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Younger shoppers are becoming more interested in buying good using digital devices and online services, according to research.
A study by Accenture found that 68% of UK shoppers aged 20 and under are interested in buying goods directly through social media channels, and 40% of this generation have increased their use of social media to help make purchasing decisions in the past year.
Jill Standish, senior managing director at Accenture’s retail industry practice, said young people aged 20 and under – also referred to as Generation Z – spend more time on social media than their millennial counterparts and don’t want to be drawn away from these channels to make purchases.
“If they are spending their time on social platforms, then this is where they want to be buying their products,” she said.
Social media is becoming a more important part of the shopping process for consumers, and many claim being able to communicate with a brand via social channels increases their loyalty to that brand or retailer.
As well as using social channels to buy goods, Generation Z shoppers are also using voice-activated devices such as Siri or Alexa to make purchases, with 52% of shoppers in this age group saying they either already use these devices or would be willing to use them to shop.
Retailers are focused on delivering a more personalised experience to consumers to keep them engaged and increase brand loyalty.
Personalised or curated subscription boxes are popular with Generation Z, according to Accenture’s research.
Most of those surveyed admitted using subscription services such as Birchbox, Stitchfix or Trunkclub, and 76% said they would use this model for fashion retailing if given the option.
Just over 65% of Generation Z said they would also like to use automatic replenishing services for goods, and 61% of this age group said they would be more likely to move at least half of their purchases to a brand that offers this type of service.
In the future, some retailers expect automatic goods replenishing to be easier to implement because of the internet of things, which will enable connected devices to monitor and automatically order new goods for customers. At the 2015 World Expo in Milan, it was even suggested that these goods could be delivered by drone.
The omni-channel trend, whereby consumers interact with a brand across multiple channels and expect a consistent experience from each, is making it more difficult for stores to measure their performance because they can no longer rely on just sales figures to indicate how well a store is doing.
However, 60% of Generation Z across the world still prefer to make their purchases in-store, and because young shoppers like store assistants to be aware of how they have interacted with products and brands across all channels, 46% still check in-store for more information on products before making their purchases online.
Jill Ross, managing director in Accenture’s customer and channels practice for retail, suggested that retailers should invest in technology that allows them to tie the in-store and online experiences together to cater to the new generation of customers, and to encourage consumer loyalty.
“Stores will need to be a part of this new reality by moving into the digital and, ultimately, virtual world,” she said, “to become a showcase for discovery and engagement for the brand, offering rich, dynamic interactions that turn the store into something to be remembered, worthy of creating lasting relationships with Generation Z as well as broader consumer segments.”
Stores are increasingly becoming locations for customer experiences, acting as showrooms where consumers can try products before buying them online. This makes digital loyalty schemes, opportunities for personalised discounts and in-store engagement even more important for retailers going forward.