Hi, my name is Allison Bass, I’m 20 years old, and I love the mall. 

Yes, you read that correctly – I don’t mind the disorganized shelves, the ridiculously long lines, or the exhaustion that follows. Online shopping is great, but I prefer Brick and Mortar. And believe it or not, so do my fellow Gen Zers. 

The mall is not dead, and you have my generation to thank for that. While the retail apocalypse isn’t a complete hoax (an alarming number of stores across the US have closed in recent years) there is hope for those who outlived the destruction. This isn’t to say retailers can simply stick to their old ways and expect to flourish. But by creating in-store experiences designed to attract shoppers under the age of 24, retail stores shouldn’t have to fear for their future… at least for the time being. 

(More reasons) why you should care about Gen Z

I may be a little biased, but Gen Z is one heck of a generation. To start, Gen Zers are expected to surpass Millennials within the next year, making them the largest generation in the world. More importantly, Gen Zers have a lot of buying power… like a lot a lot. Gen Z’s spending is almost $100 billion. Compare that to Millennials’ spending of just over $65 billion. Most of Gen Z isn’t even in the workforce yet… just wait until we have a steady income. Capturing our loyalty now will certainly pay off a few years down the road. 

But how do you capture Gen Z’s loyalty?

Now I’m guessing you’ve heard how Gen Z cares a lot about technology since we grew up with the internet and smartphones. With this knowledge, you’d probably assume Gen Zers prefer shopping online. Nevertheless, 76% of Gen Zers agree that “physical stores provide a more well-rounded and enjoyable shopping experience than online shopping.” More than 80% choose to buy personal care products in a physical store and 77% prefer to buy apparel in-store. 

This is great news for Brick and Mortar stores; however, Gen Zers have certain expectations. As I said before, Gen Z cares a lot about technology. We spend hours a day on mobile devices (it’s honestly pretty discouraging when I get a notification about my screen time – on average, I spend 4 hours per day on my phone… yikes). Although we don’t prefer shopping online, we still expect retail and technology to be seamlessly integrated. Now how in the world are you supposed to do that?!

Three ways to capture their attention:

  1. Use technology to inform customers of promotions

Having worked in retail, I know how much of a pain it can be to tell every person who walks through the door that it’s 15% off jeans or an additional 20% off sale or buy one seasonal cardigan get one free. Luckily, there are tools that make it way easier to inform customers of in-store promotions.

Beacon technology is a tool used in a vast number of stores throughout the world. You’ve probably heard about them before, but if you haven’t, Beacons are small Bluetooth radio transmitters that send messages to customers’ mobile devices while they are shopping in your store. 

Let’s say I’m shopping in Target and I have the Target app downloaded on my phone. I’ve allowed it to send me notifications and track my location. When I walk down the snack aisle, I get a notification telling me Ritz Bitz Cheese boxes are buy one, get one free! Ritz Bitz Cheese is my favorite snack, so of course I’m going to take advantage of that offer. Thank you, Beacon technology, and thank you, geniuses at Ritz. 

  1.   Make your stores Instagrammable

I know this sounds silly, but I’m not lying when I tell you I once waited in line for a good twenty minutes to get into the Glossier showroom in New York City. I didn’t plan on buying anything… I just wanted to take a picture in front of their mirror that says, “You Look Good.” I ended up buying two things – $20 I would not have spent if it weren’t for that mirror. 

^^photographic proof

Laugh all you want, but I’m not the only Gen Z who does this. I promise you a good chunk of us do, and if you want to get us into your store, you need to quit the judgment and accept the fact that we’re social media fiends.  

  1. Take advantage of smart mirrors and RFID technology

Gen Z’s reliance on technology has led to high expectations of personalization. Farfetch, an online luxury retail platform, capitalized on Gen Z’s desire for a highly personalized shopping experience. In 2017, they launched “Store of the Future,” which uses augmented reality, emotion-scanning software, innovative payment solutions, and RFID technology to integrate online and offline worlds. 

Stores like Gucci, Neiman Marcus, and lululemon are also using smart mirrors in their fitting rooms. Neiman Marcus’s MemoryMirror allows customers to compare outfits side-by-side, eliminating the hassle of “re-trying on” items. The mirror also provides a 360-degree view of what an item looks like in different colors. Other smart mirrors offer product suggestions and give you the option to adjust the lighting in the fitting room.

RFID technology is another development that has taken retail by storm. In Farfetch’s “Store of the Future,” they implemented RFID clothing racks that track where a shopper is looking and which items they engage with. Since Farfetch has customers “log in” when they enter the store, they accumulate immense amounts of data to better serve their customers’ needs online and offline, creating a seamless connection between the two – exactly what some Gen Zers are looking for (and some are looking to avoid – giving up troves of data can give some people pause, of course).

Conclusion

The mall is not dead, it’s just in the midst of a metamorphosis. Rather than moving all shopping online, stores need to begin integrating online into shopping. Implementing new technologies will better enable retail stores to attract the soon-to-be-largest generation in the world – a generation who, oddly enough, prefers shopping in-store. Help Gen Zers boost their social media, and in turn, they will help save the future of the shopping mall.