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Gen Z: Meeting expectations?

What do younger consumers find frustrating about the in-store shopping experience, and what does that say about how retailers can plan stores that meet their needs more accurately? Martin Shaw, RetailX head of research, considers new findings that have come out of the InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner programme.

Retailers looking to attract young shoppers to their stores could do worse than to consider the findings of a new study from InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner Cybertill. The organisation commissioned a YouGov survey that questioned 2,004 UK shoppers aged between 18 and 55.

They included 183 members of Generation Z, aged between 18 and 24, and 304 Millennials, aged between 25 and 34, while the balance were older shoppers. The study asked about what the different age groups found more or less frustrating about the in-store experience and multichannel services such as click and collect, and what it was that would encourage them to visit a store instead of shopping online. We then contrasted that with how IRUK Top500 retailers approach this area.

Emerging shopper styles

Shoppers from the Millennial and Generation Z generations have often been characterised as the ‘want it now’ generation. These, suggests the Cybertill study, are individuals often described as ‘lazy’ or ‘selfish’ and who are more interested in watching cat videos and absolutely uninterested in waiting in a queue. But, notes Cybertill chief executive Ian Tomlinson, many of the insights that we have about this age group currently come from across the Atlantic.

“The media is shouting about Gen Z, and retailers are listening, but a majority of the research on 18 to 24-year-olds is US-based,” he said, adding: “We’re changing that.” Since the study questions UK shoppers, it’s interesting to contrast their expectations with what Top500 retailers offer.

Attitudes in-store

It’s a lack of connectivity that bothers Gen Z and Millennial shoppers the most. Both find it more frustrating than the average shoppers when they cannot get a mobile phone signal. It’s also frustrating for 48% of Gen Z shoppers when that lack of mobile signal means they can’t retrieve their order confirmation when they come to pick up a click-and-collect item in store, and 45% would like free wifi in store to make it easier to find their order confirmation.

The biggest frustration, however, is when an item arrives later than promised. More than two thirds (67%) said they would like real-time update via text message, email or push notification so that they know exactly when to pick up an item.

More than half (59%) would like a dedicated click and collect till or area, but fewer said they’d like a dedicated area to examine or try on their item straight away (41%) or a dedicated car park, drive through or separate entrance for collection (17%).

The study confirms that most Gen Z shoppers don’t like queuing: 57% said queuing for a fitting room in-store was the most frustrating, while 37% said queueing for a checkout was frustrating.

Gen Z shoppers are more likely than the average to be encouraged into store by the offer of a free sample. But they’re less keen than average to have face-to-face customer service from store staff: 65% don’t like it when shop staff approach them after they’ve entered a shop. Features that they say would improve their in-store experience include contactless and/or mobile payments (55%), as well as being offered an e-receipt.

All stocked up?

Finding items in stock is most important to Gen Z shoppers who come into the store: 70% said it was most frustrating when they couldn’t find an item in-store. That may well be an item that they have seen online, since 49% said their in-store fashion purchases were influenced by ecommerce. Some 32% said they browsed and bought fashion in-store, while 23% take that activity online.

Gen Zers are most likely to research electricals online: two-thirds said they bought electricals in-store after researching online. That may be why Generation Z shoppers are more relaxed than other shoppers if staff know less than they do about a product: that suggests this cohort may well be happy to look up the information on their  phones – as long as they can get a signal.

Guaranteeing an item is there through click and collect may prove a good answer, says Cybertill. That’s something that is offered by 62% of IRUK Top500 retailers in 2018, up from 60% in 2017.

More than a third (38%) said in the Cybertill study they would like to be able to check stock themselves, while 35% want self-checkout in store. According to RetailX research, 23% of IRUK Top500 retailers offer the ability to check store stock from their mobile app – up from 18% in 2017 – and the same proportion offer extra stock checker features. It’s important such technology is accurate: the biggest frustration for Gen Z shoppers, Cybertill found, was when an item was marked in stock online, but was not available when the shopper got to the store.

Getting in touch

Gen Z shoppers say they’d like to hear about their order updates via push notifications more than the average. Perhaps this is another sign of how important mobile phones are in their lives. More than half (52%) of IRUK Top500 retailers offer push notifications from their mobile app.

Gen Z shoppers are open to signing up for loyalty programmes – as long as there’s money off: 75% said they would sign up to a scheme for the discounts and promotions. Only 22% said personal recommendations – based on order history – would encourage them to sign up, while still fewer – 18% of Gen Z shoppers and 12% of Millennials – said VIP events would encourage them to be loyal to a brand.

Additional information on the study is available on Cybertill’s website.

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