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Physical and online retail equally important to Gen Z

Brick and mortar retailers are just as important an avenue for shopping as online retailers to Generation Z shoppers, an ongoing study has revealed.

While a number of brick and mortar retailers have shut up shop in the past year – either entirely, or migrated to a digital offering only – with experts suggesting this is down to today's customer preferring the online shopping option, the study from US market research company IRI says brick and mortar and online avenues are both equally important to the Gen Z (under 21) shopper.

In fact, this shopper enjoys the flexibility of being able to shop both channels, which together offer a larger product selection and lower prices.

Further factors influencing shopping habits include the ease of the shopping process and the ability to find what they are looking for in the store, which the study suggests is "as important" in driving retailer choices as low prices.

Social media, too, plays a bigger role in influencing Gen Z purchase decisions than pricing or discounts, with the report suggesting the Gen Z shopper is "two to three times more likely" to be influenced by social media than sale or discount pricing when making purchasing decisions.

Lynne Gillis, principal of survey and segmentation for IRI, notes that Gen Z is keen to be "part of the brand/retailer conversation" through its social media usage.

"Our work with Gen Z to date suggests that they reject inauthenticity and being 'marketed to,' but they are not against marketing and advertising altogether. What makes Gen Z different is they see and embrace the opportunity to be influencers, whether it's among their own circle of friends or a broader audience. This has tremendous implications for how brands and retailers engage them in the marketing and advertising process."

The report urges retailers to consider adjusting their marketing strategies to meet the "distinct behaviours" of the new generation.

"It is clear that Gen Z will be different from millennials and the generations before them on many levels – on top of being the most culturally diverse shopper population to date, Gen Z'ers are already forming unique purchase motivators and preferences," comments Robert Tomei, president of consumer and shopper marketing and core content services for IRI. "It will be critical for manufacturers and retailers to have a deeper understanding of these young shoppers as they gain influence and purchasing power, and leverage the power of personalisation to reach them."

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