For digital natives Generation Z, enhanced digital tools are the future of shopping. In a recent Accenture study of 10,000 consumers, more than two-thirds (69%) of Gen Z shoppers across 13 countries said they are interested in purchasing via social media directly.
In addition, 44% of those surveyed look to social media as a source for product inspiration and 37% have increased their use of social media for purchase decisions in the past year.
"To succeed in this increasingly digital world, retailers must understand Gen Z’s expectations, influencer circles and behaviors—especially their social-media habits and how they differ from those of millennials. If they are spending their time on social platforms, this is where they want to be buying their products," said Jill Standish, senior managing director of Accenture's retail industry practice.
Gen Z shoppers not only want to buy on social media, they want to interact with retailers on this platform. So while the demand exists, what is standing in the way of creating more one-click buying opportunities on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram?
One big hurdle, according to Karen Voelker, global retail lead of Accenture's customer innovation network, is that retailers are still learning how to sell merchandise on social media channels. Retailers will need to find ways to harness data and analytics to know the right merchandise to put on these channels and how to push relevant, personalized content. Plus, retailers still need to work on crafting the message, photos and videos to match the look and feel of each platform.
Despite digital tendencies, Gen Z is still loyal to the physical store, as 60% of respondents still prefer to purchase in-store and 46% will still go to stores for more information before making an online purchase.
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But "stores as we know it are no longer relevant," Voelker told FierceRetail. "It's no longer just a place to pick up a product. It's a place to have an experience, which offers services or a chance to meet with an expert or engage with a product."
Voelker warns that stores should not be putting in technology just for the sake of technology. Stores need to take a step back and ensure that they are still human-centric, a place where people are coming to learn about and interact with the product and the brand. And the roles of stores need to be individually defined, varying by demographic and location. This includes retraining the staff of modern stores to be able to use the technology at hand to build relationships with consumers.
Voelker already sees stores turning into spaces for events, gatherings and entertainment.
"Stores will be living spaces in the future," she added.
One of the surprising findings of the study is the lack of brand loyalty among Gen Z shoppers in the U.S Only 16% of this group shop at a single store for clothing/fashion, compared to 26% of older millennials. Only 19% shop at a single store for health and beauty items, compared to 34% of older millennials. Fewer than 38% shop at a single place for groceries, compared to 55% of older millennials.
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In addition, Gen Z is defined by their need for speed. So much so that 58% said they would pay more than $5 for one-hour deliveries.
"This generation has grown up with Amazon Prime. They are accustomed to getting items within two days," said Voelker.
What does Voelker predict for the future of this shopping demographic? A trend she is starting to see pick up is voice-activated purchasing, such as through Amazon's Alexa or Google Home. According to the study, 38% of Gen Z consumers are willing to try voice-activated purchasing.