New Insights on How Millennials and Gen Zs Like to Shop

Young shoppers love stores but not malls

The Cassandra Report, an ongoing study of emerging trends, generational insights, and youth behaviors, has released its annual Cassandra Report: SHOP study this week—offering a handful of data-backed new insights into how teens and twentysomethings like to shop.

Emily Anatole, Cassandra’s associate insights director, told JCK that one of the biggest revelations from the fresh findings was that young consumers aren’t just looking for brands and experiences that are visually cool—an assumption many retailers make in the age of slick Instagram photos.

They’re also “craving shopping experiences that provide them with a sense of community,” she says. “Today’s youth don’t just turn to brands to browse and buy, but rather, they look for brands to create togetherness.”

Which is positive news for brick-and-mortar stores. “Youth regard brands as facilitators, platforms, and places to connect with like-minded people,” Anatole says. “As a result, many of the retailers resonating today—and leading the way for tomorrow—are those with brick-and-mortar stores that function much like community centers or hubs for social engagement.”

Among the retailers Anatole cites as connecting with young consumers through brick-and-mortar locations are activewear brand Kit and Ace, which hosts supper clubs in its stores, and Hub Seventeen, Lululemon’s first designated community space/store in New York City’s Flatiron District. “The venue regularly hosts not only yoga and fitness workshops, but also arts and lifestyle programming, including the Gathering, a monthly dinner series featuring local chefs and restaurants,” she says.

The cover for the SHOP report from Cassandra (photo courtesy of Cassandra)

A desire for connectedness “is drawing them to visit physical stores,” explains Anatole. “While it’s never been easier to buy anything online today, they still making the effort to visit retailers in person because it allows them to feel most integrated in society, especially when brands actively encourage this through their environment and events.”

The SHOP Report, which is available in full exclusively for the consultancy’s clients (JCK was given select findings) was fielded from June 23 to June 30, 2016, and surveyed “a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults and 1,000 UK adults aged 14 to 34,” along with 300 14- to 34-year-old “trendsetters,” according to the company.

Some interesting findings and stats from the study:

• Nearly half of of the U.S. respondents (46 percent) like to visit stores even if they are not planning to buy anything.

• Nearly four in 10 of the U.S. respondents (38 percent) say that shopping in a store makes them feel like they are part of a community more than shopping online does.

• Forty-three percent of U.S. respondents say they want to see more designated areas in stores where they can hang out and relax.

• Traditional malls are a tough sell: 64 percent of total respondents say it’s hard to find everything they need at a mall; and 62 percent say shopping in stores is more stressful than shopping online.

• Thirty-four percent of teens interviewed say they like it when brands create limited-edition packaging, and 30 percent would like to see more limited-edition items in stores.

• Teens also would like stores to provide things such as food and beverage kiosks/cafés (44 percent), designated areas to hang out and relax (42 percent), virtual mirrors (40 percent), and virtual reality experiences (28 percent).

• U.S. youth are split on whether they prefer to shop in-store (51 percent) vs. online (49 percent).

• Gen Z likes stores more than Gen Ys: Ys are split nearly evenly (52 percent online, 48 percent in store), while Zs have a marked preference for in-store shopping (60 percent prefer in store, 41 percent prefer online).

• Teen Zs are far more likely than their Y counterparts to look for stores to provide amenities/advancements such as: food and beverage kiosks/cafés (44 percent of Zs vs. 35 percent of Ys); designated areas to hang out and relax (42 percent vs. 29 percent); roaming salespeople to pay rather than waiting on line at a register (37 percent vs. 28 percent); virtual mirrors (40 percent vs. 27 percent); ability to get 3-D printed products on demand (25 percent vs. 19 percent); virtual reality experiences (28 percent vs. 17 percent).

• Teens are more likely than Ys to view stores as more than just places to buy things (36 percent vs. 25 percent).

• Zs are more likely than Ys to look for advice and guidance from brands and are more likely to want brands to: be available 24/7 (41 percent vs. 34 percent); show them how to use/wear products (41percent vs. 31 percent); provide guidance, help, and tips (39 percent vs. 29 percent); and communicate with them one-on-one (33 percent vs. 22 percent).

“For teens, shopping is an opportunity to stand out from their peers,” said Alina Diaz, senior vice president of Cassandra, in a statement. “It isn’t easy to get the spotlight when you’re part of a generation that has more tools for personal expression than any other before it, and they’re looking for brands to guide them in this endeavor.”

But the rub is, brands have to meet that challenge. “Brands are missing an opportunity,” Diaz asserts. “We’re still not seeing many that have figured out how to help teens feel like cool, confident young people.”

(Top photo courtesy of Teen Vogue)


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JCK Senior Editor

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