How to Coax Gen Z Into Your Store

skeptical teenager for coaxing gen z into your store
skeptical teenager for coaxing gen z into your store

Whenever the subject turns to Gen Z and its buying habits, just about any savvy business owner or marketer is likely to tell you the same thing.

If your products or services aren’t showing up on a Gen Z-er’s smartphone, you probably aren’t showing up at all, at least as far as they are concerned.

Accordingly, if you aren’t driving your marketing team crazy with the two-word mantra “mobile first,” you probably aren’t keeping your eye on this customer group.

Born after 1996, Gen Z-ers are digital natives who prefer to make the vast majority of their purchases online. As business people, we may as well get used to this fact as this generation’s buying power is only going to increase with the passage of time.

Brick-and-mortar business owners need not despair, however.

Gen Z will beat a path to your door if — and only if — you give them a compelling reason to do so. As with any successful marketing campaign, you first need to do some research and school yourself on the likes, dislikes, and preferences of this particular market segment.

Your future relationship with Gen Z customers must be a both-and approach. Your successful online footprint both encourages sales and regularly tosses out tantalizing invitations to stop by your base of operations. Listed below are a few basic starting points.

Gen Z has a fairly serious case of FOMO. You can use that!

The Fear of Missing Out is a dominant reality in the mindset of nearly all Gen Z-ers. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic introduced the prospect of an uncertain future into their thinking…just as many were starting to get their driver’s license.

Address reasonable fears first.

In 2022, that means consistently highlighting your company’s deep commitment to keeping in-person visitors safe from illness and other threats. Huge swaths of the Gen Z market will write off an in-store visit if they sense you are playing fast and loose with their well-being.

On the positive side, the FOMO phenomenon can be observed simply by paying attention to how often a Gen Z-er will wait until the last possible moment to commit to an event. After all, they reason, a better — perhaps safer? — offer might come along once they’ve committed, and now, well..things get awkward. And one thing this customer group can’t stand is awkward.

Business owners can leverage FOMO by, for example, thinking up in-store-only events and promotions that have a short window of time. You are more likely to get a positive response if you hold an event at your store for two hours only, rather than two weeks running.

Of course, you can only expect a positive response if your target audience knows ahead of time what you’re up to. That brings us to the next point.

If you’re not on YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat…you don’t exist.

Consistent with the fact that Gen Z grew up with a smartphone from an early age is the level of impatience — or worse, complete lack of interest — with what marketers of a certain age might describe as “traditional media outlets.”

Newspapers, magazines, radio, email, and Facebook are all fine in their place, of course…but not if you’re trying to reach Gen Z. Heck, the majority of Gen Z-ers don’t really care so much to go to movies or watch TV anymore.

For now, Snapchat and Instagram have become the de facto means of communication for Gen Z. This might be an alien concept to the Boomer demographic, perhaps. However, Gen Z-ers are far more likely to video chat with someone via Instagram or Snapchat than use their smartphone to make an actual phone call.

One implication for business owners might be to offer live video chats and/or adequately prepare designated staff to answer video requests on these platforms just as they would answer the company phone. If these live video chats feature a background of excitement and visual appeal, so much the better. Think of it as a “sneak peek” you are offering potential future visitors!

Gen Z uses social media to browse people, places, and things they like. They then choose whether or not to go deeper with someone or something. The upshot for business owners hoping to attract Gen Z to an actual retail outlet is to publish Instagram and Snapchat stories and YouTube videos that highlight your facility in a way that can’t actually be experienced in its entirety on a screen.

Of course, if there’s nothing very exciting about visiting your facility, these messages will wear thin pretty quickly with Gen Z. That’s a very different problem, albeit one you need to address.

Gen Z is (and will be) better educated …and considerably more diverse.

What worked in the 2010s may have been wildly successful, but business owners ignore the increasing diversity and education levels of Gen Z to their great peril.

Retailers who interpret a reluctance to shop in-person as “laziness” demonstrate that they really do not know this customer group very well. On the contrary, Gen Z has a great deal of energy and a desire to live adventurously. The trick is for your business to figure out how to tap into that level of energy to generate enthusiasm for visiting your retail location.

At the same time, Gen Z will also do their online research and drill down into the details of each product they buy. So, so the online reputation of the manufacturer or brand matters a lot. How can your business adapt its in-person offerings such that it does not affect product or brand credibility?

Marketers born prior to 1996 can learn a lot about Gen Z motivations simply by being observant and taking good notes as to what served as the spark that finally got their teenager or young adult off the couch.

The Bottom Line

Marketing efforts that shoot for the lowest-common-denominator can expect to receive a chilly reception. Likewise, ads that feature little to no diversity can (and do) come off to Gen Z as outdated and tone-deaf.

This customer group is smart enough to have figured out that you want their dollars. Your job is to translate what you have to offer into fun and lasting value. Seek to market as more of an experience and less that of a cold transaction. Answer the question for yourself. Why should a Gen Z-er — or anyone with a smartphone, for that matter —  go to the effort of driving to your store?

Mikel is the Managing Partner of Castello Branco Fields that consults brands strategy for small businesses and growing brands that are making an impact in their local market. Mikel's clients typically already have a proven concept and an established brand but need help with finding and executing a brand strategy that increases local and regional brand awareness to better scale their businesses model.