Generation Z is about to disrupt the store experience


As digital natives come of age and their spending power grows, retailers need to develop their proposition for a tech-first audience – and nowhere is that more apparent than the store.

Accenture outlined the differing attitude that Generation Z – those born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s – has towards bricks-and-mortar shopping in a recent study. After speaking to 10,000 consumers across 13 countries, their survey revealed some interesting trends: 

The store still plays an important role

It would be natural to assume that younger consumers prefer to shop through digital channels, but 60% prefer to purchase items in a store. Even among those who opt to buy online, nearly half (46%) will visit a store first, to gather intelligence on that product before committing to buy.

This underlines the need for retailers to ensure their store appeals to the Generation Z demographic – and to recognise physical retail’s role as a place of search and discovery. Bringing digital technologies to the shelf edge can enhance the product information and interaction available to younger shoppers, such as digital advertising screens and touchscreen information points.

Social’s role as a direct shopping channel

Generation Z live their life through social media – that’s not a surprise – but not all retailers are fully considering how this will impact shopper behaviour. 69% of 18-20 year-olds are interested in purchasing directly through social media, while almost half (44%) use social channels for product inspiration and discovery. YouTube is the most regularly used platform among this group, with 84% regularly logging in to access video content.

Retailers can incorporate this passion for social media into their store offering, displaying online feedback on digital ad screens or shelf edge labels. They can also drive social media engagement through their physical footprint; Nordstrom has been a pioneer in this area, placing tags on products that are popular on Pinterest, and giving store associates an iPad app that will show shoppers top online trends that day.

Let’s get digital

While the spending power of Generation Z may be proportionally smaller than other consumer groups at present, their consumer clout will quickly grow. To fully embrace the shopping behaviours of these digital natives, retailers need to start optimising their store technology now.

These tech-savvy consumers will not settle for a random assortment of hardware, bolted together in a piecemeal fashion. Generation Z wants a well-considered, integrated digital and physical experience. One that brings the best of both worlds together at the shelf edge.


Curating shopping experiences

The concept of store staff using technology to bring social media trends in-store is part of a broader appetite among Gen Z consumers for curated retail experiences. 73% would subscribe to regular ‘editors pick’ deliveries in sectors like fashion, while there is a strong interest in automatic replenishment – 71% would like goods replaced as soon as they run out, with 38% interested in voice-activated reordering.

While these models are targeting digital customers, it demonstrates the importance bringing the retail experience to life in-store. Gen Z will be early adopters of emerging technologies like augmented reality mirrors for changing rooms, and VR design projects being piloted by retail brands like Ikea.


To find out more about optimising your stores for a digital audience, discover our intelligent store.


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