I have spent the last week hanging in my favourite part of the world (after New York), Waiheke Island. I have a gorgeous friend who occasionally house swaps with me or in this case, let’s me hang out while she is overseas. It’s an incredible location and the perfect place to read, walk on the beach, linger over coffee (it’s Dry July for me) and generally mooch. However, we arrived on the rainiest, coldest day of the year so far.
Her instructions were very clear “if the alarm looking thing next to the double doors goes off then something is not right with the septic tank. Call Green Acres Waiheke who look after septic tanks.” “Power outage? Let's hope there isn't one. Remember you won't have water - no pump - there's a big 10L water in the washing machine cupboard. If the power comes on and there's still no water pressure, you need to go to the back of house, open the little hatch under the deck and flick a switch on the pump using a long pole left in there. Yeah, let's just hope it doesn't happen.“
All instructions were emailed. I needed my phone to see my email. On the trip over the kids had pretty much depleted the battery on my phone (after they had forgotten to recharge their iPad and iPhone). We arrived in the rain. I had to find the instructions for the key. The phone was dead. My lifeline was gone.
Let’s be clear. I am a Gen X and my guide was gone. My kids who are Generation Z (aka iGeneration or Gen Y-Fi) were completely panicked - their lifeline to the world was gone. We might as well have been on a deserted island ready to lay down and die.
What this week has taught me is just how completely reliant I am on my phone. I am now a classic mobile first. But I remembered I had my laptop and could retrieve the instructions. My kids on the other hand didn’t even think alternative device. There is only one in their world. Mobile only.
Sitting on this island with time to catch-up, I am astounded still at how ill-equipped many businesses; especially retailers, are to deal with a mobile-only world. From lack of content on mobile optimised sites to the basic information required to help me get from A-B.
Gen Z has grown up in a connected world where access to information is readily available online. These kids rely heavily on mobile devices for everything from social media and communication to news sources and online banking. My kids only know how much money they have in their bank account by going on their phone app. Likewise to see how much data they have left on their phone company app.
I could easily pick-over the Seed Heritage sale while I was sitting on the couch. They reminded me by dinner-time that I could still buy the product in my basket that I’d forgotten. I purchased a chocolate melting pot and spiralizer from Amazon that should be home when I get back to the big-Smoke. I’ve got my groceries arriving when I get back but still other areas of retail inspiration were difficult. I accept Cookies – heck this is my trade. But the level of remarketing was non-existent to poor (top marks to both Freedom Furniture and Country Road).
If as a Gen X’er my behaviour has shifted significantly; I haven’t watched commercial free-to-air TV in 2 weeks, as a now converted Chromecaster. I haven’t bought a newspaper nor listened to a radio station (Spotify all the way), retailers need to move, significantly to these shifting behaviours as the lifeblood to sales.
It’s fair to assume the key behavioral change of Gen Z related to retail is a preference for speed, familiarity and discovery. The shopping experience of a Gen Z member can be boiled down to a few clicks on a mobile device. My kids are influenced from the likes of PewDiePie (very rude), Stampee, Sqaishey Quack or the buckets of other micro-influencers showing kids what to do, buy and what’s in or out.
Recognising the importance of the all-powerful device in the Gen Z consumer’s pocket, retail outlets will be forced to focus on how to make their products as appealing as possible in short bursts of attention. A single tweet can be no longer than 140 characters, while a successful snap tells its story in 10 seconds or less.
Messages need to be refined to the most compelling, concise version, mirroring Gen Z’s preference for efficiency. The demand for efficiency is already proving itself in retail and entrepreneurship. For example the grocery store. An institution that has remained unchanged for yonks (if you don’t count self-service checkouts), are now being challenged by the likes of My Food Bag and WOOP as efficient, user-friendly experiences. Internationally, Amazon’s foray into this arena with their AmazonGo concept has now been registered in the UK and Europe.