Received opinion maintains that Gen Z shoppers are so digitally savvy that they shun in-store shopping, but that is a misconception and retailers stand to benefit if they adapt to meet the expectations of these young consumers.

As reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, citing a study conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), about 95% of Gen Z consumers visited a physical shopping mall over a three-month period in 2018.

That compared with just 75% of millennials and 58% of Generation X. Furthermore, three-quarters of Gen Z respondents said going to a brick-and-mortar store was a better experience than online.

“There’s always been this assumption that as you go through the age spectrum, the younger consumer that has grown up with online and digital and is very savvy would shun physical experiences,” said Neil Saunders, an analyst at GlobalData Retail. “But actually that’s not turned out to be the case.”

However, while the ICSC study should provide some reassurance for the retail sector, retailers would be mistaken to think they can rest on their laurels. This generation, aged roughly seven to 22, demands entertaining and personalised experiences coupled with good deals and sustainability.

According to a report last year from IBM and the National Retail Federation, nearly half of Gen Z shoppers want products tailor made to their tastes and interests. And it appears some well-known brands are rising to the challenge.

Jewellers Tiffany and Co., for example, is reported to have invested heavily in its “Make It My Tiffany” initiative, to appeal to Gen Z shoppers. “You can have your bracelet, ring or piece of jewellery personalised,” said CEO Alessandro Bogliolo, whose 14-year-old daughter has a piece of jewellery with an image of her pet.

Meanwhile, other brands, such as American Eagle Outfitters and Levi Strauss, are trying to meet Gen Z’s desire for customisation by offering extra stitching, back patches and monograms.

Another trend identified in Thredup’s 2019 Resale Report is that one in three Gen Z shoppers expect to buy secondhand clothes and accessories this year in keeping with their desire for sustainability and securing a good deal.

It is also important to make shopping as entertaining as possible – for example, by making physical stores colourful, themed and “Instagram-worthy”, or by launching imaginative promotional offers over social media.

Department store Macy’s, for example, has rolled out a shop within a shop called “Story” in 36 locations – a colourful dedicated space full of knickknacks that undergoes a complete thematic overhaul every two months. It is all designed to look good on Instagram.

Sourced from Bloomberg Businessweek, ICSC, IBM, NRC, Thredup; additional content by WARC staff