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5 channel and product data strategies for engaging Gen Z in ecommerce

Everyone knows Millennials love avocado toast and Gen Z loves selfies. Right? While these may be common stereotypes, they don’t truly reflect the two generations as a whole. Millennials, the generation aged between roughly 25 and 40, represent the beginning of a digitally native world. They live omnichannel lives and push marketers to rethink the way they advertise. Now, Gen Z is taking the stage. This generation of individuals under 25 are not just digital natives – they’re social media natives. And successful Gen Z ecommerce strategies will require much more than “being on Instagram” or “working with influencers.”

This generation explores, discovers, and shops much differently than those who came before. They use their own channels and have their own, often strong, value systems that drive purchasing decisions.

Your channel and product data strategies can drive or hinder returns in very real, tangible ways. Here are key strategies to consider and integrate into your feed-based advertising and Gen Z ecommerce marketing strategies.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Visual shopping is here to stay

Why do 81% percent of today’s teens visit Snapchat at least once a month and 79% visit Instagram? Because they’re visual. While older generations are also using social platforms, it’s Gen Z that was born into a steady stream of glossy (as well as enticing and informative!) images. They gather and thrive in these communities. Sure, this means businesses need to work on their social presence for these channels. But it also means businesses need to understand the new, modern opportunities of visual social platforms in order to stay competitive.

Consider this: Instagram just launched Shoppable posts in early 2019. This allows users to go straight from seeing an item to purchasing it. Snapchat already has Shoppable Snap ads, Google just released Shoppable Images ads, and Pinterest offers Buyable Pins.

These new ad formats reflect the current state of the shopper journey. In fact, when teens were asked in a survey, “what is the best way for a retailer or brand to communicate with you about new products or promotions?” 52% said Instagram.

Tip: Agile data, and understanding the agility of your feed management solution, should help you prepare for this future.

Brick-and-mortar is far from dead

Omnichannel is everything in the Gen Z ecommerce world

For years, a sense of doom and gloom has surrounded the topic of brick-and-mortar stores. Why would anyone go in-store when they could shop online? Interestingly, a large number of shoppers continue to buy offline. According to a study from NRF, 98% of Gen Z shoppers say they buy in a store “some or most of the time.”

“In fact, three times as many Gen Zers said they shop mostly in stores, compared to those shopping mostly online.”

NRF, What Do Gen Z Shoppers Really Want?

No matter how you spin it, brick-and-mortar is still integral to the shopping experience. This is especially true for Gen Z, who have repeatedly shown that they like to hang out in malls and see goods in person. This may also relate to their strong value system, which we’ll discuss later. Whether or not a final purchase happens in-store, getting shoppers into the physical shop is important in the buying process. As a result, driving shoppers to your physical locations will be just as important as driving them to your digital shop. [Who knew success in Gen Z ecommerce would require success in brick-and-mortar?]

Make the most of your product data strategies to drive offline visits

  • Get started with Local Inventory ads. Whether it’s on Google, Facebook, or another channel, these digital ads can drive shoppers to your physical locations.
  • Think outside the box. Supporting BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store) and similar buying options is absolutely crucial to Gen Z shoppers. Walmart has completely owned the BOPIS option, and they’ve shown that it drives huge amounts of in-store traffic. For reference, one study from Zebra found that 90% of retailers will implement BOPIS by 2021.

In order to do either of these, you’ll need to stay on top of inventory feeds. Agility will also be key here, as inventory feeds are constantly changing. Products sell out. New ones arrive. To support inventory feeds, businesses will need smart backend connections and solutions. Ensure that you not only have access to this information, but that you have ongoing, easy-to-manage access and the ability to create and distribute the feeds quickly.

Beware the golden age of easy returns

Proactivity and flawless product content can save you money

Product returns have always been a problem for brands and retailers. However, Gen Z shoppers have particularly high expectations about returns, making product returns an even more complex issue. Modern shoppers are happy to buy and return a product on a whim, and they want the process to be free and painless. Don’t forget, Gen Z grew up with easy return processes. They are much less likely to drive across town to personally return products.

Whether you’re a digitally native startup or a goliath like Amazon, Gen Z’s generous use of product return options could cause problems. So how do you reduce the likelihood a product will be returned? One big step is getting product information right in the first place.

About 20% of products that are purchased online and returned are sent back because the product did not look or function exactly as expected. This means the product information did not accurately reflect the product. Luckily, for some companies, this will be an easy fix.

Key steps to create more realistic content that reduces returns:

  • Locate and remove product attributes that confuse or mislead shoppers. For example, “fluffed” delivery times or exaggerated benefits.
  • Be clear about quantitative information like size and color. No matter how incredible and competitively priced your product is, if the shopper can’t actually wear it, they’ll return it.
  • Think like a customer. Technical jargon may be correct, but customers will prefer easy-to-use, real-world terms and descriptions. It’s important to always adapt descriptions to match the audience’s tone and knowledge.
  • Get (a lot) more ideas to reduce product returns here.

Channel strategy isn’t a numbers game

It’s about unique communities

Again, we circle back to the idea that “being on Instagram” isn’t everything. Every channel is different and serves a different purpose for the user.

As most marketers know, Gen Z largely considers Facebook a platform for “older people.” They instead prefer platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Whisper. They use a wide variety of shopping channels, from the easy and ubiquitous Amazon to indie peer-to-peer platforms like Depop. Gen Z is also notably community-oriented compared to other audiences. They seek out channels and communities that speak directly to them, meaning that brands and retailers need to deeply understand their industry, audiences, and the possible channels available.

  • Do: advertise on platforms like Instagram. However, also…
  • Do: seek out highly specific communities and audiences
  • Do: locate additional channels related to the particular industry, cause, or group
  • Don’t: only focus on demographics, income, or location

Serious personal values

Content and strategy must align with user values

More than anything else – more than their status as digital natives or their love of inspiring  images – Gen Z is a value-centric generation. They’re often described as radically inclusive. Individuals might care about the environment or making modest fashion options available to those who need them. This mindset can leak into how they read and understand product information.

“I really like things that are unisex! I think it’s absurd that stores and brands split everything into “male” and “female.” After all, fabric is genderless.”

—Female respondent, 22, Goiânia

McKinsey, ‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies

The McKinsey study cited above goes so far as to describe Gen Z’s fundamental understanding of consumption as one of self expression and a matter of ethical concern.

An interview from Bloomberg also highlights the reality of being Gen Z, as opposed to the general assumptions about it.

“‘There’s this misconception that we’re scrolling mindlessly,’ Ahmed says. What Gen Z’s actually doing is connecting and communicating and figuring things out—like where to spend their money.”

Try to keep these tips in mind when creating or editing product information.

  • Be careful with jargon or overly flashy campaigns. Gen Z is more likely to notice whether a campaign is authentic or fabricated. Keep product data (especially descriptions) honest as well as interesting.
  • Locate aspects of your brand or product that align with Gen Z values. Common themes include: sustainability, social activism, self expression, uniqueness, experiences, and individuality and undefined or fluid identities.
    • For strict channels like Google, relevant information must be stressed more carefully. Focus on factual statements that accurately describe the product or your company. If you use recycled materials, environmentally-friendly processes, highlight that.
    • For advertising-centric channels like Instagram or Snapchat, integrate relevant ideas and values in your creative and product content. Consider targeting content by community and interest rather than basic demographics.

Success with Gen Z ecommerce will require agile data and modern solutions

Tailoring product information for Gen Z ecommerce marketing and sales shouldn’t be a pipe dream. Solutions like Productsup make it easy to tailor data and feeds for any audience, channel, or use case. That means you can reach audiences of all kinds, no matter the channel or stage in the funnel.

With Productsup, it’s easy to quickly populate attributes, enrich existing data with relevant selling points, and even generate images for every product in the feed. Most importantly, all of this can be done without IT’s help. No matter where you advertise, be sure your product data management solution is helping you reach your goal – and making your daily work more efficient and successful.

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