Retail & Distribution

Beyond the Cart: Why Gen Z and Millennials are Flocking Back to Brick-and-Mortar Stores

4 October 2023

Beyond the Cart: Why Gen Z and Millennials are Flocking Back to Brick-and-Mortar Stores
6 min
The blog "Beyond the Cart" delves into the evolving preferences of Gen Z and Millennials, uncovering a surprising resurgence in their attraction to physical stores. The exploration delves into key findings from the Drapers report ‘Gen Z and Millennials 2023’, shedding light on the reasons behind their preference for in-store shopping, as well as providing ways retailers can optimise their stores for young consumers.

In this blog, we explore the exciting shift in consumer behavior shaped by today’s fast-paced technological landscape. We’ll shine a light on the comeback of in-store shopping among Millennials and Gen Z and we’ll uncover the reasons behind this trend. From the sheer delight of hands-on experiences to the value of personal connections with store staff, we’ll uncover the various motivations driving these tech-savvy generations to physical stores. Additionally, we’ll share practical strategies for retailers to enhance their brick-and-mortar spaces. Join us as we decode the intricacies of modern shopping and guide retailers in adapting to the evolving expectations of Gen Z and Millennials.

Defining a Generation

Delving into the vibrant world of Gen Z and millennials, the Drapers report ‘Gen Z and Millennials 2023′ serves as a friendly guide, offering a comprehensive exploration of the characteristics, preferences, and behaviours of these dynamic age groups. Defining Gen Z as those aged 7 to 27 and millennials falling in the 28 to 43 age range, the report draws insights from a survey involving 2,000 UK adult consumers, specifically targeting individuals aged 18 to 42. With a balanced representation of both generations, the survey, conducted over six days from 28 July to 2 August 2023, captures a snapshot of attitudes and preferences during this specific timeframe. Amidst this wealth of information, the report uncovers a fascinating trend – a post-pandemic resurgence in the allure of physical store shopping among Gen Z and Millennials. Curious about what draws them to brick-and-mortar stores? Let’s unravel the mystery together.


Reasons behind the preference for in-store shopping among Gen Z and Millennials


Feel It First: The Joy of Trying Before Buying

Around 59% of Gen Z and millennials revel in the opportunity to try on clothes in person when they step into stores. The tactile experience of touching the fabric, gauging the fit, and seeing how an outfit complements their style is an integral part of the in-store shopping adventure. This sensory engagement is a unique aspect that online shopping struggles to replicate, adding an extra layer of excitement to the brick-and-mortar experience.

Shop and Socialise: The Allure of In-Store Social Aspects

For 50% of these young shoppers, in-store shopping is not just about finding the perfect item—it’s a social event. The opportunity to go shopping with friends or family adds to the enjoyment that transcends the transactional nature of online shopping. The shared experience of exploring stores together creates memories and fosters a sense of connection amongst friends.

Now, Not Later: The Power of Instant Gratification

Instant gratification is a potent motivator for Gen Z and millennials, appealing to 50% of those surveyed for the Drapers report. The ability to walk out of a store with desired items in hand, without the wait for delivery, satisfies the need for immediacy. This aspect of in-store shopping aligns with the fast-paced lifestyle of today’s youth.

Unexpected Finds: Embracing Discovery and Atmosphere

Browsing through physical stores offers Gen Z and millennials the thrill of stumbling upon new treasures. The ambiance and environment of stores play a crucial role in enhancing the overall shopping experience, turning a routine outing into an adventure of discovery.

Personal Touch: The Value of Interaction with Staff

For 25% of Gen Z and millennials surveyed in the report, the personal touch of face-to-face interaction with staff members is a crucial aspect of the in-store experience. Seeking assistance or recommendations from knowledgeable staff adds a human element that enhances the overall shopping journey.

Beyond Shopping: Proximity to Amenities

The convenience of retail stores being close to other amenities, such as cinemas or restaurants, adds to the appeal of brick-and-mortar stores for 25% of Gen Z and millennials. It transforms a shopping excursion into a full day of leisure and entertainment, catering to the desire for holistic experiences.


How you can optimise your stores for young consumers

While there is plenty drawing Gen Z and millennials back to stores, the report uncovers some of their least favourite aspects of in-store shopping. Understanding the preferences of Gen Z and millennials – including both their likes and dislikes – retailers can take several steps to optimise their physical stores for the younger generations. These can include:

  • Efforts to reduce queues: Queues are the least enjoyable aspect of in-store shopping, with 67% expressing their dislike. Retailers should consider opening extra tills or providing self-service options to minimise waiting times, especially during peak hours.
  • Maintaining an accurate view of stock management: Ensuring sizes are available in-store is crucial. Regular stock management and replenishment can prevent disappointment – especially since 50% of this generation dislike finding their size is out of stock.
  • Enhancing the try-on experience: The most popular part of visiting a fashion store is trying on items. Retailers can elevate this experience by providing spacious, well-lit changing rooms and mirrors that offer an honest reflection.
  • Socialising the shopping experience: To attract Gen Z and millennials, stores can offer larger changing rooms for groups of friends and even incorporate food and drink options to encourage socialising.
  • Leveraging smart technologies: Embrace technology to improve the store experience. Implement mobile checkout systems, handheld point-of-sale tablets, and augmented reality try-on experiences to streamline the shopping journey.

Cegid Retail Store Excellence customer, Crew Clothing, stands out as a retailer that harnessed technology to elevate the in-store experience. In September 2022, the company introduced a comprehensive mobile checkout system, empowering staff to seamlessly conduct transactions using handheld tablets throughout the store. According to the company’s statements in the same year, this innovative system not only enhanced customer service but also streamlined work processes, resulting in a notable 22% increase in turnover compared to pre-pandemic levels. This success underscores the transformative impact that tech-driven solutions can have on both operational efficiency and overall business performance.

In wrapping up our investigation into the shopping preferences of Gen Z and Millennials, we’ve uncovered a fascinating story of how consumer behavior is evolving amid technological advancements. What stood out prominently is the renewed interest in in-store shopping among these two unique generations. We’ve highlighted some key drivers behind this trend, ranging from the sheer joy of trying things out in person to the social aspects of the in-store experience, and the value of personal connections with staff.

Armed with these insights, retailers now can strategically adapt and meet the expectations of these tech-savvy cohorts. The practical strategies we’ve outlined can serve as a friendly guide for retailers aiming to create spaces that align with the specific preferences of Gen Z and Millennials. This exploration not only unravels the complexities of modern shopping but also equips retailers to thrive in an environment where the blend of online and offline experiences shapes the future of shopping.

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