Does the word “Amazon” conjure up images of online shopping instead of a river in South America? When you think about shopping for a new pair of shoes, do you first check the Internet – sometimes several different sites – before you even consider making a trek to the mall? Is paying for something with cash a foreign concept to you? If you answered, “yes” to these questions, you may be a member of Gen Z, also known as iGen or Generation Z.
To older generations, the very definition of shopping is changing as the digital world merges with the brick-and-mortar world. This blurred shopping reality is one in which stores are always open, inventory is always available somewhere and Amazon just might deliver within hours of you placing your order. But this isn’t a new phenomenon to Gen Z: it is all Gen Z has ever known.
But what does all this mean to the world of retail and how does it differ by generation? In The Center for Generational Kinetics’ national study of Gen Z, technology, and shopping, several clear differences were uncovered along with some unexpected similarities.
One shocking and unprecedented similarity: 100% of EVERY generation said they would surf the Web on their phones looking for a better price when in a retail store or speaking with a salesperson face to face! This tendency is actually making in-store shopping look more like online shopping – online, you can have multiple tabs open at once and compare prices across different retailers, and now with a smartphone in hand, we can replicate this experience wherever we go.
It’s really all about customizing the shopping experience to your preferences.
In the study, 50% of Gen Z, also known as iGen, Generation Z, and Centennials, responded by saying they would surf the Web on their phone to look for a better price or other options while shopping at a retail store for a laptop computer or tablet. Think about that: these are teenagers (14-19 years old) who are saying that they would already search the Web using their phone before making a technology purchase.
“This expectation of comparison-shopping by Gen Z is an important trend because we predict that this will only continue to increase,” says Jason Dorsey, Gen Z expert and President at The Center. “As Gen Z enters adulthood and starts spending their own hard-earned money, they’re likely to spend even more time trying to make the most of it as consumers.”
This comparison-shopping should come as no surprise since the oldest members of Gen Z were growing up during the Great Recession, so they were old enough to see, recognize, and feel an emotional connection to the financial troubles facing Millennials as well as Gen Z’s own parents and grandparents.
Another underlying discovery from the study is that Gen Z has come of age in a time when they have never had to pay retail price. Whether it was on bidding websites, discount websites, endless sales, promotions, or loyalty rewards, paying retail was not a necessary part of their experience—but getting something at a discount was, and this is now part of their consumer expectation.
Small businesses and start-ups take note: this new generation’s preference for online shopping can mean that new companies don’t have to worry about setting up flashy physical stores. As long as they have a solid, reputable online presence, Gen Z will find them, and likely share them with their friends.
This could also lead to shopping in stores becoming more of a pastime, a recreational and possibly even social activity, with the bulk of real buying taking place online. Will physical stores change their models to attract more people to their actual location? This remains to be seen, but what’s for certain is that a change is happening, and everyone needs to be aware of it.
Curious about what Gen Z thinks about other kinds of technology? Read the entire study here.