Members of "Generation Z" are just now building relationship with brands and, while they're keen on age-old fundamentals like price, availability and convenience, they look for tech to help meet their expectations, according to the third report on the demographic from the National Retail Federation and IBM's Institute for Business Value, released Wednesday. Nearly half (47%) use their phones while in a store, mostly to price check, but also to contact family and friends for advice, by sharing photos of something they might buy, for example.
Although they are the first generation born into a world dominated by smartphones, 98% said they buy in a store "some or most of the time." In fact, three times as many Gen Zers said they shop mostly in stores, compared to those shopping mostly online. But they want all channels open — for 51% it's "important or very important" to easily switch among channels when researching, browsing or shopping. And they want to enjoy themselves — 56% say a fun in-store experience influences where they shop.
Gen Zers are leery of sharing data — 54% want control over what information they share. Trust can be gained, though: 61% also said they'd feel comfortable sharing more information if they knew data is protected and securely stored. And tech must be more than bells and whistles — Gen Zers prefer technology that empowers them and adds direct value, like allowing them to check inventory.
The young folk of Generation Z are legion: Born in 1995 or later, they are projected to be 2.56 billion strong by 2020, according to this report. They're growing up in what IBM researchers Jane Cheung and Simon Glass call a "fluid digital world, in which the boundaries between their physical and online lives have converged."
That's helped them grow up savvy, educated and self-reliant, according to the report. It's difficult to over-emphasize the ubiquity — and therefore the importance — of mobile to these young people. NRF and IBM found that 75% use a mobile phone or smartphone as their device of choice and 25% spend five hours or more on them each day daily. That extends to their consumption habits: 47% said they use their smartphones when shopping in a store and 35% pay with them.
Although it's not clear whether it's because of their phones or simply amplified by them, Gen Zers also want tech that's fun and creative. When asked what tech they'd most welcome, more than half ( 55%) say they'd like to design unique products, 48% want in-store tools that allow them to customize products and 42% say they want to design unique products and create them on-site.
More practical tech also has its place: 39% would like to see robotics used to help make purchase decisions or fix order issues, 32% want products that alert the store or manufacturer about upgrades or fixes, and 31% would like to see interactive screens and other tools that help them go online while they're in stores.