Gen Zers are ready to shop — now.
Though most have yet to finish school, the generation is ready to rev its retail engine — and most are already armed with a personal credit card, according to researchers in a report from American Express that was done with Forrester Consulting.
The report, “Raising the Bar: How Gen Z Expectations are Reshaping Brand Experiences,” discerns the demographic from its older cohort, Millennials. In March, consumers falling into both age groups were polled to examine the varying nuances in their shopping patterns, expectations and readiness to adopt new technologies and engagement opportunities.
The research found that Gen Zers are more open to new technology, particularly mobile payment options. Socially fluent, these shoppers prefer to chat online with brands, look for engagement on their terms, and opt for notifications and communication via social channels.
To shed more insight on the survey’s findings, Luke Gebb, senior vice president and head of digital enterprise at American Express, dives deeper into particular preferences of the demographic, how brands should respond and what it means for the future retail landscape.
WWD: What challenges and opportunities does Gen Z present to brands and retailers?
Luke Gebb: While Gen Y and Gen Z are both highly mobile, our recent research with Forrester shows that Gen Z does not find it invasive to receive texts, notifications or offers from brands via mobile. That provides a major opportunity for brands and retailers.
At American Express, one of our core goals is to constantly evolve to deliver an exceptional service experience to card members, when and where they want and need it, on platforms they’re already using and in the places they’re going.
For instance, the Amex bot for Messenger that we launched last year allows us to explore different real-time features that we can deliver to our card members in Messenger, providing us the opportunity to be a part of their journeys on a platform they already love.
Chatbots like the Amex bot for Facebook Messenger, use artificial intelligence and machine learning to better serve users and provide personalized experiences in environments like Messenger. This technology will continue to evolve to provide even more elaborate and convenient servicing in the future.
WWD: What should service providers prepare as Gen Z secures more spending power?
L.G.: It was interesting to see in our study that Gen Z is already actively using mobile payment products. Forty-three percent of Gen Z respondents used a branded-card checkout solution like Amex Express Checkout in the last three months, compared to only 29 percent of Gen Y. Thirty-three percent of Gen Z respondents have used a device specific mobile wallet, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay, in the last three months, compared to only 22 percent of Gen Y.
Considering this readiness, it will be important for us and our merchants to continue to deliver on what our card members want. We’re focused on providing solutions that remove the friction from the overall commerce experience for both merchants and card members. With Amex Express Checkout, card members can check out quickly and securely at participating online merchants by using their account login. We’re reducing shopping cart abandonment for merchants and providing a seamless checkout experience for our card members.
WWD: Gen Z promises to be one of the least brand loyal demographics to date — how can retailers, credit providers and others appeal to them?
L.G.: Gen Z loyalty is tech-driven — respondents to our study were twice as interested as Millennials in features that provide instant gratification such as one-hour delivery made by drones, ability to purchase products or services through chat apps or social media, personalized experiences via bots and AI and the ability to pay using a watch or other wearable.
We’ve sought to leverage interest in new digital platforms to help evolve transactions into interactions with our recently launched Amex Skill for Amazon Alexa, which allows eligible card members to check their account balance, review recent charges, make a payment and review select Amex Offers, for example. But at every step of the way in our card member experience, we’re thinking about fraud prevention.
WWD: What efforts resonate best with Gen Zers in the retail and credit categories?
L.G.: According to our study, despite having less spending power, Gen Z’s expectations are already similar to Gen Y when it comes to trust and service. Gen Z cares deeply about the reputation and brand image of the brands they use and both Gen Z and Gen Y were aligned on the top reasons they would stop working with a brand; unexpected fees or charges, security breaches and negative news about the brand or a product.
Security and trust are always top of mind for us and we continue to invest in advancements in fraud prevention and other security measures, resulting in fraud rates that have been the lowest in the industry.
WWD: How will social media influence credit card selection and use?
L.G.: Gen Z not only demands social media engagement and integration from brands, but also demands that these experiences are well designed and executed.
The more we create experiences our card members love, the more they will come back to us and talk about us to their friends and family. But those experiences aren’t always automated or driven by bots. Brands need to recognize when human interaction is still key to satisfactory customer service.
American Express continues to work to ensure that we provide a blended digital and human experience, knowing when to suggest to take the conversation off-line or to a customer service rep to better solve a problem.