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Gen Z ‘blend real and digital into one world’ using smart devices – so what does that mean for retail?

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Turning to their phones for everything and expecting digital assistants, AI-learning websites and augmented reality as the norm, Gen Z – born between 1996 and 2015 – is the first truly technology-driven generation, which expects the web to connect them, entertain them, sell to them and build their digital brand.

So what does that mean for retailers? According to an international study from The Center for Generational Kinetics, commissioned by WP Engine, suggests that, when it comes to buying things, Gen Z are driven by mobile apps and digital presence.

Despite their eagerness to access the web using new methods and different devices, says they report, they still show a clear preference for a company’s website over a mobile app when making purchases.

This fact held true across all generations, with Baby Boomers leading the pack at 93%, followed by Gen X (89%), Millennials (71%), and Gen Z (69%).

According the study, Gen Z continues to be the most Internet-dependent generation – 61% of Gen Z can’t comfortably go more than four hours without the Internet, while 13% of Baby Boomers can go a week or more. Gen Z, which has never known a world without the Internet, not only expects 24/7 digital access, but expects that within five years everything – clocks, refrigerators, vacuums, dishwashers and other appliances – will be connected online.

Gen Z has grown up in the hyper-personalised world of targeted advertisements and social platforms. As a result, they are willing to trade privacy for personalised experiences – 38% will provide their personal data to enable a more personalised experience over an anonymous one. Additionally, 40% of Gen Z would stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked, or wanted.

When it comes to how they view companies morally, that things get interesting. When asked if an online-only company was less trustworthy than a solely brick-and-mortar business, 61% of Gen Z say no. As shoppers, Gen Z demands that brands be both socially accountable and imbued with a sense of authenticity in their interactions.

65% of Gen Z are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes, while 30% have stopped buying from a company that contributes to a social cause with which they disagree.

This is similar to Baby Boomers, 28% of whom would stop buying from a company if they disagreed with their stance on social issues, while 60% are more likely to buy from companies that contribute to causes with which they agree.

Retailers should also take note of what Gen Z expects as tech norms. According to the study, 78% of Gen Z believe that with biometrics – fingerprint and face recognition, voice and speech recognition – Internet authentication will be done without keyboards.

A further 77% think that through augmented reality or virtual reality, the Internet will impact our view of the world constantly, wherever we are. Meanwhile, 63% believe that everyone will have their own personalised virtual digital assistant (Siri, Alexa, etc.) to help them do everything they need to do online. 78% think all software and websites/digital experiences will have digital learning/AI capabilities.

“Gen Z is empowered, connected, practical, empathetic self-starters who want to stand out and make a difference in the world,” explains Jason Dorsey, President at The Center for Generational Kinetics. “They merge the human and digital experiences – it is all one combined reality for them. They are fuelled by technology engagement and value uniqueness, authenticity, creativity, share-ability and purpose. And they look for that from the world around them.”

“Gen Z is well on its way to becoming the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020,” adds Fabio Torlini, EMEA Managing Director at WP Engine. “For marketers and brands to effectively engage Gen Z, they must embrace new technologies, experiment with new forms of communication, and internalise the nuances in how Gen Z blends the analogue and digital worlds.”

Image: Fotolia

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