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By Loretta Rederscheid – ComQi

My morning ritual involves scrolling through retail industry trade publications – because there’s always something new and interesting happening.

Nike’s Store of the Future. How AI is Transforming Retail. Why Gen Z Is Revolutionizing Shopper Experiences. The cool reads are endless.

As an Account Executive in this industry, it’s imperative for me to know which companies are remodeling stores, expanding geographic footprints, or perhaps launching a new product line. I need to stay educated on the trends, so I can identify the brands that are going to benefit from ComQi’s products and solutions.

Lately, a lot of what I’ve been reading references the “immersive customer experience” and the inherent need to know your customer base, now and well into the future.

Customers are being categorized as Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen X, Gen Z and Gen Y. They all have their own shopping nuances.

The most logical approach a brand should take is to define their target audience category. For example, Chico’s is not the place for Gen Z to shop, and Claire’s isn’t being frequented by Baby Boomers.

There’s been a lot of discussion and debate about Gen Z – the first generation to truly grow up digital. They’ve only ever known smartphones and streaming video. There’s an argument out there that these young consumers are so different than the rest of us. I didn’t think so, but then I had a personal experience that changed my mind.

I recently went shopping with my 15-year old son (Gen Z) to FootLocker. We entered the store and he went directly to a pair of Nike shoes on display, and asked for his size. He then asked for two other specific brands and tried them on as well.

He was not browsing. He knew exactly what he wanted. He looked at me at one point, and said, “Okay, these are what I want.” He then took the shoes off, placed them back in the box and handed them to the store associate.

I stood there looking at him, clearly not understanding. I thought he wanted to buy them?

And he did. Eventually.

Turns out, he did his research before we got to FootLocker, and knew they carried the sneakers he wanted. After finding ones that he liked the fit and feel of, he wanted to head home and research those specific shoes on the web to find the best price – not only on the sneakers themselves but, on the shipping too! He wound up ordering them from Amazon.

Unbeknownst to me, he never intended to purchase them from FootLocker. And, while there, he never browsed for anything else; he was laser-focused on what he wanted.

I found this whole experience fascinating. I saw first-hand how stores still play a valuable role in the shopping experience for Gen Z, but don’t close the sale.  It reinforced the idea that brands need to integrate the store experience with the website experience, to create that “immersive shopper experience.”

The good news is that technology affords us so many different ways to do this – touchscreen displays/kiosks, smart mirrors, endless aisles, etc.

I asked my son if there had been an interactive kiosk at FootLocker offering him an in-store only promotion on either price or shipping if he would have purchased in store. “Yes,” he said, and “It would be cool if they had other products to show that you could customize, too.”

Sage words from a 15-year-old. This generation clearly craves information and immediate access. The brands that figure out how to give it to them will get their loyalty.

This sojourn with my son also solidified my commitment to my profession. ComQi offers in-store solutions that fill the need retailers have to target their next generation of customers. I am excited that I can assist Brands in doing just that.

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