The popularity of online shopping among young consumers may have some sounding the death knell for brick-and-mortar stores, but a new study suggests millennial and Gen Z consumers are more loyal to physical stores than older generations.
Oracle NetSuite, a division of business software provider Oracle; polling services firm Wakefield Research; and consulting firm The Retail Doctor sought to determine how shopping preferences vary by generation. To gather their data, researchers surveyed 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives representing companies that bring in between $10-$100 million in annual sales in three global markets — the United States, the U.K. and Australia.
One of their biggest findings: Millennials and Gen Z consumers are more likely to do most of their shopping in brick-and-mortar stores than their older counterparts. In fact, 43% of millennials and Gen Zers are likely to do more in-store shopping this year than online shopping, compared with 29% of Gen Xers and only 13% of baby boomers.
Not only that, but younger consumers as a whole seem to enjoy the in-store shopping experience more than older consumers. Among respondents, 57% of millennials and Gen Zers said they had a positive view of the in-store shopping experience while only 40% of Gen Xers and 13% of boomers felt that way.
Despite younger consumers’ appreciation for brick-and-mortar stores, Gen Zers, in particular, preferred to be left alone while they shopped. In fact, 42% of Gen Zers said were more annoyed by increased interactions with retail associates. On the other hand, 56% of millennials, 44% of Gen Xers and 43% of baby boomers said they felt more welcomed in a store with more interaction between customers and retail associates.
As retail executives have considered ways to make brick-and-mortar stores more appealing to consumers, one strategy has been to leverage technology to create a more inviting environment. Two technologies widely discussed among retailers include artificial intelligence (AI), a process that lets machines learn through experiences, and virtual reality (VR), an artificial environment that is perceived by sensory stimuli. Of those retail executives surveyed, 79% said they believed the use of AI and VR in stores would lead to increased sales. However, they may be overestimating the impact these technologies would have, as only 14% of consumers believe these technologies would make them more likely to buy.
Finally, the study looked at the impact social media has on consumers’ perceptions of a brand. Nearly all retail executives — 98% — said engaging with customers via social media channels is important to building stronger relationships with them. Most younger consumers agree with 65% of Gen Zers and 63% of millennials saying their engagement with brands on social media impacted their relationship with those brands. However, overall, only 12% of consumers said their engagement with brands on social media had a big impact on how they felt about the brand.
Whether you choose to shop online or in a brick-and-mortar store, take advantage of technology such as browser extensions and shopping apps to compare prices and make sure you find the best deals. By being open to both e-commerce and traditional physical retail environments, you give yourself more options when it comes to finding lower prices.