One tough customer: satisfying Gen Z

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It’s going to take more than great products and competitive prices if you want to capture the hearts and wallets of demanding teens and tweens.

Today, the experiences consumers have in shopping, buying and the activities that follow are much more of a differentiator than the product itself.

Personalized, one-on-one experiences – so-called “micro-experiences” – are the basis for building brand loyalty and an emotional connection with customers, especially the true digital natives who make up Gen Z.

EY commissioned a US survey of 1,000 adults and 400 youngsters aged 14 to 17, in order to tease out the differences in attitude and shopping behavior between those who grew up with technology (Millennials) and those who were born into it (Gen Z).

Gen Z view stores as necessary, not desirable

Gen Z shop in stores for functional reasons rather than for personal enjoyment.

Half do it to avoid shipping costs, 43% to get the product faster and 17% because they have no credit card.

49% of Gen Z are shopping online at least once a month — this number will skyrocket once they get credit cards

What really matters to Gen Z?

  • Both Gen Z and Millennials place little value on the ability to interact with experts. This is especially true of Gen Z, the most self-educated generation in history.
  • Instead they prefer self-service tools that enable them to hunt down suitable products and services.
  • What they do value are brands and retailers that relate to their needs and offer unique, personalized micro-experiences.
  • Whether shopping on the web, on a smartphone or in store, they expect intuitive, seamless and error-free processes.

Q: What are the main reasons you buy online?

EY - Q: What are the main reasons you buy online?

How important is price?

EY - How important is price?

Millennials make price their top priority and are more likely than Gen Z to respond to both traditional and digital price messaging.

Sixty seven percent of Millennials go to the website to get a coupon for the store, while only 46% of Gen Z do so.

Meanwhile, Gen Z are more likely to value factors that simplify the shopping process.

Reestablish the emotional connection

By providing an experience that not only meets a customer’s functional needs but also creates personal enjoyment, retailers can re-establish the emotional connection with their brands.

Seen in this way, the physical environment of the store can provide a powerful advantage, especially when used in concert with digital tools. Think of athletic apparel companies offering free in-store fitness classes, for example.

Obtaining this optimal result requires digital to influence not only what people buy, but how, when and where they buy it.

Today, nearly half Gen Z report buying online at least once a month. Soon they will have their own credit cards and greater access to funds.

With this, we can expect the figure to increase significantly, quickly surpassing the online buying activity of Millennials.

Delight Gen Z, delight everybody

To succeed with today’s teens and tweens, you need to ensure you truly understand their needs and desires.

You must be aware of how the experience you are offering fits and supports their life patterns. And you must constantly reassess and evolve your strategy to keep it responsive and flexible.

Gen Z have the highest expectations in this regard, so keeping them satisfied will go a long way to delighting all your customers in every age group.