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What Generation Z expects from the online retail experience

By: Dave Brewis

If you think you’ve begun to understand Millennials, then good news — there’s another generation of shoppers to get your head around. Generation Z (defined loosely as those born after 1995) are digital natives with their own preferences, own habits, and increasing spending power.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to accommodate the needs of Generation Z in your ecommerce offering.

Read on to learn how to cater to Generation Z in online retail.

The new kids on the block

Boys with phones

Customer behaviours are changing. In a mobile-first world, customers are more connected and demanding. Some of the best-known, longest-surviving brands on the high street are struggling, while significant momentum gathers for digitally-native, online-only brands and fast fashion disrupters.

The changes facing retail are manifestly represented by the behaviours of Generation Z. In understanding this group’s consumer behaviour, retailers arm themselves with the ability to bring about more effective content strategies.

While they may lack the disposable income of their millennial and baby boomer predecessors, brands should not underestimate Generation Z’s spending power. Indeed, a US-based DWW survey found that 70 per cent of parents consult their Gen Z children in deciding what to buy. More directly, fashion retailers that cater solely for under-20s have delivered impressive growth in recent years.

It may be tempting to adopt the same approach as for Millennials when delivering on the needs of Generation Z customers. After all, the oldest Gen Zers are in their early twenties and have moved firmly into adulthood. However, Generation Z behaviour is substantially different from those who came before.

While most Millennials can remember a time before reliable internet connections and smartphones, Gen Zers have experienced little else. As such, their relationship with retailers has moved decisively online and a significant part is mediated through mobile. Instore remains important to them, but 24 per cent strongly prefer to purchase online and 13 per cent through mobile. Furthermore, over 40 per cent of Gen Zers purchase more than half of their clothing items online.

The message for retailers are these: Channels must be fully optimised and the mobile shopping experience is of increasing importance. Retailers must ensure that they have the tools to plan, schedule and deliver content, but also the ability to be more dynamic when reacting to fast-changing trends which require immediate content changes. We also know that Rich media, customisable product previews and video content are particularly effective at keeping Gen Zers engaged, and their language of choice is predominantly visual. The quality of product imagery is now of paramount importance, and visual storytelling throughout the shopper journey is key.

The quick and the dead

However, while appearances matter to Gen Zers, retailers cannot afford to neglect site perfomance. An app or website might contain engaging relevant content, but 60 per cent will refuse use it if it is slow to load.

For Generation Z, speed is of primary essence. They are a generation of impulse purchasers, with almost 60 per cent admitting they have made non-planned purchases ‘in the moment’. In the age of fast fashion, Gen Z shoppers expect the latest styles to be accessible immediately, and they will choose the brand that can provide the fastest. To keep up, retail content has to move even faster, and reactive content strategies work best.

Fast fashion brands such as Boohoo and Missguided are adept at speaking to Generation Z and winning their favour. Their success stems from their business model – centered around the speedy production and delivery of the latest fashions – and their ability to provide a visual, experiential customer experience online.

Girls with phones

Yet by their very definition, fashions come and go quickly. Young customers increasingly see clothing as disposable - worn today and shelved tomorrow. They’re also less loyal to brands, with only 16 per cent shopping at a single store for their fashion. Even the most on-trend brands of today are in danger of seeing their young customer base quickly drift away.

To avoid the fate of so many before them, brands must be able to deliver diverse, inspirational and multi-channel customer experiences at scale and at pace. To achieve this, the production of online content must be as lean as possible.

NELLY, a pureplay clothing retailer that caters exclusively to young shoppers, achieved this through smart content management. It centralised all of its online assets in the cloud where they could be easily accessed and quickly repurposed for multiple use. The brand also used a content management platform to automate the delivery of these assets, in the right format, to the customer’s chosen device. This ensured that the customer received the same fast, high- quality customer experience regardless of the device on which they were browsing.      

Inclusivity matters: from products to participants

Smartphone

The rise of Generation Z marks a decisive shift in customer priorities. While the quality of products still matters a great deal, today’s young customers are driven at least as much by their experience with the retailer. However, increasingly Generation Z is seeking an added social aspect to their engagement.  

Unlike past generations, Gen Zers have grown up alongside social media. For them, sites/apps such as Facebook and Snapchat are not only used to communicate occasionally with friends and family, they are an integral part of their daily lives and provide a means of expression and inspiration.

The accessibility of social media is heavily influencing their relationship with retail brands. Social media provides a sense of belonging, a community of opinion, and the vindication of choice.

Young shoppers value the opinions of their peers, and social media offers a tool to solicit immediate opinion, and research recommendations. It is easy to understand how the number of ‘likes’ or the tone of the comments beneath a product post would make or break a purchasing decision.  

As retailers cannot control the court of social media opinion, they should do their best to leverage it. Positive customer sentiment can be collected and integrated into the retailer website as user-generated content (UGC).

Seflie

Positive, authentic customer content gives products valuable credibility and generates positive emotion by making the customer feel a sense of belonging. For Generation Z, peer affirmation is an essential part of the customer journey, and UGC helps satisfy this need.

Generation Z will challenge brands to provide faster, richer and more inclusive customer experiences. The scale of demand for timely, diverse content and community-driven engagement is unprecedented. Delivering this content can only be satisfied using the right tools.

 

By: Dave Brewis, CMO, Amplience

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