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To Court Millennials and Gen Z, Brands Need Visual Search

It’s a visual world, and we’re just swiping in it.

ViSenze, the visual search company, polled 1,000 millennial and Gen Z consumers in the U.S. and the U.K. to discover how open these digitally native shoppers are to new technologies that facilitate the path to purchase, in which mobile devices now play a starring role. The results dovetail with many other recent findings about how these generations of consumers prefer to shop.

First, the company established that its respondents are regular shoppers, with just less than half claiming to shop online on a weekly basis, while between 50 percent and 60 percent make store visits at least once weekly. Though conversion on mobile tends to lag that of desktop PCs in e-commerce overall, ViSenze said 60 percent of the survey takers said they’re “most likely” to finish a transaction on their smartphone. This points to younger shoppers’ disinclination to postpone transacting until some “more convenient time” later, and preference toward “seizing the moment.”

Smartphones continue to play a significant role in brand and product discovery. With mobile devices always close at hand, 80 percent of millennials and Gen Z told the visual search firm they often encounter new goods when using their phones on the go. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) would appreciate visual search tools that not only improve product discovery, ViSenze said, but also help to pinpoint exactly which specific product they’ve stumbled upon, which could then tie directly to a boost in conversion.

Despite their many similarities, millennials and Gen Z have their differences, too. When they want to discover new products, millennials (57 percent) prefer to go directly to a retailer’s website, while inspiration comes from social platforms for Gen Z (60 percent).

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Social media, however, remains an influential player in the commerce landscape. Most (70 percent) of the surveyed consumers admitted to logging onto a social platform five times daily, and 58 percent expressed an openness to interacting with shoppable content. That’s good news for the platforms, considering Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have invested considerably into making their platforms friendly for businesses seeking to connect with and sell to consumers.

“Once focused almost exclusively on appealing to millennials, marketers have broadened the scope of their digital strategies to take Gen Z preferences into account as they are on track to become the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020, and account for $29 [billion] to $143 billion in direct spending according to Millennial Marketing,” said ViSenze CEO and co-founder Oliver Tan. “Yet our research confirms that while the two consumer groups are starkly different in many ways, their shopping journeys are increasingly dominated by mobile, reaffirming the growing opportunity of shoppable content and visual search.”

Another point of differentiation between millennials and Gen Z? According to ViSenze, most (80 percent) of the consumers in both of these groups like getting product recommendations, but prefer to get them in distinct ways. Gen Z expects retailers to make the fullest use of the data at their disposal, with 50 percent believing merchants should push out recommendations based on their individual transactional history and buying behavior. By contrast, 41 percent of millennials take more of a “keeping up with the Jones approach,” preferring to see recommendations for products that lookalike consumers have purchased.