Generation Z, born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, is moving into the workforce and becoming one of the most influential consumer demographics. Retailers will need to adjust their strategies if they are to remain relevant for this highly educated, socially aware and digitally connected cohort.

Steven Heilbron, CEO of Capital Connect, says Generation Z represents the retail customer of the future. In a young country such as South Africa, it’s especially important for retailers to understand this market if they are to grow their businesses.

Heilbron outlines some key trends emerging in this segment of the population:

* Plug into social media – According to the Flux Trends 30/30/30 Report, Gen Z spends an average of 3.8 hours a day on social media, with Instagram and TikTok as the most popular platforms. This highlights the importance of plugging into social media to promote and advertise a retailer’s offerings to this population. Social media campaigns should be interactive and visually appealing to cut through the noise.

* Back into the real world – Many members of Generation Z missed out on pivotal school and university experiences under lockdown. As such, they have come to value real-world experiences. Retailers with aesthetically pleasing spaces, vibrant displays, unique d├ęcor, and interactive elements can turn their brick-and-mortar stores into destinations worth visiting and sharing on social media. In-person events like product launches and in-store workshops can turn an outlet into a community hub.

* Support new ways to pay – The Flux report paints a picture of a financially savvy generation. Retailers can appeal to them with flexible payment options like Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services for bigger purchases. They should also embrace digital payment technologies such as mobile wallets to make transactions seamless and convenient.

* Focus on sustainability – Values are shifting among younger consumers, with many concerned about climate change and the environment. Thrifty clothing and casual styles are more popular than high-end branded items. Retailers can appeal to Gen Z’s values by offering sustainable choices and highlighting eco-friendly practices.

* Hustling on the side – Many Gen Zs balance side hustles with their studies or jobs. Retailers can tap into this by offering products for their side hustles. Gen Z prioritises spending on electronics and technology, for example.

* Bare necessities matter – Flux’s research finds that many members of Gen Z live in multigenerational households and hold some responsibility for taking care of extended family. Their spending is short-term and focused on basic needs. Retailers should cater to this practical approach by ensuring a range of high-quality, affordable products that meet these basic needs.

Heilbron comments: “To win over Gen Z customers, retailers must adapt to their digital lifestyles, entrepreneurial spirit and care for community and family. By understanding and addressing their unique preferences and behaviours, retailers can build lifelong relationships with their next generation of customers.

“Fast access to capital is the key to reinventing your retail business, whether by buying the right inventory, refurbishing your store, investing in additional profit centres (APCs) or embracing e-commerce.”