Alexios Blanos
Alexios Blanos 7 December 2022

Gen Z: Why the High-Street Needs to Evolve

Bridging the old with the new. It’s a notion that high-street businesses constantly need to grapple with to keep up with shifting consumer habits, especially when it comes to younger and emerging generations.

Our latest survey has discovered that Gen-Zs are more anxious about physical stores than the pandemic, with 54% preferring ecommerce. But there are still many pluses to shopping in-store, from seeing and feeling the products to the in-store experience.

It's why marrying the two concepts can prime businesses for success. Whether that’s incorporating new technology or revolutionising design and experience features to adapt to a new audience, the high-street is in need of the next stage in its evolution. The physical world of retail needs to reflect the virtual one.  

Going Digital 

These ideas can already be seen in action with Amazon’s latest rollout of its Amazon Fresh stores. Designed to reflect an online display and price offerings, customers can pick up their goods, pop them in the ‘virtual basket’ and simply walk out of the store without having to physically pay.

Payment is then automatically charged on your account. It has the semblance of the old high-street but the convenience and sustainability of a cashless world.

Arguably, this trend is being driven by the preferences of young people, who much prefer the ease and convenience that digital touchpoints offer.

Growing up in a world of quick access and minimal wait times, it's no surprise that our survey discovered that 48% of Gen-Zs said they don’t like speaking to customer service staff, and would prefer digital solutions to discover information. 

With that, the high-street needs to evolve to cater to this. How can they do this? Brands need to incorporate touch points such as digital signage and QR codes that provide interactive and quick access to information. Today, merging digital with physical is the key to success. 

A Social Experience 

Although a lot of young people like shopping online, we discovered that of those who do prefer shopping in-store, nearly half said it was because they ‘enjoyed the experience’. Plus, when asked what improvements need to be made to stores, the majority said physical stores need to become more of a social space. 

As such, creating a high-street ‘experience’ is now crucial. Customers are no longer swayed by products alone but the journey as a whole.

With the pandemic well and truly over, we have a chance to reassess that focus. Plus, digital shopping misses the entire point of what retail can, and should be: a personal experience for the consumer. Incorporating immersive, digital savvy spaces with a mixture of social activities is one way retailers are embracing this.

Luxury brands such as Selfridges do this well. Since its inception, Selfridges has been entirely concerned with the customer - everything from the window displays that draw people in, to the theatrics inside, is designed to entertain, inspire and provide that wow factor.

Retailers need to follow this lead and learn to change their in-store experiences in a way that attracts Gen-Zs and other customers: by becoming a social hub. 

Music to Their Ears

While in-store sound systems can’t directly influence sales, offering beats to get the customer excited is now essential. In our research, when asked how the in-store experience can be improved, nearly a third said better music is essential. 

Long gone are the days of picking out a single record to bring home to your friends. Apps such as Spotify mean thousands of songs are albums are at our fingertips. What this means is that the standard of audio needs to be much higher too. 

The Future is Bright 

To get Gen-Zs back into physical stores, retailers need to provide an experience; the products or services alone are no longer enough to entice customers. Younger generations are known for being digital natives, who enjoy the speed and convenience that ecommerce offers.

That’s why it's crucial that brands bring the advantages of the online world into the physical stores and create a social space that Gen-Zs are excited about.

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