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Retail Game Changers: Millennial and Generation Z Buyers are the Essential Future of Bricks and Mortars

At first glance, Millennials and Generation Z buyers seem to sound the death knell of the brick and mortar retail industry.

After all, these demographics spend more time (shopping) on ​​smartphones and mobile devices than any other generation. And even though it may seem easy to make the connection between this trend and the number of retail stores closing, it turns out that this is not always the case.

Millennials and Generation Z buyers actually represent the future of retail stores, but they are different from other generations in that they are looking for a more personalized experience with the products that they have. 39 they buy.

While these behaviors appear to be contradictory, brands and retailers must be at the forefront of their marketing strategies by providing in-store interactive technology experiences that meet the desires of savvy consumers.

Forward-looking companies have already begun to implement ways to stay ahead of the curve by using a variety of technologies to create the digital and personal experiences that these younger generations are looking for when they are in the dark. they enter a store.

The game is not over, but the rules have changed

The physical closures of retail stores made headlines, with Toys "R" Us being the last to announce store closures (and in this case, bankruptcy), due to the intensification of the competition and the changing tastes of the market. In fact, Fung Global Retail and Technology, which tracks store openings and closings, reports that store closures have increased 182% over last year, suggesting a dark image of brick and mortar.

But reading between the lines shows that there is still a tremendous opportunity for physical stores. The same Fung Global report shows that store openings increased 58 percent over last year – not exactly an indicator of an industry in its death throes. Some groups of analysts, such as IHL Group, even report that more stores opened than closed last year and that retail sales in physical stores rose $ 122 billion from a year ago. year on the other.

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It is undeniable that the nature of physical retail stores and the way consumers shop are changing. In short, the supercomputers in the pockets of consumers that we call smartphones have disrupted traditional retail, and stores will have to reinvent how they value consumers to stay relevant to an ever-connected market.

Many businesses believe that retail can do it too. Despite the undeniable impact of e-commerce on retail store closures, it is important to recognize that online shopping sites themselves begin to open physical stores.

Consider the recent purchase of Amazon from Whole Foods, for example. This is a clear sign that if an e-commerce giant like Amazon sees value in traditional retail and in technology to enhance the in-store consumer experience, others will also do so . The benefits of customizing online shopping sites like Amazon on their websites can easily translate into a more robust retail experience for a technology-loving store-in-store consumer.

In general, the consensus of these reports and examples is that buyers are looking for experiences when they come out. For example, GShopper noted that 86% of US consumers surveyed favored "experience" stores where they could try in-store products or otherwise interact with their purchases.

If you build it, they will always come

The big question for retailers, while they are nervously watching the upcoming holiday season, is whether consumers will go to the stores at all. An investigation by AlixPartners consulting firm revealed that 71% of those surveyed plan to make half or more of their holiday shopping purchases at stores and that at least 88% will see the inside of them. a physical outlet during the busiest shopping season of the year.

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This means that businesses should use the holidays as a time to connect with buyers and build experiences with them to bring them back. While a number of people shop with the "get the gifts and go out" mentality, more buyers will continue to work in the aisles trying to find the perfect gift – and in store, technology digital that helps them in this quest lasting impression.

What is true during the critical holiday season is also true throughout the year, especially for younger consumers; According to the IBM "Unively Generation Z" study, 67% of Generation Z consumers prefer to buy their items in stores most of the time. This is also true for Generation Y. According to SmarterHQ (PDF), 50% of them will buy in store according to their preferred method.

In addition, over 90% of consumers use their smartphones when they shop at retail stores, according to the "SessionM Retail Business White Paper: Connecting the Multichannel Store". About 54% use their devices to compare prices. to get product information and 42% to search for reviews.

It is essential that marketers capture the attention of these two generations, since they represent about half of the US media consumer audience.

Technology to drive customization

Interaction with buyers' digital devices is essential, and technologies such as tags and Near Field Communication (NFC) are an essential way to create this type of interaction. They allow the user to control when this interaction occurs and what information they want to share with a brand or retailer.

Recent in-store digital experiences show their continued growth and the urgent need to test and learn from the results of new technologies. Modern retail is not suitable for everyone, and each store will have to find the most appropriate technological method.

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And for many young consumers, they have not yet formed loyalty to the brand or retailer, so engage with them and establish a direct connection at a first visit can be paramount to win a customer for life.

Retailers must recognize that the future of shopping will be as much about the consumer journey as the end result. They must offer early store experiences by experimenting with new technologies – flexible marketing platforms – to keep pace with their changing customer base.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. The authors of the staff are listed here.