Generation Z will be the predominant retail customer within the next five years. We may have an aging population of baby boomers, millennials, and younger, but the Gen-Z group of teens and young adults in their early 20’s has a whole lotta buying sway coming your way. By the end of the decade, they will represent 40% of retail buyers, and they already influence over 80% of purchases made by their parents.
Naturally, as true digital natives, the Gen-Z demographic interacts online and in social media circles. These interactions influence how they communicate and what they recommend. Buying is a truly social, interactive, and cooperative experience.
Of course, online purchases are dominated by this still-young market sector, but there is good news. Surprisingly, this age-group prefers to shop in brick-and-mortar stores—more so than any other age group. They may be the savior of malls, and their buying power is growing.
If you have a mall location, consider yourself fortunate. Your mall location is exactly what will attract Gen-Z buyers. Create a store they want to experience, and you can profit from these buyers’ growing numbers.
The Gen-Z Retail Experience
A recent Forbes article by the president and CEO of the National Retail Federation highlighted the tidal wave of Gen-Z’ers coming our way, and Bloomberg Businessweek echoed this sentiment. As I pondered these predictions and some of the research, the real takeaway was one to stand out in the eyes of a tech-savvy generation.
Mall locations are probably somewhat favored because they are shopping locales where younger people can congregate, even if shopping is not the primary reason for being in a mall. But congregating together presents opportunities for you to market and lure Gen Z’ers into your stores—stores they like, stores they feel connected to, stores that meet their expectations. Since their presence at the mall is based on friendships, social interaction, and camaraderie, this young group of buyers share their shopping experiences and will be devoted to those stores that can be part of their social circle.
Gen Z’ers want to buy, most often based on a friend’s recommendation. So, while they desire a knowledgeable staff, they are unlikely to seek them out for assistance. Rather, instead of asking for help, a Gen Z’er will use their phones in the store to help make choices, contact friends, and look for online recommendations.
Still, there is a great opportunity when over 70% of this age group is in a mall once a month and walks into at least four stores. Make sure your store is one of them. It means drawing them into a shopping activity that values the way they collaborate; sense their surroundings, and choose how their growing pool of money is spent. Gen-Z’ers want to be involved in the buying process, and this should guide us when designing our displays and mall locations.
Create the Experience Gen Z’ers Demand
Connect First. Before this group comes into your store or meets friends at the mall, they are already on YouTube and Instagram looking for ideas and recommendations. Use these platforms to draw in Gen-Z’ers: connect with them, create a following, and communicate regularly.
Get Them in the Door. Gen-Z’ers come to buy, but they choose mall stores whose physical presence is attractive. That means wide varieties of merchandising designs. It means hearing music that is appealing and signals an openness. And it means that recommendations from friends should come by getting a base of online followers.
Variety Means Choice. Variety and diversity in everything from employees to styles and product choices. Be innovative in the items you carry, avoid staid choices. From fashion to dog bones, offer choices.
Clean Aesthetic. Get rid of the clutter in your displays, and think like a buyer who knows what she wants. Since this group won’t ask for help, make sure your layout is self-explanatory. There should be no need to ask where something is located—make it obvious. Keep displays organized so items are easy to find and streamline your product layout to encourage additional, related purchases.
Adopt a Cause. Focus on a chosen charity or community goal that matters to this age group. Whether it’s an environmental issue, humanitarian assistance, or sourcing from needy communities, use your store to share values that bring people together. Gen-Z’ers will remember and share your participation if the cause is meaningful and collaborative. Make it part of conversations on the store floor and in your online marketing, too.
Hands-On Choice. Provide short experiences with a burst of information. This could be a food sample in a restaurant with a quick explanation of why it is featured. It might be a sample of facial products at a spa. But let your customers try things in person.
Open Up. As the world clamors around us, Gen-Z’ers are looking for open spaces to enjoy their purchases. Look for malls with garden areas and outdoor seating, and choose locations that offer peaceful, outdoor surroundings.
Mall Fare. Food and beverage locations are important to retail sales. An increase of 12% is anticipated for this year. As you scour locations for your store, try to be near a food or beverage establishment.
Cater to Instagram and YouTube. Several times this year, I’ve been to exhibits and stores who cater to online influencers. They provide selfie spots or colorful backgrounds and playful imagery that are Instagram worthy. Try this in your store, and watch your following grow.
Offer Discounts. Gen-Z’ers are not using loyalty programs as other generations did, but they will be loyal and follow you. Once you connect with them digitally, they respond to discounts aimed at their preferences.
Be Real. No one likes a fake, especially a young buyer from Generation Z. They rely on friends for recommendations and don’t trust celebrities, false people, and misleading claims. No need to dazzle and sparkle unrealistically. Just offer an honest product or service.
Attracting Gen-Z’ers will require some nimble shifts in your locations, merchandising, and digital marketing. As you fine-tune your store’s style to meet the shopping expectations of this group, your retail location will thrive, and a mall spot will no longer be the dreary option of past generations. Seize on the growing Gen-Z buying power by creating innovative shopping experiences they will recommend to their friends.