Augmenting Retail for Generation Z
We hear a lot of talk about Millennials. Magazine think pieces, the New York Times and Washington Post op-eds, and piles of books go on about the opinions, lifestyles, and work habits of Millennials. Television shows like Girls, Workaholics, and Broad City relentlessly dissect Millennial culture. But how much do we know about the generation that comes after them, Generation Z?
This isn’t a trivial question. Generation Z (or Gen Z) will, by 2020, “be the largest group of consumers worldwide, making up 40% of the US, Europe, and BRIC countries, and 10% of the rest of the world.”1 Gen Z is going to be a massive part of the future of retail, and understanding how they shop will help retailers survive in the uncharted terrain ahead.
Who is Gen Z?
Gen Z, in many ways, reflects the way the world is shifting. They’re generally born between 1996 and 2010 and are the most ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. Their story is one without innocence, as they grew up in the age of the War on Terror and the Great Recession, instilling within them a deep sense of social, political, and economic concern. And they’re practically bionic, with smartphones and social media making up an essential facet of their everyday life. To understand how Gen Z (also known as the iGeneration) operates as a group is to understand not only the world in which they grew up, but also how technology has augmented their lives.
Gen Z and the Shopping Process
For Gen Z, the deep integration of technology into their everyday lives has impacted the way that they shop. For them, the process looks very different than it was even 15 years ago:
- Gen Z has a need for a kind of product (clothes, cosmetics, etc.)
- They conduct research online at different retailers or crowd source advice on social media until they find the best deal for the best product
- They go to the store, knowing already what they want, going to their smartphone instead of a store associate if they need help
- They purchase that product (and often post about their purchase on social media) or they leave and conduct more research
In particular, the role of store associates in this process is incredibly important, though it may not seem that way at the outset. The way associates operate in retail stores needs to change to accommodate the way Gen Z prefers to interact with them. Store associates need to offer up something more than basic product knowledge, because for the most part, Gen Z doesn’t need help with the simple information.
So how do retailers expect to provide an excellent customer experience to an augmented, iGeneration if they aren’t in some way augmented as well?
Improving the Customer Experience for Gen Z
One way to accomplish this is to unleash the power of store associates. Real-time store operations and workforce management solutions can employ some of this power.
These solutions can:
- Streamline store communications, giving store managers more time on the floor, training store associates instead of having to respond to confusing corporate emails and reports
- Help provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, giving store managers alerts and corrective actions when online orders aren’t ready on time for pickup or when items are running low on shelves
- Ensure that the most knowledgeable store associates are working during times of peak customer demand
Creating a retail environment where store associates are more resourceful and the store is functioning efficiently provides Gen Z shoppers with an experience where they don’t feel that their phones are their only useful resource.
As more of Gen Z becomes avid consumers, retailers need to augment their store operations, providing store associates and managers with mobile devices as well as the ability to create positive experiences in their stores. Implementing workforce management and real-time store operations solutions creates the opportunity to better cater to this new generation, providing them with a pleasant shopping experience.