POST-MILLENNIAL: A NEW GENERATION OF CONSUMERS GIVES BRICK-AND-MORTAR A BOOST.

Author:Bicknell, Lindsay
 
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RETAIL ISN'T DEAD, BUT IT'S GOT TO KEEP INNOVATING IF IT WANTS TO STAY RELEVANT FOR THE EMERGING WORKFORCE.

Long have retail headlines grimly anticipated the impending death of brick-and-mortar retail thanks to Millennials and their preference for shopping online. But there's a new generation of consumers entering the workforce and changing the retail game. Generation Z--those born in 1996 or later--is expected to be much larger and have a much bigger impact on retail than their Millennial predecessors. And, as it turns out, Gen Z consumers prefer to shop in-store rather than online.

According to the US Census Bureau's 2018 3rd quarter report, ecommerce only accounts for less than 10 percent of actual sales. While Millennials still seem to be driving sales in digital marketplaces, Gen Z is influencing the physical marketplace in innovative ways. And if brick-and-mortar stores want to keep up, they need to facilitate an experience that is convenient, enjoyable and authentic--and it all needs to be driven by technology.

MAKE IT CONVENIENT

The next wave of retail shoppers are what the Retail Industry Leaders Association calls the (R)Tech shopper: consumers who want to shop anytime, anywhere, in any way. For a long time, that meant exclusively shopping online. But online shopping has its share of drawbacks: inconsistency in online products, waiting days or sometimes even weeks for shipping and the hassle of mailing back returns.

According to Steve Bowler, executive vice president and resident commercial retail expert at Colliers International, "(R)Tech shoppers know they can buy it online, they know they can have the product in two days with Amazon, but they've gotten to the point where they want it now." Why wait for a product to arrive when customers can order it on their phones and pick it up in-store the very same day?

"What the [(R)Tech] shopper doesn't want to do is have to wander down the aisles to find the item they're looking for and then hope to have somebody there who can help them if they have a question," says Bowler. So the challenge is integrating the digital space with the physical space--and doing it in a way that adds real value. And retailers have found many ways to do that: free WIFI, shopping apps, digital access to coupons and incentives, phone-charging stations, digital loyalty programs, and even store associates equipped with mobile devices so customers can check out anywhere in the store instead of waiting in line...

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