Gen Z backs bricks-and-mortar

Australian retailers are starting to adopt an instantaneous e-commerce model, delivering products within one or two days – or sometimes a matter of hours – as consumers increasingly like to get their online purchases right away.

One of Australia’s most successful online retailers, The Iconic, has inarguably been at the forefront of this shift, catering to technologically savvy millennials by providing instant  gratification and three-to-five-hour delivery.

It would be safe to assume, therefore, that the young adults of today, Generation Z, who were typically born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s, would have similar retail tastes. But contrary to popular belief, younger shoppers seem willing to wait longer to receive products and even prefer in-store shopping experiences over online-only channels.

Are we about to see a transformational shift away from millennials’ preference for a purely online experience to the way Generation Z like to shop?

Informed consumers

The answer is yes and no, and we can expect a mixture of both styles of retailing. It’s likely that Generation Z – or iGen as they’re sometimes called – have more time to browse physical stores and enjoy looking at products, only turning to online channels if the price is more competitive.

This new generation, like millennials before them, tend to gather as much product information as possible, often independently, thanks to the wealth of information available at their fingertips. But Generation Z are more likely to venture into stores to undertake this research in person. This indicates their enjoyment of the overall customer experience. They’re not just shopping around for the best price.

By going in-store, they are able to interact with other shoppers, trial products and discover related products that they may not  have previously considered. Of course, it’s still possible to look at other products online, but the visual impact of being among lots of different goods can influence a shopper’s decision-making

However, that’s not to say that Generation Z don’t like instantaneous customer fulfilment. This has almost become second nature, demonstrating that while they may seem to be more patient than millennials, Generation Z have adopted many of their predecessors’ here-and-now preferences.

Best of both worlds

It’s clear that shopping habits are continuing to shift to online, and the current crop of 14- to 24-year-olds are starting and completing their purchases online or through a mobile device. Therefore, a best-of-both-worlds scenario is the ideal option, where physical stores offer instant customer fulfilment, or direct shoppers to the nearest alternative store or third-party location if the product is not available.

Australian retailers need to double their efforts to appeal to the latest generation of shoppers, offering as many solutions as possible to increase the speed of customer fulfilment, both through in-store and online channels. Their enjoyment of bricks-and-mortar stores notwithstanding, it goes without saying that Generation Z expect retailers’ full commitment to deploying the latest technologies to help achieve this.

While millennials still have the memory of waiting for dial-up internet, Generation Z don’t know any different. As a result, they have high expectations around the digital technology that retailers should be using.

Customers who engage with retailers across multiple channels and touchpoints are driving increased conversion rates, both online and offline, as they have more than one channel to aid in their purchasing decisions. This is crucial in keeping Generation Z onside and fostering increased customer loyalty.

Research shows that many companies struggle to prioritise the channels they invest in, but if the preferences of younger shoppers point the way, then social media, online communities and voice assistants are critical.

Sixty-seven per cent of millennials and Generation Z use voice-activated personal assistants like Siri and Alexa to connect with companies, according to the recent State of the Connected Customer Report from Salesforce. Unsurprisingly, millennials and Generation Z were found to be the most omnichannel generations, using an average of 11 channels to connect with and research companies.

The trend towards instantaneous customer fulfilment will continue to dominate the retail landscape as Generation Z matures. And Australian retailers will need to maximise both in-store and online shopping to ensure they don’t fall behind international competitors and online giants like Amazon in providing a personalised customer experience.

Author: Graham Jackson is CEO of Fluent Commerce and has more than 15 years’ experience in omnichannel retail.

This article first appear on Inside Retail, a sibling publication to Inside Franchise Business.