We get it now. Generation Z is obsessed with social media. Retailers have seen endless research that confirms the importance of this digitally-native group of consumers, corroborates their love of ‘Insta moments’ and documents their craving for immediate gratification in the buying process.
Stores still matter. Criteo’s Shopper Story report found that 65% of Gen Z consumers dislike buying things without being able to touch them, 71% enjoy shopping in stores to understand what’s in style and 80% like to try new retail stores.
What is becoming plain is that unified commerce in retail is essential in growing relationships with this powerful demographic, which is forecast to make up 32% of the global population this year.
The reality is that many high street retailers are failing to meet the needs of Gen Z. The frictionless shopper journey between channels that is so strongly desired, is simply not possible for those retailers held back by legacy technology limitations. We know that before Gen Z-ers purchase a product, they use their mobile devices to browse products, compare prices, and read online reviews. And they demand omnichannel services - from same-day delivery, to in-store ‘endless aisle’ ordering - which allow them to have a seamless, integrated shopping experience. They would like more personalised promotions and joined-up service across the channels. The challenge is having the retail systems in place to make this possible.
According to a study conducted by Mobile Marketer, 88% of Gen Z members use Snapchat and Instagram frequently, versus 81% for Facebook and 66% for Twitter. Meanwhile GlobalWebIndex has found that 54% of UK and US Gen Z and Millennial consumers questioned said they discovered a new brand or product through sponsored posts with deliberate promotion, 53% via recommendations on social media and 41% through celebrity posts.
“Marketers need to deliver on Gen Z's expectation of technologically-optimised experiences and recognise their fondness for innovation and experimentation,” says Inc Magazine. “This generation will exchange personal data for terrific experiences. So, don't waste that opportunity.”
Clearly the changing buying behaviours of these consumers are driving a monumental transformation to the retail industry. Gen Z has come into spending power and now represents the future of retail, so standing still and ignoring their needs is not an option. Retailers must offer all the trappings of connected commerce and digital engagement.
So how to bridge the divide between online and offline and serve seamlessly across channels? It may not be as easy as ABC to achieve this, but what is possible with the right technology partner, is for retailers to invest in solutions that provide a 360-degree view of the customer’s shopping journey and of inventory – taking friction out of the experience.
Having an instore unified commerce solution enables store employees to respond to an increasingly online, mobile and omnichannel customer journey. It allows them to gain full visibility into a customer’s online behaviour from devices instore. For instance, Cegid Shopping software empowers store associates to offer customers a range of omnichannel services and unlock intelligence about a customer’s prior online journey. So much more becomes possible with this degree of visibility.
Crucially, the Cegid Shopping platform helps store associates order an item that may not be available instore and offer the customer a range of delivery options, such as ship to shopper’s home or store-to-store, via tablet devices, without ever having to leave the customer’s side.
To impress Gen Z-ers, omnichannel fulfilment must be speedy and seamless too. To do this well, retailers require stock clarity. This is why inventory management has emerged as a key factor for operational efficiency across a ‘bricks and clicks’ operation. Just as having visibility of the customer has become essential, having a single view of stock and actioning that data in real time to fulfil orders is also absolutely vital.
Progressing omnichannel therefore requires a rethink of the fundamentals of the retail supply chain. The aim for retailers must now be to optimise inventory locations and strategise around the combinations of fulfilment that Gen Z and millennials increasingly demand – satisfying customer demands. With distributed order management (DOM) software in place – technology that Cegid is now delighted to offer - it’s possible to develop sales and profitability around the availability of stock across all locations
Robust software for DOM is essential at a time when we’re starting to see industrialised roll-outs in omnichannel, where the store becomes a logistics centre, mobile technology is adopted in store for use by store associates and customers begin to enjoy the benefits of ship from store and endless aisle services from the brands they love.
Avoiding disjointed shopping experiences that cause customer frustration and lost sales is an urgent priority for retailers in 2019. Those companies that can help sales associates be more effective, with real time insight on customers, will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.
It all boils down to offering excellent customer service, tailored to a specific audience. Embracing change might seem like a challenge – but Gen Z will thank you for meeting their unique needs and this can put you on track to a secure future.
Alan Holcroft is the director of Sales at Cegid
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