Millennials may have turned the retail space on its head and transformed numerous industries, but the changes are just beginning. Gen-Z is on its way with a new set of priorities and preferences.
Millennials currently hold the largest purchasing power, but Gen-Z is close behind. The group, which was born between 1996 and 2010, already holds $44 billion of buying power ($600 billion when considering their influence on their parents’ spending) and will hit the workforce and become powerful consumers in the next few years. In the next year, they will account for 40% of all U.S. consumers. To succeed, companies need to know how to tailor a great customer experience for Gen-Z.
Here are five of the biggest lessons brands need to learn to connect with the powerful customer of the future:
1. Make It Visual
Gen-Z responds well to visual content, especially video. On average, Gen-Z streams 23 hours of video per week. Gen-Z only has an attention span of around 8 seconds—shorter than Millennials’ 12 seconds—which means being able to communicate messages quickly is important to building connections. Visual search is not only a powerful retail trend, but a must-have for Gen-Z, who responds best to authentic and unique visual messages. Brands need to have a strong social media presence that is engaging without sounding like a sales pitch. If a brand isn’t on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat or whatever social media channel comes next, it doesn’t truly exist in the eyes of Gen-Z.
2. Prioritize Mobile
Gen-Z demands quick access on the go. Nearly every Gen-Z-er in the U.S. has a smartphone, and 66% of Gen-Z regularly uses more than one device at a time. They could be watching a video on their phone while checking a notification on a smart watch or tablet, which means information needs to be optimized for easy access on a variety of devices. Mobile is overwhelmingly the way Gen-Z consumes information and communicates. It’s also how the generation likes to shop and make purchases. To build relationships with the younger generation, create a strong experience where they already are.
3. Offer Personalized Service
Gen-Z has grown up with personalized offerings, such as Spotify playlists and Netflix show recommendations. Having personalized service is a part of life for them, and they won’t respond well to companies that don’t customize the experience. Personalized service comes from knowing and understanding each individual customer and helping meet their needs with proactive solutions. Personalized service means a real relationship, because Gen-Z can see right through simply putting their name at the top of an email. It also extends to the overall experience. Gen-Z likes being able to customize its products and to be involved in the creation process. The more unique and individualized something can be, the better.
4. Build Trust
More than other generations, Gen-Z cares about trust and authenticity. While Millennials respond to celebrity endorsements, Gen-Z can see through the façade and connects better with influencers who are more like them. Brands that can be vulnerable and relate with Gen-Z on the same level will be more successful than those that talk down to the younger generation or use smoke and mirrors. Similarly, Gen-Z cares about quality. This generation grew up during the recession and tends to be more realistic than Millennials. They also aren’t as brand loyal. Showcase the features of your product or service instead of relying on name recognition.
5. Don’t Forget The In-Store Experience
Millennials might get a bad rap for killing brick and mortar (although they really haven’t), but Gen-Z will bring back the in-store shopping experience. The majority (67%) of Gen-Z prefers to make purchases in store instead of online, although that could change as Gen-Z ages and has more access to credit cards for online shopping. Gen-Z expects a strong omni-channel experience and to be able to consistently experience the brand both in store and online. They also want to do more than just browse products when they visit a store. Extra experiences and brand interactions add a social aspect that can be shared with friends and add to the overall experience.
Gen-Z is a consumer powerhouse whose influence will only continue to grow in coming years. To create the best experience for the rising generation, focus on building authentic relationships and going where they already are. Brands that are best prepared for the future will learn to grow and adapt for Gen-Z.
Blake Morgan is a keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. You can sign up for her newsletter here.