If you’re looking toward the future and want to ensure your business continues to thrive in the coming decades, you have to take the predilections of young consumers into consideration. Sorry, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, but the “young” consumers today are the Gen Y “millennials” (1981-1996) and Gen Z “iGen” or “digital natives” (those born after 1996)—and they are legion. In total, the 103 million consumers’ buying force rivals that of the previously dominant group of 82 million Gen Xers and Boomers, who reached 72.5 million at their peak in 1964. By 2020, Gen Z alone will account for some 40% of retail sales in the U.S. That’s a lot of business to court! So let’s consider a few in-store marketing strategies to engage them.
How Are Young Shoppers Different?
Young shoppers differ from their predecessors in a few noteworthy ways. They want:
- personalized recommendations and curated suggestions based on past purchase history
- the ability to order out-of-stock items and search available in-store inventory for products
- to build their shopping lists ahead of time-based on special offers
- the option to use self-checkout or mobile checkout through a retailer app to skip queues
- to shop on-the-go (with 36% of transactions taking place via mobile and 24% via laptop)
- immediacy, like same-day delivery service, click-and-collect, and instant digital rewards
- online reviews, price comparisons, and search recommendations in deciding what to buy
- social media and physical retailer location messaging that informs them of new products
- brands whose values mirror their own (52% of young shoppers care vs. 35% of Boomers)
- friendly, helpful engagements with in-store associates who are focused on their needs
- destination stores in shopping malls, mixed-use plazas, and city centers
- logical layouts, easy-to-find merchandise, and rewards for their loyalty
To sum it all up, young shoppers want convenience, personalization, and technology at their disposal. Next, we’ll discuss how these preferences translate into strategic moves for your business.
7 In-Store Marketing Strategies to Engage Young Consumers
If you want to court Gen Y and Gen Z shoppers, get onboard with these retail best practices:
- Make your store more navigable. For the most part, young shoppers already know what they want—they just need to be able to find it. Retailers should focus on creating a tidy, organized environment that is free from too many overt distractions. This generation likes the old-fashioned “information kiosk” that many stores long abandoned. You might also appeal to them with beacons, store maps, mobile push notifications, and mobile shopping apps like Shopkick that guide consumers through the store. Eye-catching displays that focus on contrast and color, with signage falling to the backdrop, are important. Innovation is expected, so there should always be room to update displays with a fresh rotation of products and themes. Think eye-level, interactive, tactile, and accessible. Curate relevant music that gets shoppers in the mood to buy and switch to silence just before closing time to encourage them to move toward the queues.
- Dive into experiential and event marketing. Marketers say festival culture has become “the culture” among Millennials and Gen Z, a group undeniably “obsessed with experiences over products.” They don’t bat an eyelash about spending $150 for a concert ticket that would’ve cost $50 a decade ago if it means they’ll be getting a VIP experience. Many retailers are bringing their retail experience outside their traditional brick-and-mortar stores to where the people are. Likewise, in-store, retailers are experimenting with exclusive VIP events and unique experiences that appeal to their younger, more discerning audience.
- Offer more for less. Big retailers are incorporating elements from successful online startups like Poshmark, ThredUp, and The Real Real. Neiman Marcus and H&M are the latest retailers to recognize young shoppers’ desire for exclusivity and bargain pricing on premium luxury goods. They allow shoppers to drop off used clothing in exchange for credit toward their resale operation, which offers premium used goods at 80% off original pricing. The move appeals to eco-conscious and bargain hunter consumers alike.
- Make your store more Instagrammable. Take into account younger shoppers’ desire to experience things “in the moment” and to later share that moment with friends and family on social media. An Instagram-worthy space could be as simple as an artfully created “selfie wall” or a festive holiday display, or it could be more elaborate. For instance, you could devise a series of unique, themed pop-up shops for the holidays, to promote a new product line, to test a new market, or to work in tandem with a neighboring retail partner. Compared to traditional stores, pop-ups are smaller, more creative, tech-enabled, interactive, and buzzworthy. Or you could take ModCloth’s lead and offer limited installations that inspire. For two weeks, they allowed shoppers to be styled wearing ModCloth items and photographed by a professional photographer; shoppers received enhanced digital and printed photos with custom illustrations to keep, which were also displayed on the store’s digital walls. The effort resulted in over 250 portraits snapped, 5 million social media impressions, and a “significant” increase in-store visitors.
- Help them connect to celebrity status. According to analysts, Gen Z shoppers are looking at brick-and-mortar stores as a way to “[get] emotionally closer to celebrities and online influencers.” Try to work with some of these well-known figures to run in-store promotions, contests, giveaways, and free samples that affirm the desire of this generation to remain fresh and “in-the-know.”
- Provide rewards for their loyalty. Gen Y and Gen Z shoppers are more likely to give a brand a chance, but less likely to repeat their business. Incentivizing purchases with perks for loyalty, providing greater perceived value for their money, and gamifying the retail shopping experience are all important factors in a loyalty strategy.
- Use mobile apps to enrich the in-store shopping experience. An app like Shopkick not only marries the mobile and physical realms, but it also makes a humdrum trip to the store more interesting, rewarding, and fun. Upon entering your store, Shopkickers “check-in” on their mobile devices to see offers. Brand partners offer rewards points, called “kicks,” for engaging with their lookbooks, videos, and products in-aisle, that can later be redeemed for gift cards of their choosing. Shoppers can earn kicks by engaging with and purchasing your products, and perhaps they’ll even choose to exchange these points for a gift card to your store. One leading cereal brand stole 28% of share from the competition during the crucial back-to-school shopping season by partnering with Shopkick—now that’s results!
Inspiring Customer Engagement Through Innovation
Here’s the good news: Young shoppers value your retail store more than their parents or grandparents’ generations. You have an audience who wants to buy from you and be catered to by your store associates.
Keeping young shoppers engaged requires thinking outside of the box and incorporating new strategies.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can sit back and rest on your laurels while the young folk flood in through your doors. Keeping young shoppers engaged requires thinking outside of the box and incorporating new strategies. Brands can no longer rely on decades of name recognition and brand reputation to carry them through the years. Like biological species, companies must adapt in order to survive. Adapting to the needs of your youngest demographic will ensure you stay fresh, relevant, and popular. There has never been a better time to start engaging younger shoppers to ensure the viability of your brand.
Image courtesy of AlessandroBiascioli