By 2020, 40% of consumers in Europe, the US and BRIC markets will be “iBrains”, or Gen Z. The first generation fully immersed in smartphones and social media, these digital natives will drive disruption in retail. Always connected, they live in the fast lane. If you are to succeed in the future, you will need to identify, predict and meet their needs. And you’ll need to grab their attention to maximize the opportunities they offer retailers and manufacturers. Here’s how.
You’re already familiar with Millennials, but the iBrains – the “selfie generation” – are different. They don‘t know a world without smartphones and social media. While Millennials are tech-dependent, iBrains are always connected, intense social media users and live through technology. They expect brands and retailers to do the same in a seamless, authentic way. They want an identical brand experience, whether they are in-store, online or on their mobile device. For many brands, this represents a goal still to be achieved.
So far, we’ve shown that iBrains present brands and retailers with many growth opportunities. Compared to Millennials, they are more open to buying in-store, and in general they see no difference between online and offline.
So, how should retailers prepare for the arrival of the iBrain wallet?
Firstly, it’s key to be available 24/7 across all channels and devices. The mobile is the handheld personal life assistant of iBrains and they reach for it first when thinking about making a purchase. It connects the physical and digital worlds and holds the key to the personalization you need to offer to win over this group.
Anticipate the iBrains’ needs and issues, and provide the solutions before they themselves identify them. Achieve this, and you’ll make fans who are willing to publicize their brand loyalties. Social media is extremely important to iBrains when deciding what to buy and where – according to our FutureBuy survey*, 59% in APAC and 34% in Europe say it’s an important source of information for making the best product choices.
For iBrains, previous experience with a retailer is key for 57% when deciding whether to make a purchase (versus 49% of Gen X). So too are the opinions of family, friends and colleagues (50% versus 35% of Gen X). They also much more likely to search other shoppers’ online reviews (46% versus 30% of Gen X).
Speed is also essential to iBrains. They will accept a “good enough” product or model and have it now rather than wait for a better one. Of course, you need to react fast to grab their attention – iBrains are super multi-taskers. Or, to put it another way, you only ever have their partial – never full – attention. Also, don’t ever ignore the fact that they are more impulsive than Gen X. Brands that get their offer right can really maximize on this trait.
Finally, it’s worth noting that iBrains are not loyal to any one brand. They browse intensively to find the best deal. This is the case for 60% of iBrains in APAC and 55% in Europe. However, brands that involve them in shaping products can win vital brownie points – particularly from iBrains in APAC where 64% favor this option versus 53% of Gen X*. In Europe, 46% of iBrains value this involvement versus 36% of Gen X.
Retailers and brand owners need to fundamentally reconsider their proposition if they are going to capture the hearts, minds, wallets and attention spans of this constantly connected, partially attentive generation. A generation of consumers who will determine and dominate future shopping behavior.
Marco Wolters is Global Industry Lead Fashion, Home & Lifestyle at GfK. He can be reached at Marco.Wolters@gfk.com.
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