Born with the internet at their fingertips and a mobile phone in their hand, Generation Z seamlessly blurs the online and real world when it comes to retail.
Yet, according to a new study, they still prefer stores to have both a digital and physical presence, and the majority favour websites over apps when it comes to making online purchases.
Here’s an insight into the interplay between digital and real world for what’s fast becoming the world’s largest generation of shoppers.
In 2018, WP Engine compiled a study on Generation Z’s internet usage. Entitled “Reality Bytes: The Digital Experience is the Human Experience”, the report took a deep dive into the online habits of people born between 1996 and the mid-2000s.
They noted in the US alone:
- Generation Z represents 25 per cent of the population and comprises 86 million people
- They boast $143 billion in buying power, and:
- Gen Z influences as much as 93 per cent of the family spend
Gen Z internet use
It’s hardly a surprise that this is a connected generation like none before. They have never experienced a world without the internet or mobile phones, and this connectivity plays a central role in their lives.
The study found 55 per cent of Gen Z can’t unplug and when they do can go only five hours without internet access. In comparison 22 per cent of Baby Boomers can unplug and go 168 hours without internet access.
A different internet use
Meanwhile, Gen Z uses the internet in new ways compared to the generations before them. Two thirds (66 per cent) use the internet primarily for entertainment, followed by connection, with information in a distant third place.
“Just as Gen Z spends more time online than any other generation, they also continue to look for easier, more natural ways to interface with all of the devices they use.
“This includes accessing the Internet with their voice, using tools such as Siri or Alexa, but also with gestures, and hand and finger movements on a touchscreen,” the study continues.
A more personalised experience
Generation Z expects their internet interaction to be personalised and that trend is only likely to intensify.
The study notes 44 per cent of Gen Z are more likely than members of any other generation to provide their personal data if it means they’ll receive a more personalised digital experience over an anonymous one, while 68 per cent believe in predictive personalisation – that websites will know what they want intuitively.
“Additionally, 44 per cent of Gen Z would actively stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked, or wanted.”
Internet access everywhere
The Internet of Things is here, and Gen Z is actively embracing the trend.
The report noted: “Gen Z also wants to see more things connected to the Internet, from clocks and refrigerators to vacuums, dishwashers, and a host of other appliances. Always on, 24/7 digital access is table stakes for this generation, and they will demand for everything to be much more connected in five years’ time.”
Gen Z and retail
Online and physical equally important
When it comes to shopping, Generation Z finds both the real world and online equally important.
“…more than any other generation, Gen Z also prefers businesses to have an online presence and a physical storefront, further reflecting the blending they see between digital and reality,” the study noted.
“Much like previous generations, Gen Z still has an affinity for shopping in a physical space, albeit alongside a digital one.”
Website rather than app
Interestingly, Gen Z would rather access online retailers via a website instead of an app. The study found 61 per cent of this cohort would prefer to use a company’s website over their mobile app when making a purchase.
More informed prior to purchase
They are also using the internet to become more informed about the purchases they make, seeking product information and reviews, while also comparing prices.
“…Gen Z is highly adept at not only finding reviews but evaluating them, comparing prices across stores whether online or offline, and researching products from their mobile devices with unprecedented ease.
“This Gen Z customer is more empowered than ever, and as a retailer, that means you’re never safe from your competition. Brands must reinvent before they have to, and they must ensure the customer is consistently surprised and delighted in order to build trust and loyalty.”
Meanwhile, building on the habits of the generation before them, Gen Z believes the companies they purchase from should be socially aware and accountable.
“Sixty-nine per cent of Gen Z are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes, while 33 per cent have stopped buying from a company that contributes to a social cause with which they disagree.”
The final word
Connected, informed and empowered, Generation Z is set to challenge retailers in the physical and online realm over the coming years.
Their expectations will be high, and they will hold the companies they buy from accountable. But as this generation moves into poll position as the consumers with the highest disposable income, the rewards of catering to their needs will undoubtedly outweigh the effort.