Retailers face another seismic shift as generation Z enters the workplace – how can they win the loyalty of these digital-savvy spenders?

Typically born between 1994 and 2000, Gen Z grew up with a constant connection to the internet, a phone in their hands and the recession – unlike their millennial counterparts, who may now be pushing 35 and fondly remember dial-up along with baby-boomer dreams.

This young generation is the first to demolish the barrier between online and offline for all aspects of their lives. Their entire identity is encompassed on the mobile device at their fingertips, and they’re very secure having their personality digitised.

These connected consumers expect services to be as seamless and unobtrusive as their internet connection, and they’re the first generation completely comfortable in sharing personal data for the privilege.

Smart retailers have long thrived on delivering personalisation; the digitally savvy optimise all elements of the customer experience, from visual merchandising to social media.

Smart investments

Such multiple approaches will be key to winning Gen Z’s custom and loyalty, a generation driven by sharing engaging experiences.

Brands have started to capitalise on social media, but remain slow and disjointed across physical space. Digital walls with interactive displays are a start but, as mobile shopping becomes increasingly bespoke, it’s an appealing queue-free alternative to a crowded store.

Nonetheless, stores recognise the value of a more experiential, engagement-focused process; many retailers have followed Apple’s lead, and fashion brands such as Warehouse and Topshop have embraced in-store VR tactics.

In-store engagement will continue to be an important element of future retail – and all stores and locations need to become part of this multi-faceted yet seamless approach.

For Gen Z, it’s all about the combination of shopping and entertainment, of work and leisure. In their world, there is no ‘blurring of boundaries’ between online and offline; boundaries simply don’t exist.

Instead, there’s a need for a smooth yet hyper-connected service, with no obstructions to doing or seeing what they want.

Shopping is no longer simply buying – replenishing things we need in our lives. For Gen Z, shopping must offer an endless choice of possibilities: to spend, or not to spend.

Retail theatre

When Gen Z walk into a retail environment, they’re waiting to be thrilled; they hope to enticed into buying something new and to share that experience.

Essentially, shopping centres have invested in a space that can be used to showcase a lifestyle, or provide a whole theatrical experience – a fundamental draw for consumers for whom there are no boundaries, desiring engagement above all.

Now, data exists to create the ultimate retail experience for a digital generation, to transform malls into that highly prized yet elusive ‘third space’. Real-time customer data, carried on every mobile, can configure in-store services while adding a personal touch.

Movement intelligence can tailor a physical journey and experience to customer preferences, while helping to optimise the layout of a store, maximising brand and product exposure.

Still, this is only the beginning. Businesses that capture imaginations by harnessing the power of engagement – and, in doing so, learn to shape experiences around their customers’ freely offered data – will be the future winners.

  • Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe is chief executive at Movvo