Generation Z after 2000

Generation Z is a cohort that has come of age with selfies, Snapchat and YouTube. And while these youngsters — who are currently between 11 and their early 20s — are not fully in the workforce, their influence on consumer spending is significant.

Economists estimate the spending power of Gen Z at nearly $70 billion in the U.S. alone. And this will increase as the demographic reaches 40 percent of the population by 2020.

Roy DeYoung, senior vice president of creative strategy at PMX Agency, a marketing firm that works with major brands including Mattel, Steve Madden and David’s Bridal, said brands need to “rethink the in-store experience” if they want to capture the Generation Z consumer and build loyalty with them. He said the key is blending digital and social media tactics along with virtual reality, or VR, to elevate their shopping experience.

“It’s about entertainment and education,” DeYoung told WWD. “And they don’t want what they see online.”

For example, instead of walking into a RadioShack to see a warehouse of products, “what if there were coding classes? Or VR sessions?” DeYoung said. “Maybe that’s why RadioShack — and others — are failing; they just stock the store and turn on the lights.”

DeYoung said retail brands need to offer a high level of service, expertise and education than they are currently. And fresh food and drink, too. And print-on-demand services, including 3-D printing of products. “There should be cafés, and innovation labs, and other experiences that can be shared on social media,” DeYoung said. “Generation Z are the ultimate storytellers, and want to share these experiences with one another — online and in person.”

DeYoung said Generation Z consumers want to “be a part of the process; they want to participate in a shopping experience.” Regarding their seemingly lack of loyalty to brands, DeYoung said it’s hogwash. “They are brand loyal,” he said. “But if the shopping is just about price and convenience — they’ll just do that online.”

Once engaged, the shopping experience should also be gritty and authentic. And tactile. He noted the growth of vinyl records and Moleskin journals as examples of the analog-ness of the current market demand, which has an online component too. It’s a blend of digital and physical, DeYoung said that is also fueled by “a desire for simpler times.”

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