Headline article image How to target the most influential shopping generation, Gen Z, in a post-COVID world

How to target the most influential shopping generation, Gen Z, in a post-COVID world

Gen Z was supposed to reincarnate retail--particularly brick-and-mortar shopping. This generation, like Millennials, favors experiences over things when it comes to where they spend their dollars.

Yet when they do shop, 81% prefer to do so in stores. In some ways, browsing a store is a way for them to disconnect from their digital lives while experiencing the thrill of finding a new dress or bag. This helped drive the growth of experiential retail, pop-ups, and more. Then COVID-19 hit.

The goods news: Gen Z will return to their brick-and-mortar shopping habits. But it may take time. With states reopening across the U.S., this is an important moment for merchants to evaluate their “back to business” strategy and particularly how they target and engage influential Gen Z shoppers. In addition to the insights below, check out our full report outlining Gen Zers return to retail post-COVID.

1. Overcommunicate (and listen)

If you have a Gen Zer in your family, you know how connected this generation is. Between flipping through Instagram messages, posting TikToks, and firing off Snapchats, Gen Z is adept at communicating. Brands should be, too.

Frequent, relevant updates to consumers not only keep your brand top of mind, but encourage dialogue with followers, email subscribers, or website visitors. Encourage your customers to ask questions, share how they’re doing, or provide suggestions. When Gen Zers know they’re being heard, they feel more invested in brands and will be more likely to spread the word to their peers.

2. Personalize digital strategies

Young consumers will flick past ads, emails and social posts they don’t find relevant in a split second. Personalization--from including their name to suggesting items based on recent purchases-- gives Gen Z a reason to pause and engage with your brand. This will be even more important in a post-COVID era. Personalizing digital communications is easy (there are countless plug-ins and tools today), but a surprising amount of retailers don’t. 

Expect a deluge of promotions and communications as stores continue reopening--and determine how your brand will stand out. Making an effort to engage consumers in a personalized way is a start.

3. Innovate your online experience

As with personalization, Gen Zers want opportunities to tailor or customize their experience with a brand. This can be as simple as creating an online profile and rewards program to “clubs” with special perks (which could be unlocked via subscription, after completing tasks like posting on social media, or after earning rewards points). 

Cutting-edge retailers are integrating tools to allow customers to curate their shopping experience--for good reason. 48% of Gen Zers want tools that would allow them to customize products for themselves, and 42% want the ability to create products on-site with a 3D printer (or, for now, online). Target Gen Z by integrating these community-building options into your eCommerce options, giving Gen Z a sense of ownership and community around your brand. 

4. Practice honesty and empathy

This generation likes to be “real”--meaning, they appreciate honesty and candidness. Retailers facing extended shipping times or inventory interruptions would do well to simply tell that to their Gen Z customers, and do so across platforms--from Facebook and Instagram to TikTok and via email marketing.

This approach is much more likely to earn respect and loyalty. Brands that have been successful in connecting with Gen Zers tend to empathize with their shoppers--whether about the woes of finals week (pre-COVID) or the fact that many young consumers today are missing graduations, birthdays, and more. This level of empathy helps Gen Z shoppers feel understood, engendering trust in the brand. As a result, shoppers will feel more comfortable visiting the brick-and-mortar locations of brands they know and trust.

5. Incorporate them in reopening plans

Given the opportunity, 41% of Gen Zers say they would like to submit ideas for product design. Gen Zers who are asked for and share their opinions share twice as much positive feedback than complaints. If you aren’t already, ask your customers for ideas and suggestions. While product development may not be top of mind right now, this trend provides opportunity to gauge interest and opinions on opening brick-and-mortar locations. 

Retailers will have to weigh the benefits of opening up only to face smaller foot traffic compared to before, and understanding whether Gen Zers feel comfortable shopping in person--and how--will be critical for merchants. This is also an avenue to help shape the in-store experience, from store visit reservations, curbside pickup, mask policies and more. You may find that young shoppers are willing to visit if capacity is limited to a certain number of people, but would stay away otherwise. Gen Z will talk, but retailers need to ask.

The pandemic--which has been one of the most significant global events in this generation’s life--has changed many a young consumer’s outlook on the importance of emergency savings and wise money management. They’ll still shop, but will opt for higher-quality (but affordable) items that last longer and are more versatile. They’ll also seek out options to buy now, pay later, like Afterpay, providing them with a means to get what they need without worrying about interest fees.

Several brands have partnered with Afterpay over the past month to respond to this trend, and have been able to successfully boost sales by providing their Gen Z customers with payment flexibility and optionality.

Learn how Afterpay can help merchants target, engage, and convert Generation Z. Connect with an Afterpay team member today!


Written by
Afterpay Marketing
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