TECHNOLOGY

Study: Gen Z craves ‘novelty’ and experience

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Generation Z shoppers share a love of real-world retail experiences, as long as they are augmented by technology.

Gen Z, also called the Instagram generation, lives by visuals and expects retailers to make experiences cool and aesthetic, show how products are used, and feature them in their best light. This requires their favorite brands to empower the use of mobile, the Web, and apps, according to “Gen Z Report,” from Criteo.

According to data, this generation has significant spending power, both online and off. The amount Gen Z spends across categories is strong, particularly in consumer electronics where they spend an average of $182 online, and $125 offline over a six-month period.

Gen Z values real-world retail for experience and discovery. While 75% prefer to do as much shopping as possible online, 80% look forward to shopping in-store when they have time. The retailers that ultimately win their loyalty offer personalized experiences, limited-edition merchandise, uncommon products, good-looking stores and authentic brand stories, according to the study.

Mobility is one technology that influences their shopping journey. In fact, Gen Z spends more time on their mobile devices than any other generation, clocking in 11 hours of mobile online access per week (not counting work and email). From TV shows and online videos to music and podcasts, Gen Z loves to watch and listen from the web. This group streams 23 hours of video content per week.

When it comes to the sources that are influencing purchase decisions, more than 50% of Gen Z indicated that retail websites and apps are more influential in the purchasing process than search, TV ads or online banner ads. Social media follows as a close second for influence.

Gen Z is also more likely to research merchandise online but buy in store, with 34% engaging in webrooming (research online, buy in-store) and 18% engaging in showrooming (see it in store, buy it online).

“Gen Z is at the forefront of the mobile commerce revolution, and represents a crucial opportunity for marketers as they develop lifelong brand loyalties,” said Jonathan Opdyke, chief strategy officer, Criteo.

“While specific shopping habits may vary, Gen Zers are native omnishoppers who like to visit stores but still prefer to take care of their shopping needs online,” he said. “In order to deliver a personalized experience on all touch-points, brands and retailers need to employ a data-driven approach to connect Gen Z customers with unique, on-trend products.”

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Amazon reportedly bolstering its investment in India

BY CSA Staff

Amazon is upping the ante when it comes to competing in India.

The online giant is stepping to up its investment in India by $2 billion, according to CNBC affiliate CNBC TV-18.

This capital is in addition to the $5 billion the company previously committed to operating in the emerging market, which is estimated to be worth $16 billion, according to the report.

The investment comes a month after Walmart gained a majority stake in Indian e-commerce retailer Flipkart — and beating out Amazon’s bid for the company.

To read more, click here.

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Commentary: Four Questions to Ask Before Venturing Into Vending

BY Tony Scherba

Forget everything you thought you knew about basement-banished vending machines selling Funyuns, Pop-Tarts, and maybe Snickers bars. Today, touch-screen interfaces, 3D-printing capabilities, and a host of other technological advancements make the vending industry ripe for disruption by creative companies.

The vending machine market is expected to hit nearly $12 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. Is there a limit to what retailers and brands can vend as a society? Maybe not — if we’re willing to ask ourselves four questions and then develop prototypes so people can tap, dip, or swipe their way to more than a Diet Coke.

Question 1: What could we vend?
The world is full of vend-worthy commodities. Clothing, makeup, earbuds, water bottles, backpacks, and plenty of similar articles could be bought from a machine. And with additive manufacturing, it’s possible to produce large and small 3D-printed necessities on demand, such as RESA Wearables’ on-site-made customized insoles.

Case in point: Benefit Cosmetics’ bright pink airport vending apparatuses are catching flyers’ attention — and dollars. So are Pharmashop-24’s machines in Milan that provide after-hours customers with diapers, over-the-counter medications, and more. Staying at a Standard Hotel but forgot your bikini? A Quiksilver vending machine outfitted with swimwear can be your salvation.

Don’t let your brainstorm be limited by the size of your product, though. Items as large as cars aren’t off-limits. Carvana, an online car dealership, is testing a “vending machine” that mixes kiosk technology with admittance to a five-story vending building. After purchasing a vehicle, buyers deposit a Carvana coin into the kiosk and wait for their new ride to arrive.

Question 2: How can we automate typical customer experiences to make them extraordinary?
Consider all the touch-points customers normally endure to buy your product. Which ones, from search to sale, can be automated without compromising your brand integrity or standard of service?

For example, we’ve been prototyping touch-screen vending technology for a major tech firm. Currently, it sells the would-be vended products only online, which excludes consumers who aren’t online and requires buyers to wait for their purchase to be delivered. While physical stores could’ve solved the problem, we realized that vending technology could provide the customer with a quicker and less expensive all-in-one experience around product research, purchase, and distribution.

In the fast-food space, McDonald’s is testing new ordering kiosks in select stores around the country. By offering digital menu boards, it’s helping customers personalize their orders and get their fries faster. While not true vending machines, these kiosks use the same approach to simplify ordering.

Question 3: How can we make a vending machine fit our retail brand?
Step out of the timeworn vending machine box. Instead, explore ideas that dovetail with your brand, use the same concept as classic vending models, and offer a modern appeal. Take a page from Spectacles, Snapchat’s high-tech sunglasses available from a one-eyed vending gadget that looks rather “2001: A Space Odyssey” — minus HAL 9000’s singing, of course.

Need another vending idea that engages consumers in a novel way? Meet Douwe Egberts’ South African coffee kiosk located at the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Embedded facial recognition software notices when customers yawn, and the kiosk rewards them with a free cup of joe. Clever? Definitely. Eye-opening? Literally.

Question 4: How can we maximize logistical and staff savings?
There isn’t much money to be made in vending bags of pretzels, but vending machines don’t have to be low-margin affairs. Premium vending experiences such as the aforementioned Spectacles are out there; you just have to wrap your mind around using the vending kiosk as a self-checkout to reduce human and systems costs.

For example, Let’s Pizza is an Italian invention that takes the bite out of common pizza-making costs. This vending gizmo whips up a custom pizza in under three minutes for waiting customers. At up to 100 pizzas per fill-up, the vending kiosk is more economical than paying a team to throw dough in the air.

Another high-tech, high-profit market entrant is ZaZZZ, a smart vending machine that sells American Green cannabis. Although it’s not yet ready to go public, the concept is straightforward: Make it easier and more discrete for people to buy pot. Certainly, the company faces some hurdles, including age-restricted sales and state-by-state marijuana laws. But ZaZZZ is certain it’s doable with specialized software.

Vending machines might have gathered some dust over the years, but they’re poised to become retail’s next big boom. In the meantime, settle for a snack from the one at the next rest stop you pull into, and ponder how these seemingly mundane machines will evolve.

Tony Scherba is the president and a founding partner of Yeti LLC, a product-focused development and design studio in San Francisco. Yeti has worked to develop large-format touch-screen projects, mobile applications, and software systems for clients such as Google, Westfield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Flextronics. 

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