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Despite mobile savviness, 98pc of Gen Z still shop in-store

While the youngest generation of shoppers is the one most accustomed to life online, a report from IBM shows that shopping in-store is still important to them, with 98 percent making purchases at a physical store.

This piece of data will be helpful for retailers looking to target Generation Z as they grow into marketable consumers. While mobile will remain paramount to targeting them, it will have to work in tandem with physical shopping experiences.

“Generation Z expects technology to be intuitive, relevant and engaging — their last great experience is their new expectation,” said Steve Laughlin, IBM general manager of global consumer industries. “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.”

Generation Z
With every generation, shopping habits change. Whether they change in response to technology or technology changes in response to them is a matter of debate.

But one thing that cannot be debated is that we currently live in the mobile era.

Mobile devices have taken over almost every aspect of our lives and are now the primary medium through which we interact with the digital world.

This is even more true of the youngest generation, or Generation Z, who have grown up in a world of smartphones and devices and have never known a time when people did not get all of their news and digital fixes from them.

That has shaped how they interact with the world and an overwhelming number of members of Gen Z use smartphones every single day.

Retailers need to be able to respond to that need by adapting their retail strategies to fit the current mobile mood.

And with the number of Gen Z-ers predicted to reach 2.6 billion globally by 2020, they have to do it fast.

But among all the data that comes from the massive influx of new users, IBM found another striking detail – young consumers today still shop in-store in overwhelming numbers.

Ninety-eight percent of all young consumers shop in-store. Combined with their affinity for mobile, this gives brands an excellent opportunity to communicate with Gen Z on their own turf.

Online to offline
Additionally, IBM found that 74 percent of Gen Z uses their phones primarily for messaging and social media with friends, but would be willing to extend that to brand conversations as well.

Messaging is becoming its own particularly powerful branch of mobile media, with many brands taking advantage of chatbots and other services in order to better connect with Gen Z.

The overall findings of the report generally conform to previous research on generational shopping habits, with a recent report that found 50 percent of Gen Z use social media while shopping (see story).

Taken together, these reports detail a world in which mobile dominates but that still sees a place for physical retail. If brands want to capture the Gen Z audience, they will have to be able to integrate the two together.

“Just as Millennials overtook Gen X, there’s another big buying group retailers need to plan for, and it’s even larger: Generation Z,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “They appreciate the hands-on experience of shopping in a store.

“With technology constantly evolving but some shopping habits remaining the same, retailers need to be agile enough to serve both needs. Retailers are constantly focused on experimenting with new innovations both online and in-store to remain relevant to evolving consumer demand.”