Gen Z’s Attitudes Toward Technology and Retail
No generation has been defined by technology quite like Gen Z. Today’s youth have never known a time without easy access to the internet and mobile devices. As digital natives in the truest sense, they hold high expectations regarding the role modern technology can play in work, school, relationships, and of course, consumer behavior.
Brands and retailers must blend in-store and digital interactions to meet the demands of digital natives.
A Love of Digital Shopping
While many areas of the economy traditionally bolstered by young people are struggling, retailers that made the most of the quick shift to digital saw significant gains. The IBM 2020 U.S. Retail Index suggests that the pandemic accelerated the rise of digital retail by at least five years. Gen Z has embraced this development. While brick-and-mortar experiences remain important, a significant minority express a preference for online shopping.
Blending Tech and the Real World
Gen Z consumers integrate virtual and real-world activities to form a seamless experience. They expect the brands they follow to do the same. Most see the value of in-person experiences but prefer when these are amplified by advanced tech, including everything from the Internet of Things to machine learning.
The value of blending digital and in-person interactions can be seen in modern event and experiential marketing. Brand ambassadors, for example, bring a relatable face to companies during activation events, but can also facilitate follow-up efforts by encouraging attendees to explore branded apps or check out information provided through QR codes.
Target, which is hugely popular with Gen Z, demonstrates how digital solutions can shape in-store shopping behaviors. The retailer’s app draws on beacon technology to provide an array of helpful location-based features.
Weekly ads, for example, are tied to local stores, as are options for accessing a particular location’s guest WiFi. Those who use Target’s app also benefit from tightened integrations between special offers and shopping lists. Essentially, the store’s beacon solutions act as a GPS for each visitor’s shopping cart.
Perhaps most importantly, Target doesn’t work against Gen Z’s tendency to look up reviews on the spot. On the contrary, they use this preference to seal the deal. Target spokesperson Eddie Baeb explains that guests enjoy the ability to “access product information, including descriptions, guest reviews and ratings” from the convenience of the app. This inspires confidence in their purchases, which is key to prompting conversions among today’s research-oriented consumers.
Augmented Reality: Bringing In-Person Shopping Online
Augmented reality (AR) provides yet another opportunity for amplifying retail experiences through the power of technology. With AR, however, the greatest opportunity lies not in the ability to bring technology into a physical location, but rather, to replicate the benefits of in-store shopping online.
AR is already hugely popular on apps such as Snapchat, with parent company Snap claiming that 70 percent of users experiment with AR on a daily basis. Brands such as Adidas and Sally Beauty have leveraged this fascination to improve engagement among Snapchat’s user base, which skews young.
Beyond social media, many brands incorporate AR within dedicated apps designed to address chief complaints about shopping online. For example: digital shoppers often struggle to visualize the products they’d like to purchase. AR gives them a better idea of how these items might fit into their current lives.
Demonstrating a keen sense of the tech-infused conveniences that fascinate Gen Z, Nike provides this opportunity with its scanning app, which can determine the exact shape and size of users’ feet and use that information to recommend the best products for that person. Similarly, apps from IKEA and other furniture retailers allow users to see exactly what major investments will look like in their homes.
To read more about Gen Z, get the eBook “Gen Z and the Future of Retail.”