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How Retailers Should be Tapping Into Gen Z’s Buying Power

Gen Z is coming for retail—and they want more genuine advertising, loyalty apps and non-segmented store formats when they shop.

At the WGSN Futures Summit in New York Thursday, industry members came together to discuss Gen Z consumers. from where they buy products, to the brands they like most and waht their purchasing values are.

When interviewing Gen Z consumers, Andrea Bell, WGSN director of consumer insights and executive editor, Americas, and Jaime Barr, head of video content at WGSN, found three key takeaways—real resonates, money matters when it comes to deals, and the knowledge they have and want is paramount.

Real Resonates

Gen Z consumers aren’t falling for traditional marketing—they want genuine product advertisements that aren’t designed to cater to the masses.

They’re also likely the most tech-savvy demographic. With the world at their fingertips, Gen Z consumers know when retailers are marketing products to them and if advertisements and commercials are little more than gimmicks. This could be attributed to Gen Z’s age compression—meaning the group is aging out of childhood faster and quickly learning their role as a consumer.

Unlike older demographics, Gen Z consumers value individual creativity and turn to each other when it comes to personal style. Brands that enable Gen Z consumers to efficiently express themselves will be more likely to secure dollars from this demographic in the future. The WGSN’s interview also revealed that sports brands, like Adidas and Nike, were well liked by Gen Z consumers for their unfiltered product advertising.

“One of the things we realize the most with Gen Z, is that real resonates. They have access to things much more quickly and they know when they are being marketed to,” said Barr. “The main thing brands need to look at is if you are marketing, you need to make it raw, original and a way that makes it feel really fresh.”

Money Matters

Saving money and finding the best deal are two crucial elements of a Gen Z’s purchasing journey.

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Considering most Gen Z consumers buy products from technology devices, including phones—this demographic would like retailers to provide them with brand apps, loyalty programs and the option to virtually pay for their products.

When it comes to brand apps and loyalty programs, Gen Z consumers want to know what’s in it for them—including the discounts or freebies they might receive. Gen Z consumers told WGSN that some food companies, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, had apps and loyalty programs they liked, and that they enjoyed receiving a free drink or food item for their purchases.

Virtual payments are also a favorite. When interviewed, several Gen Z consumers agreed with the sentiment that “cash will be a thing of the past” and that it would be more convenient to pay for products with their phones. Many Gen Z consumers said they already use Apply Pay to purchase items, and they anticipate that virtual payments will become more popular in the future.

[Read more on Gen Z consumers: Gen Z Takes Over the Consumer Driver’s Seat]

The Knowledge Economy

A Gen Z consumer’s purchasing journey will likely vary from those of other demographics, including Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers, and retailers need to be prepared to adjust accordingly.

WGSN discovered that Gen Z consumers value frugality and extensively use technology to hunt for deals when they are buying products. Unlike Millennials, who may go to a store, browse and buy items on the spot, Gen Z consumers actively use social media elements—including hashtags—to tailor their product search and compare prices. By using hashtags as a shopping tool, Gen Z consumers can go back to their parents with potential retailers and save them from a lengthy shopping trip.

Retailers will also need to rethink how to make a more seamless shopping experience for Gen Z consumers. Bell noted how segmented brick-and-mortar layouts will not work anymore, since Gen Z consumers will have extensive knowledge of the products they want and expect a more convenient purchasing journey.

“As retailers, we need to start thinking about multi-generational visual merchandising. When we think about retail floor space, they are usually segmented,” Bell said. “There are stores that are starting to do the multi-generational visual merchandising blend, which is starting to get more sales.”

Adding to that, Barr said a multi-generational store setup would not only please Gen Z consumers, but provide a more engaging purchasing journey in general, across all shopper demographics.

“When you go to shop for them, everything is really segmented. To go up and down the escalators all the time, it is not just going to happen. If you were going to grab stuff for kids and there was stuff peppered in for the parents too, I think that would create a more interesting retail environment,” Barr said.