 
Deliver new shopping methods
More than three-quarters of Gen Z shoppers (77%) say they like the sound of curated subscription-type offers for fashion. And significant numbers would shift more than half of their purchases to retailers that can offer automatic replenishment programs. At the same time, 45% of Gen Z shoppers are willing to try voice-activated ordering. Investing in these new shopping methods will enable retailers to capture market share among Gen Z.
 
Learn to influence in new ways
Gen Z consumers are more likely than any previous generation to make their purchases on the basis of recommendations from friends, family and fellow social media users, with many seeking out others’ views before buying. Retailers must be alive to this trend and ensure their brand has a presence on video channels such as YouTube.  It will also be crucial to develop sophisticated social listening tools that provide data on what potential influencers are saying about brands.
 
Indulge impulsiveness
Gen Z consumers are inclined towards impulsiveness. They often make purchases because they randomly see something that captures their imagination or receive a recommendation from those within their influencer circles. They also want purchases delivered at speed – 68% would pay more than $5 for one-hour deliveries. This impulsiveness offers retailers new opportunities: to develop experiences and tell stories that pique shoppers’ interest, and to invest in fulfilment to add value.
 
Don’t overlook the physical store experience
As digital channels proliferate, retailers need to stay focused on their brick and mortar channel to woo Gen Z shoppers.  Our research found that 77% of Gen Z shoppers still prefer making purchases in-store. The challenge for retailers is to reimagine and reinvent their stores and to focus on the experiences that extend their brand. This may mean providing shoppers with an interactive and hyper-personalized experience or giving sales assistants tools to enhance the sales process.
 
Invest in making the brand stand out
Gen Z has yet to form its loyalties – just 5% shop at a single store for fashion and only 26% frequent one particular health and beauty retailer. These figures are notably lower than for older millennial generation shoppers. Fickle Gen Z shoppers provide an opportunity for retailers or brands. Those that wow Gen Z’s with exciting store or digital experiences could become their go-to for the future. 
 
Keep it local
We may be increasingly globally connected, but Gen Z has characteristics that certainly differ by market and country. In China, shoppers are more likely than elsewhere to shop online and leverage social media. In Europe, Swedish shoppers are almost twice as willing to buy direct from social media as the global average. Retailers will need to hone their approach to each market according to local attitudes and preferences.
 
One lesson from the last few decades has been that consumer behavior and preferences evolve extremely rapidly. Keeping up with the latest trends – especially when it comes to technology adoption – is a huge challenge for retailers. Retailers need to continually rethink and redesign their offerings to satisfy ‘Gen Z’ or risk losing market share as these consumers come of age.
 
The good news is that shoppers born after 1997 have increasing purchasing power. They are open to trying new things and shopping in new ways and in new channels. The question is: Is your brand where they are?
 
Jill Standish is senior managing director of retail at Accenture.
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