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The next generation will either make or break the High Street

22nd Sep 2016
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The impending ‘death’ of the High Street has been a hot topic over recent years for retailers, brands and consumers alike – but what, if anything, has the biggest impact on the fate of the High Street? The answer? Generation Z.

Generation Z, also referred to as GenZ, or post-millennials, are those born from the mid-90s through to 2010s, and is expected to include people born up until 2020. This generation of digital natives’ shop in a very different way to any before them and their digital dependency could present a technological ticking ‘time-bomb’ for brands and retailers.

As GenZ’s spending power increases, so does the need for retailers to recognise and respond to their shopping habits. As this demographic have grown up surrounded by technology, they expect the convenient and interactive shopping experience that they’ve become to expect online to be replicated, and continued, when they enter a physical store. Currently many retail businesses are at risk of creating a divide between what GenZ expect from their shopping experiences and what shops can realistically deliver within the next five years.

Although this paints a bleak picture of the high street’s future, there is a silver lining. Our latest report ‘Coming of Age: Generation Z, the store and the technology ticking clock’ has identified the top five reasons why GenZ still visit bricks-and-mortar stores, which, if taken seriously by retailers, could provide a lifeline for High Street shops.

  • Validation - Almost seven in ten (68%) GenZ consumers claim they shop in-store so that they can try out products in the flesh
  • Immediacy - GenZ said immediacy was a main reason for buying in-store (43%), as they enjoy the convenience of taking away their purchases straight away
  • Social interaction - 43% claimed that meeting with friends and family was a big factor as to why they shop in-store
  • Cost - Almost a third (31%) of GenZ consumers use the store to avoid incurring online delivery costs
  • Inspiration – In total, 27% claimed that they visit a store to get inspiration and seek out new styles and trends

The answer to meeting GenZ’s needs and sustaining their interest in visiting bricks-and-mortar stores, lies in providing robust networks.

Retailers must ensure that their networks can support digitally driven consumers, whether they are using their devices for researching further information before validating a product, or to interact socially in-store.

To ensure their consumer shopping experiences are enhanced, and that GenZ continue to use retail stores as meeting points, retailers and brands should look to provide free Wi-Fi which can cope with multiple users on the server at any one time. This is particularly important as our research showed that 46% of customers use their mobile to look up further product information once in-store and 58% of consumers would shop in a store more often if it offered free customer Wi-Fi.

By ensuring that networks can support GenZ’s growing digital expectations retailers can future-proof their in-store strategies as by 2021, GenZ consumers say they would be drawn in-store by fast-track ‘scan and shop’ apps which link to mobile payments (18%); virtual queue ticketing systems (17%); AR fitting rooms with mirrors that scan outfits over an image of the shopper negating the need to try items on (18%); and personalised changing room booths shoppers can customise with their own lighting, temperature and background music preferences (16%).

Although Generation Z’s dependency on technology remains a big step for retailers, the High Street could be saved by outlets recognising the need to change and for them to begin putting in place reliable networks to support the needs of the digital GenZ consumer. 

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