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Generation Z & Millennial Trends, Consumer Behaviour & Shopping Habits – LiveArea Q&A

With the constant stories about the decline of physical retail, how can brands appeal to a new generation of shoppers?

Shane Orchard, Head of Digital Trading and Marketing Operations, LiveArea EMEA: Gen Z are the most digitally-native generation, but we also know that they enjoy the in-store experience. In fact, this can be a differentiator for retailers that embrace the physical experience, and find innovative ways of engaging with customers in this space.

People are discovering, researching, and buying products online, on mobile, social media, and in store. Brands should ensure their social, website, and in-store teams are meeting regularly to curate a blended, consistent customer experience across all these touchpoints.

Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director, LiveArea EMEA: Gen Z are born to share. They have the ability to impact any brand that they interact with. It’s the age of user-generated content, influencers and micro-influencers raised in a world where social networks are the go-to media for education, opinion, and entertainment – not TV, newspapers, or magazines.

The focus is on YouTube personalities and user-generated content offering advice about skincare, for instance, shunning the advertisements of big corporations and preferring tips from vloggers, or a friend’s Instagram story about something they’ve enjoyed in-store.


SO: It’s all about creating a compelling, shareable brand experience. The health and beauty industry has been a real flag-bearer for the in-store retail experience. Whether it’s watching a makeup tutorial whilst having a coffee with friends, or getting a mini makeover in-store, these brands are battling in an increasingly competitive market, and know that offering an innovative in-store experience could be the way to promote brand loyalty.

In-store purchases can be accompanied with prompt cards to review online or share on social media. Email or social campaigns can push brick-and-mortar footfall with exclusive in-store discounts or freebies.

BS: For sure, eCommerce continues to grow and optimised, converting websites and engaging social profiles are vital. But a wholesome omnichannel approach and creating more of an in-store customer experience is an excellent way of promoting brand loyalty with Gen Z.


What mistakes are brands making?

BS: We still see brands not thinking mobile-first. This is a mobile generation, not desktop or even tablet anymore. But many brands are still thinking back-to-front when it comes to their eCommerce sites – often built for desktop, then squeezed into mobile versions using responsive design. That’s not going to win, when you can be sure your competitor is thinking mobile-first.

Brands should be thinking about developing mobile versions first. Designs and layouts are focused on delivering optimal mobile UX: fast load times, rich media and content, easy touchscreen navigation and one-tap buy buttons. Sure, this can be adapted to tablet and desktop. But it is fundamentally mobile-first.

SO: Some brands struggle to deal with the burden of extra content creation. However, we are starting to see more of a focus on content as a key cog in the eCommerce machine, and brands are finding a couple of ways to deal with it.

A strong content team can help ensure a consistent, strategic content schedule is laid out and stuck to. For some brands, this might be a large team, but no matter the size, it’s important that consistency is carried out across the website, email, social media, and in-store. Most of all, brands should have a team of content experts who are nimble, who can create content and display online quickly, and the team needs to be agile enough for a growing content appetite.

BS: It can be difficult finding the right balance between a content-led experience and making sure they don’t dilute the product and fog a smooth transactional experience. That’s where it’s really worth investing in user experience research. Who are the users? What kind of content do they like? How much content do they consume? What media do they prefer?

This kind of research will help ensure brands provide the right context and content to aid their buying journeys. It will also help providing fresh content on email or social media to keep them engaged with the brand, even when not buying.

SO: Overall, a successful content strategy really comes down to having that full plan a year ahead. When is the content going to be created? Who is going to create the content? How and when is it going to be shared? Can it be re-purposed or published across various media?

And using a cloud-based platform to store content allows different teams to collaborate and easily pull in versions when needed. Cloud CMS also provides data storage and automates certain processes such as publishing, archiving and deleting images, video and other media for various campaigns or launches.


How can brands optimise their online UX?

BS: The website plays different roles for different people. For baby boomers, it still feels as though eCommerce is more of a transactional operation. They likely know pretty much what they are looking for and are generally looking for a quick and convenient purchasing journey.

For millennials, it has become much more about an experiential journey, a lot of which is driven by content. In this regard, we’re starting to see much more focus on the product page. In fact, you could call the product page the ‘new homepage’. With so much traffic coming directly from search engines, it’s vital product pages are not only optimised, but packed with rich content. To appeal to millennials, brands need to be telling the story of the product, embedding videos, and incorporating user-generated content and reviews, all on each individual product page or category page.

We’ve found that Gen Z are demanding rich, interactive content, but they seem to have a lower attention span. Simple, short content and media that is easy to consume as opposed to longer-form video and written content seems to appeal here.

SO: Transparency is key nowadays. Gen Z are savvy enough to see through a foggy or misleading offering. They want to know exactly what the product and service offering is, so avoid hidden costs – in delivery, for instance – this will likely cause them to jump off, abandon cart, and probably never return. With competitors only a click away and likely offering free, speedy delivery, brands can’t afford to be anything other than transparent. With Gen Z now expecting the ‘surprise and delight’ offering from brands, anything less than a pleasing experience will scare them away.


How should brands tell their story?

SO: We’ve noticed how these generations are moving away from the traditional ‘size-zero’, white models and instead prefer seeing real people in the products before buying. The dynamic is shifting to appeal to new, broader audiences with less ‘conventional’ looks. Plus-sizes, brightly-coloured hair, tattoos, all races, and genders are becoming mainstream and brands are wisening to this trend, using models and user-generated content for their social media and web imagery. ASOS’s use on their website of a young woman who was cruelly abused online, and Nike’s plus-size mannequins are two recent examples of this shift.

BS: With competition just a click away and brand loyalty seemingly a thing of the past, brands should be portraying their story on all landing pages where possible. What is the product made from and where is it made? How was it designed? What does your brand do differently that might nurture loyalty with today’s consumers? If customers are landing on your product pages and looking for a quick buy, this kind of storytelling needs to be visible on product pages, not hidden away in a corporate section of the site.

SO: Gen Z and Millennials are socially and politically aware right now. We are in the age of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish school-child climate activist, the British television series Blue Planet 2, Extinction Rebellion and climate emergencies. It’s not falling on deaf ears, it’s shaping consumer perceptions about brands’ ethics, sustainability, inclusivity, authenticity and transparency.

BS: This isn’t a passing fad, it’s an integral part of a business model that can either make or break a brand. And much of this is driven by emotion. Immersive and emotive content can help to articulate the brand and provide the context around products. This, in-turn, can transform it into a much more engaging experience for customers.


Are there changing behaviours or expectations in search?

SO: Gen Z will see voice search as the norm, not a novelty. They want to find products and advice via Siri or Alexa, and this is only going to increase going forward. So, it’s time to optimise for voice. Remember – it’s unlikely that pages not ranking for the usual factors (quality content, links), will be found by voice search. Once this foundation is in place, bots tend to source data for voice queries from similar sources to featured snippets. This makes sense, as snippets provide short, authoritative answers.

Voice search bots love pages with questions and answers, so start thinking about those FAQs pages, or drop some key questions on product pages. Think natural language — voice queries average at least seven words, whereas text searches average just three.

And, when considering in-site search, consumers are now expecting personalised recommendations and related products instead of a minimal or blank results page. The worst thing you can do here is provide a user with a blank results page – they will just go elsewhere. Brands need to ensure they’ve set up a wealth of synonyms and hypernyms (similar to synonyms, defining a category – for example ‘colour’ is a hypernym of ‘red’). This will allow the site to auto-generate related products or categories to the sub-category that the user searches for. This is now expected as the norm.


Shane Orchard, Head of Digital Trading and Marketing Operations, LiveArea EMEA

Shane has extensive experience in the utilisation of product information, user-generated content and digital content strategy. He leads the digital trading and digital marketing operations team, delivering multi-channel growth for international eCommerce brands through paid media and search, personalisation, merchandising, CRM, social media, email and analytics.

Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director, LiveArea EMEA

Benoit leads the creative and customer experience design team, with experience in creating and curating world-class digital experiences across a variety of retail verticals, including health and beauty, fashion and luxury. He works strategically through the lens of the brand, and with creative, content, and technology teams, fuses the art and science of digital commerce.