Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, baby boomers, the silent generation: is there really a difference between these groups when it comes to shopping? Every generation wants a good experience that is convenient. Everyone wants to feel like they are purchasing a quality product at a good price. It is unlikely a customer of any age will come into your store and demand a terrible experience or complain that they didn’t have to wait long enough to be helped. Core consumer expectations don’t vary all that much from generation to generation. So why does Gen Z research matter? Why does your store need to understand today’s students and their motivation?
When I ask my 19-year-old Gen Z niece how she purchases her college shirts, she says, “I would either go to the bookstore when they’re having a sale or go to a tent sale. I would pick the shirt based on a combination of price and style.”
For her, shopping on-campus is convenient — she’s already there. More than that though, she likes to go to the bookstore where she can see the quality and fit of the shirt. She is also willing to wait to make a purchase until she finds a bargain. After purchasing a shirt, she is likely to share a great bargain with her friends and will post pictures of herself wearing the new shirt on social media.
Gen Z grew up with electronics, smart phones and social media keeping them connected, but they also grew up during a recession. All of this has influenced how Gen Z students see the world around them. They are cost-conscious, deeply connected to their peers and expect personalized experiences. It's what they know.
When it comes to shopping, students are likely to consider many factors when deciding where to shop and what to buy.
80% of Gen Z’s purchases are influenced by social media
72% feel cost is the most important factor
67% prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores
66% choose brands that sell high-quality products
3 ways your store can connect with Gen Z
- Understand how Gen Z’s peers influence their purchases
When it comes to products and advertising, Gen Z listens to their friends or favorite social media personalities. They want to see and hear from people who are like them rather than traditional celebrity endorsements.
Social media influencers or “micro-influencers” are becoming one of the most effective means of advertising. It is reported that influencer marketing can generate a return on investment that is 11 times greater than traditional advertising. What’s even more encouraging for small businesses is you don’t need to recruit influencers with millions of followers to be effective. In fact, Instagram accounts with smaller followings (less than a 1,000) have a higher engagement rate.
Your college store can recruit student influencers on your campus to help get word out about new products, merchandise and even sales. By using students from your campus, you will reach your target audience and show Gen Z that your store is part of their community.
- Hone your social media strategy
Gen Z loves social media, but they aren’t drawn to the same networks as previous generations. The top social media networks for Gen Z are YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Start building your presence and strategies on those networks. Do some informal student polls to see what sites they use, how they use them and who their favorite people are to follow. Also, budget some money for cost-effective social media advertising. For example, 25% of Gen Z shoppers are predicted to click on shoppable photos (like on Instagram) this holiday season.
- Support Gen Z’s social consciousness
According to Barnes & Noble College Gen Z research, 56% of the Gen Z students have tried to participate in or effect social change by actively engaging with issues that matter to them. Gen Z cares about the world and believes in their ability to make it a better place. Demonstrate how your store cares about your campus community and students. Host collections for local food pantries or find ways to support the resources available to students who are struggling with food or housing insecurity.
In many ways, all students are similar to one another, but with Gen Z in particular, they want to stand out from the crowd and make their voice heard. Gaining a better understanding the issues that are most important to this population of students will help your store support them and provide them with a better overall experience. For a more in depth look at Gen Z, check out Conversations with Gen Z.