At the Gen Z Forum, organized by Vogue Business and Klarna, influencers, fashion leaders and industry executives unpacked the opportunity fashion has to attract Gen Z customers by better understanding the ways they shop, find inspiration and discover new brands and trends. 

During the conference, we explored the best retail and marketing practices for the next generation of fashion.

Gen Z myth busting. A digital-only generation?

Gen Z is certainly a digital forward generation. But that isn’t something that is exclusive to them. Do you remember 10 years ago, when people would create an entire Facebook album for one night out with their friends? Since the inception of the internet, we’ve always been very digitally minded, open to sharing and careful about the way that we want to present ourselves online. 

What is definitely true, is that the way people shop has changed. Mobile shopping has redefined retail, and influencers, not brands, are the ones setting trends.

But does that mean that brick-and-mortar stores are a thing of the past? Read further.

Is in-store shopping dead? 

Not necessarily. It’s just easier for a lot of Gen Zers –  and everybody in general – to shop online anyway, because you don’t have to make an event out of it. 

The experience of “going to the mall” was kind of an event, planned and shared with friends and family. It was not about shopping per se, even less about finding your personal style, as choice is obviously limited in a physical environment, but much more about socializing and having a good time.

Shopping online instead, you can search up very specifically, find exactly what you want, right there. It’s now just about you, and discovering your very own style.

The Internet opened up a whole world of possibilities and curated shopping experiences, meaning you’re not limited to the few brands available in town, you can actually go online and find literally whatever you want. This accessibility factor plays and will continue to play a huge role in the digital space.

Especially during the pandemic, we moved from an idea of fun built around walking up and down the stores towards a completely different experience, curated and tailored around the individual and its preferences. Online you have a much broader opportunity to really discover your specific personal style.

Plus, algorithms. Getting better every day at understanding consumer behaviour and preferences and creating tailored, personalized shopping experiences.

But does this mean there’s no room anymore for IRL shopping? On the contrary. 

Mandy Lee, Trend Researcher, Fashion Writer and TikToker @oldloserinbrooklyn, explains: I don’t think that the physical experience is going to go anywhere for a while. […] The first couple major investments I made, there was no way I was buying online! I was going into the store. I remember I went into the Galleria in Milan, down into the bank vault to buy my first Prada bag. Experiences like that are so special.

When it comes to luxury purchases in particular, physical experiences are often preferred, because they tell a story around how the person got the product, where they purchased it, and how it made them feel.

And customer service, especially with luxury brands, plays a fundamental role. Waiting in line to get inside a luxury store means each customer has a sales assistant supporting them with anything they need, and making the experience as enjoyable as possible.

Not to mention the sizing issue, which is a big topic in online shopping. A physical store offers the opportunity for the customer to get exactly the size they need, which is harder to determine when shopping online.

Sizing solutions for fashion ecommerce are still largely underexploited in the fashion industry, with the consequences that we all know: purchase returns, shoppers indecisiveness, endless sizing-related questions to customer support . 

Are sizing solutions going to be the game changer? Quite likely, considering the unstoppable growth of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Has Gen Z a limited attention span? 

Tik Tok came, and marketeers thought: hey, that’s what they love, and it’s all about short videos; let’s do more short videos!

But then you look at global data, and you realize that YouTube is the leading platform for Gen Z and guess what, the average YouTube video is 11.7 minutes. 

Truth is, it all just goes back to the basic principles of marketing. The short video, as the cover of a book, is important, but just to catch my attention. After that, I want the whole story. I want the details, the explanations, I want to see what you got in store for me.

And marketers need to keep in mind that video consumption is occasion-based. Of course if you are just unwinding after work and have 5 minutes time, you are more likely to scroll Tik Tok. But with more time at your disposal, and longer content, you can get into the nuances and really dive into a topic.

The focus for brands should be having a solid and purposeful strong brand message and story, that helps users relate and become attached to specific brands. 

And continue speaking to them specifically, instead of just trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. 

Nothing to do with the length of a video, much more with the brand identity and values.

People still have attention spans. They just don’t want content that doesn’t resonate with them.

“The largest issue I see when I work with brands is that they don’t know what their brand identity is. Or if they do, it’s very vague. I think without a clear view of that, everything else collapses. When you continuously chase what’s hot, you’ll burn out. You may be very popular for a while, but the things that last are classic in nature.”

–  Alexandra Hildreth, Fashion Writer, Producer, and TikToker @Guyfieri.Superfan

Are fast-fashion brands really Gen Z’s favorite retail destination? What about sustainability?

Gen Z are drawn to many micro-trends and fast fashion makes them easily accessible. They grasp quickly on those trends, have the resources and logistics to allow for quick production cycles, and can offer pay-later services and quick delivery times.

But that does necessarily mean you cannot shop responsibly. 

There are the folks that are exclusively driven by trends. And then there are folks who are aware of their personal style and know when they can incorporate trends that make sense to wear forever. 

This kind of shopper will not impulse-purchase, but will ask How am I going to integrate this in my wardrobe? Will I still wear it 4 years from now?”

“With ultra-fast fashion everything is cycling so quickly, that the trend cycle will inevitably implode. And people will eventually be forced to look within and find what they truly like and use that as their jumping off point for when they’re shopping.”

– Mandy Lee, Trend Researcher, Fashion Writer and TikToker

Marketing to Gen Z: key takeaways from the Gen Z Forum

  • Authenticity looks like the magic formula with GenZers. Brands should listen to what is important to their consumers, and use this feedback to inform marketing and even product design decisions.
  • Influencers are part of the strategy, not the end goal. It’s about shared values; brands need first of all a unique story to tell, and then they can find the right voices to amplify that message.
  • Beware of the behavioural changes: carbon footprint, circular economy, sustainability are big topics for GenZ. 
  • Trends show a rising interest in financial literacy, NFTs, metaverse and gaming, especially amongst girls. Virtually untapped sources for potential partnerships and collaborations.
  • Adding a sizing solution to your fashion ecommerce could help in solving the sizing issue, bringing online one step closer to IRL shopping.

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