Times are Changing: Generation Z Prefers In-Store Shopping

One might think that Generation Z, whose oldest members were born in the middle 1990s, would be enthusiastic users of online shopping.

However, one may be wrong in that assumption, according to a new survey by IBM and the National Retail Foundation. Gen Z shoppers may have easy access to their devices – such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops – but the in-store shopping experience still has its own access to their hearts and wallets.

The IBM-National Retail Foundation study found that the nearly-members of Generation Z (there will be 2.6 billion projected as of 2020) actively prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers as opposed to going online. But even with this in mind, retail outlets need to be prepared for particular demands from this buying group.

“Generation Z expects technology to be intuitive, relevant, and engaging – their last great experience is their new expectation,” IBM general manager of global consumer industries Steve Laughlin said in the press release announcing the survey results. “This presents a significant challenge for retailers and brands to create a personalized, interactive experience with the latest digital advances or risk falling behind. This kind of innovation is not linear or a one-time project – it is a new way of thinking, operating, and behaving.”

Between the two-thirds of Generation Z members spending most of their shopping time in physical retail outlets and another 31 percent spending at least some time in stores, nearly 100 percent of the generation’s members find themselves in stores from time to time.

Retailers should be aware, though, that this generation spends significant amounts of time online, with the survey finding that three-quarters of respondents spent some amount of free time online and that a quarter of respondents spent five hours or more online on a daily basis.

However, according to National Retail Foundation CEO Matthew Shay, these facts still do not predict that retailers will lack the power to win these shoppers over.

“They appreciate the hands-on experience of shopping in a store,” Shay told The Motley Fool. “With technology constantly evolving but some shopping habits remaining the same, retailers need to be agile enough to serve both needs.”

What’s more, the IBM-National Retail Foundation study found that retailers who are hoping to most successfully woo Generation Z shoppers will do so if they keep the quality of their brand close to heart – in fact, more than half of those who were surveyed said that they would switch brand if they did not feel that product quality was up to par.

In addition, Generation Z shoppers demand ready availability and good value. Retailers will be well advised to keep this in mind if they’re hoping to retain their in-store Generation Z shoppers rather than seeing them slip away into the clutches of e-retailers.