Every American generation, from baby boomers to millennials, live under unique conditions often foreign to their predecessors. Boomers lived through segregation and weren’t introduced to cell phones until their middle years, while millennials came of age during the Great Recession and practically invented the selfie.
The latest generation to receive a label is Generation Z — people born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. This group was introduced to cell phones and iPads as infants, and they have no recollection of the events of 9/11. But along with their unique experiences with history and technology, they also have quite a bit of spending power, as well as influence over what their parents buy. So, in addition to catering to your older clients who are actually laying down their credit cards, you may want to take a closer look at appealing to a younger demographic and the potential profit that they bring with them.
A recent study released by IBM and the National Retail Federation revealed interesting facts about Generation Z.
Although they’ve never known a world without Amazon.com, this generation actually prefers to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. They have $44 billion of their own buying power, yet, unlike previous generations, Generation Z also has influence over how their parents spend their money — from groceries to big-tickets items, such as furniture, says Mark Mathews, vice president of research development and industry analysis for the NRF.
“Ninety-three percent of household spending is influenced by Generation Z,” he says. “While they may not be paying the bills, they’re definitely influencing the decisions.”
Mathews attributes their spending influence to a cultural shift in parenting that’s been amplified by technology. Generation Z members are so comfortable researching products online that they’re often able to find needed information first, then share it with their parents.
Chris Callanan, owner of North Shore Pool & Spa in Wakefield, Mass., has witnessed the purchasing influence of Generation Z firsthand. He’s often noticed younger adult children doing the shopping while the parents make the purchase. He also believes younger generations take the reins when it comes to online shopping.
“I think the older adults are less confident shopping online and the children are so used to it they offer to do it,” he says.
Websites often are the consumer’s first stop when it comes to conducting research on big-ticket items. Therefore, it’s critical to pack your site with as much product information as possible in order to cater to this younger demographic, says Scott Reynolds, CEO of The Get Smart Group, a marketing and web-design firm serving more than 100 pool and spa retailers, based in Angels Camp, Calif.
That includes information about pricing, delivery timelines and model specifications. “The reason they go [to your website] is because they … want to educate themselves prior to speaking to someone about making a purchase,” Reynolds says. Positioning your website as an educational tool will also help consumers view your store as not only a local expert resource, but also a business that does all it can to help people make better buying decisions.
Younger generations also are more likely to type than talk on their phones, Reynolds says. Facebook Messenger is one of Generation Z’s communication tools of choice. Most retailers have a Facebook page where they post messages about sales, new products, and other relevant information. Consumers are then free to “like” any of the messages that are posted by the company and leave comments that are visible to anyone who visits the page.
Reynolds recommends going a step further and monitoring inquiries that come via the Facebook Messenger function. By merely clicking the Send Message button at the top of any Facebook page, a consumer can send a private message to the company. Many people prefer to use this communication tool because it’s not part of a public forum and it’s fast. Pool and spa consumers use this tool to ask pricing questions, support questions and even send pictures of broken pumps to inquire about how to fix them, Reynolds says.
But whether your customers choose to communicate with you via Facebook Messenger, email or smoke signals, Reynolds says that a classic best practice has become even more important — getting back to them in a timely manner. “We’re in the time of instant gratification — especially in the younger generations,” Reynolds says. He notes that receiving a quick response makes consumers feel as though their concerns are being taken seriously.
To prevent digital inquiries from getting backed up, Reynolds recommends having a person on staff who is dedicated to responding to these messages on a regular basis. He notes that there’s no need to correspond with a consumer at 3 a.m.; but retailers should aim to respond within an hour or two during the work day. And if you’re closed, say on a Sunday, you should aim to get back to the customer by Monday morning.
Inside the Store
Generation Z shoppers still do purchase products in the brick-and-mortar world, so your store should also reflect your dedication to this demographic.
David Mitroff, founder of Piedmont Avenue Consulting in San Francisco, recommends taking a good, hard look at your in-store marketing materials. Do your displays and posters reflect the fun, relaxing lifestyle that could be obtained from purchasing a new hot tub or a luxurious outdoor furniture set? Do they even feature pictures of young adults? If they don’t, you might consider making a few upgrades.
This generation also loves to share pictures and videos, so retailers can find creative ways to encourage Gen Zers to photograph your store. Mitroff suggests holding a contest among local art students to create an aquatic-themed mural for your business — something that would entice customers to take pictures of themselves in front of the mural and share the photos on social media.
“Younger generations love being the center of attention,” Mitroff says. Remember to provide a hashtag, such as #WestSidePool&Spa, and ask customers to include it with each post. By doing this, the customer gets to share pictures of himself or herself in front of a cool mural, and your store gets free digital advertising.