Retail Therapy: Will Gen Z Save Brick & Mortar Stores?

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After taking hits from COVID and internet giants like Amazon, consumers wonder if future generations will know what it’s like to shop for products in an actual store, rather than merely filling up a digital shopping cart and hitting “pay now.”

While many people, even some industry veterans, consider in-store shopping an experience preferred by older consumers, data on the habits of Gen Z says otherwise. In fact, according to research, Gen Z’s penchant for shopping in brick and mortar stores exceeds that of their elder counterparts, including Millennials, Gen X, and even Baby Boomers. 

According to the study by third party logistics company, Portless, 31 percent of Gen Z shoppers prefer to buy fashion accessories via an in-store experience, which is the highest of any age group. Forty one percent of Gen Z likes a hybrid experience of both in-store and online. This substantially outnumbers only 19 percent of Millennials who prefer to shop inside a physical  store. Both Gen X and Baby Boomers closely mirror the choices of Millennials.

What lures Gen Z to the stores? First of all, it’s for the fit. Something you can only guess when making online purchases. Secondly, Gen Z likes to compare how two or more items look in person, where digital navigating doesn’t offer the same opportunity. As Yates Jarvis, a principal at ecommerce consulting firm, 2 Visions, says, “Comparison UX doesn’t exist for clothing.”

But most important of all, Gen Z simply likes the experience of browsing a store. According to Jarvis, “It’s the experience of getting out. Because they are digital natives, they might have had fewer of these experiences.” Perhaps the timeless joy of window shopping supersedes generational divides. 

Not surprisingly, shopping preferences are also impacted by where consumers live. With many Gen Zers living in dense urban communities, they often have quick and easy access to enjoy a wide variety of retail stores, making it a convenient option.

But according to Jarvis, the goal should be understanding the nuances of the experience Gen Z wants, and then providing what they are looking for. “Retailers can’t keep rolling out in the in-store experience of ten years ago and expect it to work.” He noted that Gen Z is less drawn to big brand recognition as previous generations and is more inclined to trust up-and-comers.

Most consumers don’t want to see malls and storefronts shutter their doors. Could Gen Z be the boon to save our shopping malls and retail stores? How then should stores design their experience to attract this valuable demographic? Read more here.

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