From generation to generation, retail has evolved into a global dropship home decor business. Gone are the days of the local corner store. Today's consumers have access to products from across the world with a simple click of a button.
Even brick-and-mortar stores are adapting to e-commerce as retailers find innovative ways to incorporate online orders into the storefront to accommodate their shoppers' expectations. While retailers have been doing their best to appease the current generations of customers, it is time to prepare for the next generation -- Generation Z.
Gen Z is the first generation born into a fully digital world. As they turn their attention to online shopping, this group has challenged retailers' perceptions of what a great shopping experience looks like, and they have pushed for innovation.
They demand ultimate convenience, like fast shipping as a competitive differentiator, and multichannel commerce, which allows them to shop anytime, anywhere and anyhow.
To meet the expectations of Gen Z customers, retailers must understand what makes them unique shoppers. A quick glimpse at the window leading into customers' minds while they shop reveals key Gen Z attributes:
True Digital Natives: This digitally influenced generation has grown up with Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Seeing others with new products and experiences drives Gen Zs to purchase these goods and services both online and in stores.
Authenticity Believers: With a world full of "fake news," Gen Z prefers transparency. They respond best to real people over celebrities when it comes to reviews and recommendations on products, as they trust their social networks.
Convenience Seekers: Gen Z has an eight-second attention span -- four seconds less than millennials. This means they want to find their products fast and don't want to spend time searching.
Multitaskers: Since they were born, the Gen Zs' lives have revolved around technology. It is common for them to use at least two devices at once to get the goods they want, when they want them.
Hold High Standards: Gen Zs have high expectations when shopping online. They expect to have an experience when they shop, and they desire easily accessible and convenient options that fit their lifestyle.
This digitally focused generation pushes for greater, faster, more convenient shopping experiences, which constantly keeps retailers on their toes. Recognizing the Gen Z desire for instant gratification, it is up to retailers to meet their demands and ensure complete customer satisfaction.
Once retailers have identified who Gen Z shoppers are, the next step is to learn how they prefer to shop and identify ways to meet their preferences. Undoubtedly, Gen Zs have a particular shopping style, and there are different approaches retailers can implement in order to meet and even exceed their expectations.
Leading the Way in M-Commerce
More than a third of Gen Z shoppers use their mobile phones as their main shopping device, based on recent research. While Gen Zs still prefer to use computers and laptops to purchase orders online, their high use of mobile phones encourages retailers to develop mobile-friendly platforms and communication channels for their customers.
This is especially important to consider, as more than 40 percent of Gen Z shoppers look forward to getting mobile updates on the shipping process after placing an order. Retailers can offer tracking updates via text message, social media, or through an app to greatly enhance the customer experience and provide real-time updates to customers.
The app also can serve as a method of communication. Through this channel, Gen Z customers constantly can communicate with the brand and ask any questions they may have, ensuring a satisfied customer.
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Crave Low Prices with 24/7 Access
Gen Z consumers purchase goods online for two reasons: the products are cheaper, and they are available 24/7. Due to Gen Z's age and smaller disposable incomes, compared to older generations, affordability is paramount to them. This generation is choosing to shop online for grocery items, goods and services, because it often is cheaper than purchasing the same products at a brick-and-mortar store.
This generation also craves the 24/7 access that comes with online products. Gen Z prefers to shop when it is convenient. No matter the product or service, this generation wants access at the touch of their fingertips.
This means online retailers must keep items in stock at all times and websites up-to-date, as it can mean losing a sale and a potential loyal customer.
Will Pay for Faster Delivery
Every consumer prefers having multiple delivery options. Shoppers like to feel involved in the shipping process and have access to tracking information so they know when the order will reach their doorstep. Gen Z heightens this average consumer preference and turns it into an outright demand, as 98 percent will abandon their shopping cart if there are no shipping options that fit their needs.
Compared to the average consumer, Gen Zs are more likely to shop online when retailers offer convenient shipping services. This generation wants to have as many alternative delivery options as possible, which include weekend, next day, after-hours, and even hyperlocal delivery services -- a one to three-hour delivery window after the order is placed.
In fact, about half of Gen Z consumers want hyperlocal, same day, weekend or after-hours delivery options, according to a recent poll. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of retailers offer those shipping methods. This is a problem, as 29 percent of Gen Z shoppers reported they had abandoned a cart due to slow or inconvenient shipping.
In order to meet Gen Z delivery expectations, retailers need to have the capability to control and develop a range of shipping options. The best way to do this is to improve omnichannel shipping strategies. Retailers can get more orders out the door by utilizing brick-and-mortar stores, suppliers and even manufacturers.
While brick-and-mortar stores can be turned into distribution centers, suppliers and manufacturers can offer drop-shipping, so customers have access to multiple fast shipping options. Third-party logistics companies also can be beneficial to reaching Gen Z delivery demands, especially during peak shipping season.
In addition to creating new shipping hubs, retailers can explore a variety of carriers, including both local and regional. Local carriers can transport shipments 80 to 100 miles within a specified zone. This personalized service can be the answer to a retailer's hyperlocal delivery dilemma.
Retailers also should consider regional carriers that offer longer time schedules for pickup and delivery, and even might provide next-day delivery options. These carriers are especially beneficial for retailers with multiple distribution centers and a high concentration of customers in a specific area.
While providing these fast delivery options can be expensive, Gen Z shoppers are willing to pay for it. In only one year, the number of Gen Z consumers willing to pay for hyperlocal delivery services increased 12 percentage points. This generation's willingness to pay for same-day delivery increased 14 percentage points, and weekend or afterhours delivery increased eight percentage points.
With Gen Z becoming more comfortable paying for fast shipping, retailers can use marketing promotions and premium offers to further promote these options. Retailers also can offer free and fast delivery to customers whose carts qualify to further provide the convenience this generation desires.
Prefer Many Return Options
While Gen Z has a lower-than-average desire for returns to be free of charge, this generation does have higher expectations when it comes to the number of return options. This group wants a variety of options that are convenient for them. From post office or other location dropoff to returning goods by mail or in-store, Gen Zs want choices that fit their lifestyles.
To meet these demands, retailers can create return shipping labels and include them right in the parcel for added customer ease. These labels should have instructions on how and where the customer can drop off the returned parcel. Listing the many different return options on the return label will simplify the returns process, pleasing all customers, but especially Gen Zs.
After learning who Gen Z shoppers are and what they want retailers to offer, the theme is convenience. However, just because one shipping strategy worked for one retailer doesn't mean it will work for you and your customers. Learn what your Gen Z customers deem convenient and match it. If you are able to meet their desire for unique customer experiences and fast shipping demands, 71 percent of Gen Z consumers likely will shop with you again.
They will even endorse you to their friends or family -- most likely through a positive online review. Those shared experiences ultimately will touch even more potential customers worldwide.
With this new generation "pushing the parcel" on their ideal mode of communication, price points, delivery options and more, you have the potential to create a unique customer experience that will solidify a new loyal customer base.