The Retail Shopper is Shifting

The Retail Shopper is Shifting

The demographic makeup of consumers is constantly changing, and this is reflected in the preferences and behaviors of each generation. The shift from Millennial to Generation Z consumers is a significant one, and it will have a significant impact on the future of retail.

Retailers are beginning to carefully re-examine how they capture the attention of these tech savvy shoppers and turn them into loyal customers. To better plan and cater to a digital consumer base, retailers need to understand the intimate differences between these generations.

Shift in Consumer Preferences

One key difference between these two generations is their approach to consumption and what they buy.

Millennials – born between 1981 and 1996 – have been the dominant consumer group in recent years. They grew up during a time of rapid technological change. From the very early days of the internet to the latest smart devices, Millennial shopping habits have been molded by technology, which has greatly influenced their behaviors. They are also socially conscious and are very aware of a brand’s impact on society and how a brand’s reach influences social norms. They also tend to focus more on buying into an experience rather than a possession.

Gen Z shoppers – born between 1997 and 2012 – are just now beginning to enter the workforce. With them, they bring a new set of eyes into the digital age of retail. Oftentimes more pragmatic, they are focused on authenticity and individuality – searching for brands that help them boldly stand apart. Additionally, they are focused on practicality and affordability. To target these young shoppers, retailers may need to shift their focus to products that offer more bang-for-the-buck rather than high-end luxury items, like habits established during the Baby Boomer generation.

Another key difference between the two generations is their attitudes towards sustainability and social responsibility. Millennials are often described as being more socially conscious and are more likely to make purchasing decisions based on a company's values and practices. Generation Z, on the other hand, is even more likely to prioritize sustainability and ethical considerations when making purchasing decisions.

Retailers wanting to capture the attention of both generations will want to appeal to them by demonstrating that their brand is conscious of and acting towards sustainability and social responsibility. The more forthright retailers are about their efforts, the better the chances they have at creating loyal customers.

Digital Engagement

Another area where the shift from Millennials to Generation Z is likely to have an impact is in the realm of digital engagement. While Millennials are often known for their digital and technological prowess, Gen Z is proving to be even more tech-savvy.

This means that retailers will need to focus on providing a seamless and intuitive shopping experience, both online and in store, to attract and retain customers in this demographic. This could involve integrating augmented reality, providing personalized recommendations based on data analytics, and offering a mobile-first shopping experience.

That also requires retailers to think of how their workforce can exceed their shoppers’ expectations by empowering associates with the ability to remove friction in the shopping journey. For an associate to meet a Gen Z or Millennial shopper on the store floor and having a wealth of knowledge regarding inventory and available shipment dates within a few swipes of the finger brings those younger shoppers into a familiar realm of technology; one that they can appreciate and understand.

Furthermore, allowing that associate to accept payment wherever the shopper is helps younger shoppers feel like they are getting expedited service, almost as if they’ve received a membership-level perk or preferential ability to skip the queue for the register.  

So, What Does This Mean?

While there are certainly some similarities between these two generations, there are also key differences in their attitudes and behaviors. Retailers will need to adapt to these changes if they want to remain competitive and appeal to these rising consumers. This may involve a renewed focus on affordability and sustainability, as well as a seamless and intuitive digital shopping experience. Overall, the future of retail is likely to be shaped by the preferences and behaviors of these two generations, and retailers who are able to adapt to these changes will be well-positioned for success.