As Generation Z enters adulthood, the retail industry is buzzing with debate about how best to adapt customer journeys to cater to this demographic’s unique shopping behavior. As lifelong digital natives, Gen Zers are experts in “outsmarting” traditional sales funnels and customer journeys, requiring retailers to stay several steps ahead in order to keep them engaged.
For example, more than any generation before them, Gen Zers are genuinely omnichannel, moving fluidly between apps like TikTok, websites like Amazon and physical storefronts — a fact that demands unprecedented connectedness between traditional and emerging channels. Gen Z shoppers are also far less impulsive than previous generations. They do their research before making a purchase, and they won’t hesitate to return an item they dislike.
Retailers are rising to these elevated expectations by adopting agile and flexible new solutions – leveraging a combination of asset-light ecommerce models, retail media and digital marketing to get in front of Gen Z with the products they want and the experiences they’re demanding. Let’s take a closer look at four key ways in which retailers are adapting their go-to-market models, in order to maximize their relevance to Gen Z’s shopping preferences.
Gen Z buying journeys are omnichannel
Even more than Millennials, Gen Z are digital natives. And unlike Millennials, Gen Z has never known a world without smartphones, tablets, mobile apps, streaming services and social media platforms, in addition to traditional websites and physical storefronts. In fact, a 2023 survey by ChannelAdvisor- a CommerceHub company, reports that 82 percent of Gen Z consumers access more than two touchpoints in their buyer journeys — and those touchpoints include apps and social media platforms in addition to brand websites and services like Amazon. A full 80 percent also use their phones to look up product information while inside a physical store. That means it’s crucial for them to be able to make a purchase from any touchpoint, at any time.
Gen Z shoppers do their research
These days, nearly two-thirds (59 percent) of Gen Z consumers are considering more before making a purchase. They’re less likely to trust what brands and retailers tell them, and more likely to seek out third-party reviews. A full 85 percent rely on social proof when making a purchase decision, according to new research by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). The more quickly you’re able to put a curated product selection in front of a Gen Z consumer, the less likely they’ll be to continue their search elsewhere — and the more likely you’ll be to forge a connection that leads to a purchase.
Gen Z expects fast fulfillment and flexible returns
More than any generation before them, Gen Z shoppers view fulfillment as part of the product they’re paying for. Even as fulfillment costs and carrier rates continue to skyrocket, more than 60 percent of consumers say they expect free shipping orders to show up in three days or less, and 93 percent want to stay informed throughout the delivery process. What’s more, a full 85 percent say they’ll never shop with a retailer again due to a poor delivery experience — and more than a third (34 percent) won’t purchase a major home item from a retailer that doesn't offer free returns.
As a result, the only way to manage expenses while meeting Gen Z’s expectations is to adopt an asset-light retail model, in which you’re able to leverage a network of drop-ship and marketplace brand partners to broaden your curated product selection, and distribute fulfillment responsibilities, while maintaining tight control of the overall buying journey.
CommerceHub’s data-driven network of brand and retail partnerships uniquely positions us to address this cluster of challenges, enabling retailers to keep overhead costs under control while keeping Gen Z shoppers engaged across all touchpoints.