Dear Millennials: Yes, we loved listening to your demands for work/life balance and how you don’t want to buy a car. Your Facebook posts of your dog are priceless. But, sorry to let you know, you are no longer the retail community’s main concern. Your time is coming to an end. It’s no longer about you.
The retail world has a new BFF: Generation Z.
Gen Z — two billion worldwide and one-quarter of the North American population — is made up of those born after 1998. And, while some members of the generation are still in grade school, they already command about $44 billion in purchasing power in the United States, according to Mintel Reports data that Ernst & Young cited.
While each generation has some distinguishing characteristics and others they share with generations before them, Gen Z has something unique: a complete embrace of technology. While the Millennials’ first device may have been the iPad, for Gen Z it was a smartphone, desktop, laptop, tablet and television, all of which allow them to communicate and digest information instantly and seamlessly. They’ve never existed in a world that wasn’t plugged in; it’s no wonder they’re called “digital natives” and “screenagers.”
That addiction to technology presents challenges to brick and mortar retailers, but not insurmountable ones. With a well-thought-out marketing plan that speaks to them — not at them — and uses their language, a retail operation can attract and keep this up-and-coming economic force. And digital signage content and placement can play a big role in that. Here’s how.
- Create a seamless shopping experience. Retail organizations, especially the large, corporate ones, need to be more fluid and connected to attract Gen Z. The view of this generation is that they do everything on their phones, including shopping. But Gen Z consumers are true omnichannel shoppers. They don’t just research merchandise online or go to a store to try it on or check it out on social media; they do all three. So with this generation, it’s more important than ever that digital signage is consistent with your brand and complements the online experience.
- Promote your organization’s social values. Like their millennial older siblings, Gen Z tends to support retailers that are socially conscious and have environmentally friendly products. They appreciate authenticity and want to make sure a brand is worthy of their time and money. Displays that promote a store’s sustainability practices as well as products – perhaps an in-store event that ties in with a social or environmental component – will attract their attention.
- Offer information . . . Nearly half of Gen Z shoppers say they won’t buy a product if they can’t ask a question about it online. Almost 80 percent said they would hightail it to another retailer or Amazon if they can’t ask a question on a product page. Kiosks and sales-assist tablets serve the same purpose for in-store experiences, answering questions in real time, engaging the 18-and-under crowd and providing the instant connection they demand.
- . . . Especially about pricing. More so than Millennials, Gen Z consumers are conservative, especially financially. They understand they will be hit with massive college debt. They are more likely to be entrepreneurs, rather than corporate employees, which requires start-up capital and poses financial risk. They also are practical, according to the Ernst & Young survey, and go into stores for very functional reasons. For example, 58% of those surveyed said they wanted to see and feel products; 50% wanted to avoid a shipping charge. Digital signage that includes comparative pricing and information on sales will engage price-conscious Gen Z shoppers.
- Encourage and enable after-hours shopping. The store may be closed, but Gen Z will still shop. They may not always go to the mall to buy, but they do go to the mall’s restaurants, movies and other entertainment offerings. Use effective store- and street-front digital signage to entice shoppers and enable transactions even after the shop has closed. Such signage can let the shopper view merchandise from the storefront and then purchase it on their smartphones or come back for it the next day. A dynamic digital sign can turn a person walking through the mall to get to a restaurant into a customer.
Of course, the point of understanding Gen Z while its members are still young is to make them into loyal customers as early as possible. The good news is, like their elders, Gen Z still appreciates the brick and mortar buying experience. Piper Jaffray’s fall 2015 Taking Stock with Teens report showed that 64% would rather shop in-store than online, especially for food (79%), health and beauty products (68%), shoes (66%) and clothes (58%). For retailers who acknowledge their wired-from-the-crib lifestyle, digital signage can play a big role in helping to pull Gen Z through the doors and keep them coming back for more.