Next-Gen Shoppers Head Back to School

August’s lazy days becoming busy days can only mean one thing—a new school year is upon us. Retailers, were you ready?

Are you capturing your fair share of the $83.6 billion projected total spend for back-to-school shopping (up 10%+ from last year)?

If this second-busiest season of the year hasn’t been all you thought it would be, it’s probably time to enhance your digital strategy. December is right around the corner.

Next-gen consumers, and more specifically Generation Z shoppers, heading back to primary and secondary schools as well as colleges are a large group that knows what it wants.

Born between 1996-2010, Generation Z is the generation of smartphones, the Internet, Instagram, Snapchat and the many other digital technologies we take for granted today. Because of their on-demand experiences, they bring a whole new set of challenges to your virtual and physical doors—many even more modern than their Millennial predecessors.

Generation Z Demands Digital

“Just as Millennials overtook Gen X, there’s another big buying group retailers need to plan for, and it’s even larger: Generation Z,” says National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO, Matthew Shay.

Appealing to Generation Z requires a new mindset—one in which there is rarely a reason not to use technology—while appreciating what motivates these image-driven shoppers to purchase. They care about functionality, but Generation Z also actively seeks out products that look good, are fashionable, and affordable.

As a retailer, you can use this to your advantage. Through unique merchandising techniques, consumer engagement apps, and IoT technology, you can collect data and analyze buying patterns to ensure promotions and merchandise are customized for shoppers’ personal tastes.

Ecommerce retailer, Stitch-Fix, for example takes online shoppers through a series of questions to create a personal profile (with customized size, price, and style preferences) to ensure the clothes, accessories, and shoes its stylists pick match the personality, trends, and styles the customer expects, before they are sent to the shopper’s doorstep. Consumers buy what they like and send back the rest in a pre-addressed return mailer. It’s a fast, easy, and convenient shopping experience, rich in technology and customization for fashion-forward shoppers.


2017 Back-to-School Trends

Staying competitive in retail today means keeping up with not only fashion trends, but also IT capabilities.

According to the NRF,

  • 5% of consumers will be taking advantage of free shipping this back-to-school season
  • Spending is happening both online (44.1%) and in department stores (57.1%)
  • “Big-box” retailers—Wal-Mart and Target—rank as the top two choices for back-to-school shopping

Despite being digital savvy, a recent survey revealed Gen Z would rather shop in stores than online. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for retailers. How do you create seamless personalized shopping experiences both online and in stores for this generation? How do your brands become on-demand, available to this generation of consumers wherever they are?

NRF’s Shay says retailers are “constantly focused on experimenting with new innovations both online and in-store to remain relevant to evolving consumer demand.” His rationale for why is that Generation Z “appreciates the hands-on experience of shopping in a store. With technology constantly evolving but some shopping habits remaining the same, retailers need to be agile enough to serve both needs.”

Understanding and making smart technology investments is going to be essential to winning over the digital-native generation, and why we are working closely with large retailers across the globe to modernize and mobilize their operations.

With back-to-school season winding down, do you have the right IT strategy in place to meet Generation Z’s holidays shopping needs?



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