generation z – connecting with ‘Screenagers’ before its too late

New research from JWT reveals good news for retailers, a staggering 67% of the UK’s Generation Z, 12-19 year olds born after 1995, would rather shop in a physical store than online.

And yet surprisingly, Gen Z is still seen as no more than a small blip on the radar for most high street brands, which seems crazy as they are the world’s fastest growing consumer group and currently make up 25% of the UK population. Gen Z has massive spending power, will soon represent 40% of consumers and by 2020 will make up 40% of the population in the world’s biggest markets, including the USA, Europe, China, India, Brazil and Russia.

How can retail connect with this important, marketing aware group that literally represents its future? Firstly, there are a few things that need to be understood and challenges that must be faced. Gen Z has been targeted by advertising from birth and has an aversion to being treated as just another another ‘sale’? JWT’s research stresses the point that any brand producing even a hint of self-interest or cynical behavior will be quickly found out, and for that reason we will have to design stores that not only fulfill their desires, but also meet their expectations. Retail destinations will not only have to provide ‘theatre’ but also a welcoming and honest interaction with the brand. Above all, we must remember that Gen Z wants to enjoy the retail stage but isn’t in the market for huge amounts of brand ‘fiction’ or storytelling. Obviously, retail needs to get on the wavelength of this age group right now and evolve stores accordingly.

Perhaps it’s a matter of evolution rather than revolution? For example, we should possibly be seeing the tired old free phone charging point and low end computer for customer use, currently tucked away at the back of the store, become genuine ‘Dialogue points’, where conversations with the brand can be initiated Maybe, shops should have chill zones where Gen Z can sign in with a thumb-print, the ultimate unique identity badge, to get personalized bargains and enjoy the kudos of being part of a brand fraternity.

Gen Z’ers would be happy to work with designers on what tomorrow’s stores should look like, they are natural ‘collaborators’ and ‘doers’, so why not enlist their help? Retailers should be exploiting that collaborative characteristic right now, so they can build shops that Gen Z will truly value.

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