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'From hype to hyper-shopping': Gen Z consumer trends

By Guest Contributor


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Every metropolis is now familiar with the latest phenomenon: TikTok queues. Perhaps you didn't know it was called that yet, but you've probably seen them – in the media, or in real life. The long queues with - especially - young people who travel from city to country for a viewing visit and purchase at that one special catering or retail store, because it goes viral on TikTok. Social media is the golden marketing tool for entrepreneurs who know how to make their business and product shine as a digital showpiece. Although the rite of enticement of customers has changed dramatically in this digital age, our eyes still remain the first and merciless judge on the decisive path to purchase. It is the next steps after the very first eye contact that have changed completely and are all-determining.

From hype to hyper-shopping

In the pre-digital shopping landscape, people physically scrolled past your store. Your shop window was the showpiece to entice customers to enter. This is now increasingly done remotely via a small smart screen. For example, a very enthusiastic teenager from Toronto can suddenly appear in front of you, because your chocolate chip cookies are going viral on TikTok or because your fashionable phone cord shines on a phone case from 'Emily in Paris' on Netflix. That happened to the Van Stapele biscuit bar and the Dutch accessories brand Ateljé respectively. Actually, these are just good old hypes. In the past, a hype started with a cinema film, a paparazzi shot or an advertisement in the media. However, a viral can take a little longer, because it 'hangs' on the internet longer than when the movie was finished, the tabloid ended up in the litter box or the advertising campaign ended. And with all the viral attention, the hype around your product and brand will stick around and that in turn guarantees a lot of traffic to your store or pop-up store for a longer period of time. Some crowd control is desirable, because customers literally storm in. They then buy what is hot at that moment as quickly as possible, snap a selfie or reel (short video) of their latest acquisition and of your business, and also tag your location as proof that they have really been there. A true hyper mob rages through your business. They don't have time to think carefully about the purchase. It is pure impulse that cannot be tamed.

The revenue model used by entrepreneurs is based on the motto: look quickly and buy quickly! So the quick viewing is done online and the quick buying - often - in the physical store. That means a fast turnaround time with – usually – slightly lower margins. This is to accommodate the often younger target group in their budget. The 'from hype to hyper-shopping' marketing strategy is especially interesting if you want to appeal to a very young target group: Gen Z and the younger cohort of Millennials. As digital natives, a very large part of their lives takes place online.

The viral attention is not limited to the online domain, by the way, but also spills over into the physical world: the long queues and the fanning fans with their newly purchased merchandise are noticed by bystanders, who also join in out of curiosity. The long queues are therefore also part of the marketing strategy: they send the signal that something special can be found there!

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Rij voor pop-up store van Ateljé (Foto Melvin van Tholl)

Marking time with slow shopping

In contrast to hyper shopping with the 'look quickly and buy quickly' principle, we also see a new phenomenon emerging, in which it is all about 'look quietly and buy quietly'. This is slow shopping. With the initial emergence of online shopping (2005 - 2015), the physical stores at the time focused on accelerating the in-store shopping process. As a way to compete with the internet. Over time, the retailers came to realize that it is better to keep the customer in and entertain them longer. Especially because there is a growing need for experiences among the new generations of consumers. Thus, the 'slow shopping' movement started to entice consumers to spend more time in stores as part of an entertaining and enriching experience without too much emphasis on buying products. The main goal was to increase brand engagement and loyalty among customers and thus an emotional preference over online shopping. We then saw concept stores emerge with cafes, event spaces, galleries and even skate parks. Nowadays we see them evolving as Experience centers (Miele), Brand Flagship stores (House of Rituals) and Experience salons to pamper yourself (Lush and Origins cosmetics). There is now a lot of commercial value in the experiences. For example, an American study (in The Wall Street Journal) shows that customers who are in an Origins experience salon spend up to 40 percent more than if they were standing and walking in a regular Origins store. With that insight, a number of stores have been converted into Experience salons with more seating to test and experience products through workshops. A study by the Fashion Institute of Technology (US) also shows that if customers stay indoors longer, they do indeed spend more.

However, the slow shopping concept has also made its way to the shops from another angle: more conscious living and sustainability. This finds – according to a scientific article by Prof. Dr. Brigitte Wolf and Maria Saba dos Reis - originated in the Slow Movement. This is a philosophy that redefines the values of our daily habits and proposes a new strategy to make our consumption more sustainable and conscious. We see this reflected in the layout of the store concepts, which operate according to this principle. For example, by paying a lot of attention in their story to the origin (where the raw materials come from) and destination (what happens to them after use) of the products. In addition, the interior often works with natural tones and elements for a soothing effect. And there is plenty of room for comfort and facilities such as fitting rooms and walking routes are spacious and very user-friendly. In the interaction with customers, there is also much more attention for personal service in the form of customization, which means that the useful life of the products is longer. Of course also supplemented with repair services. Recently in The Netherlands, a circular department store called Tomo, which often operates on the basis of this concept. Smaller shops with a traditional and local signature also use this concept with an emphasis on more conscious living. Like I saw in Barcelona at a shoe store where they only let a few customers in at a time to give them a highly personalized service. In their very nostalgic setting, they have three spacious armchairs with stylized footstools - completely in glossy mahogany. It is a very pleasant stay with authentic stories about how the moccasins (their specialty) are made in local workshops and how they stand for 'quality time' as a family business. My partner and I walked out of the store with 4 pairs of shoes, and we held back – as befits a more conscious life.

The revenue model for slow shopping - whether commercial or sustainable - is aimed at long-term customer engagement, as in a longer lead time with slightly higher margins. The target group is usually slightly older than with hyper shopping: the older Millennials, Gen X and the Boomers – in short, 30+.

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Circulair warenhuis Tomo in Mall of the Netherlands (Foto's archief FashionUnited en eigen beeld)

Put yourself in the spotlight and become a true shopping destination Whether you opt for hyper or slow shopping, put yourself in the spotlight. It is useful to realize that hyper shopping benefits from an authentic mono concept, where you sell one specific product. It helps you to be distinctive on social media platforms. Of course, the visual properties of your store decor and product should also splash off the screen. And with slow shopping, authentic and personal interaction with your customers is most distinctive, supported by a thrilling interplay of sensory stimulation and storytelling. The dreaded “look, look, don't buy” won't happen that easily, because whether the customers quickly look online or do so quietly in your store, they have already tagged you as the destination for their next purchase!

This is a contribution from Melvin van Tholl, Customer Experience Architect, of BLOODY BELIEVERS . The creative-strategic agency that helps brands and companies develop groundbreaking solutions in their customer experience. He does this for both companies in the Netherlands and abroad. In this series he takes you into the wonderful world of consumers, with lessons to make your company future-proof from the customer experience.

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Gen Z