I’m with the 93% of Gen Zers on this retail trend

Only 7% of Gen Zers want sales associates to help them in-store according to a study by Adyen, a global payments processor. 7 percent!

I may not always be as tech savvy as Gen Zers, who have grown up almost entirely in the digital age (they’re currently 22 and under), but I could not agree more with them on this point.

With every year that goes by my desire to interact with sales associates and customer service agents steadily decreases. I prefer a personalized and seamless experience digitally to one in person. Partly because I find the experience of a hovering sales associate when I’m just browsing to be uncomfortable and tracking one down when I have a question to be inconvenient. Instead, I prefer that the source of truth and help be online, right at my fingertips, just when I need it.

It is essential that retailers make it easy for consumers to interact with them online — either through clear links on their website and emails or through a personalized experience shaped by a consumer’s demographics, interests, and previous behavior.

For the majority of retailers who have yet to create the online experience their customers expect, they must invest before their consumers move on. 46% of Gen Zers are already using chat apps to communicate with brands but 62% will not use apps or websites that are difficult to navigate and 60% will not use apps or websites that are slow to load according to Adyen and the IBM Institute for Business Value, respectively.

While technology and e-commerce are growing in importance, brick and mortar retail isn’t dead. 98% of Gen Zers still shop in stores at least occasionally. In my opinion their technological demands present an opportunity for retailers — technology offers a level of scale and efficiency that has previously not been seen in traditional retail. The throughput and speed of service possible with order online and pick up in store options is not possible with traditional checkout. Gen Zers recognize this — 54% have ordered items online and then picked up those items in-store, and 66% would visit a store more often if they could check item availability beforehand.

Sephora is the retailer that has most embraced these trends and is thriving in a difficult retail environment. Having recognized the importance of digital early, the company has been positioning itself for the changing needs of its consumer for years, even opening a tech innovation center in San Francisco in 2015. Sephora’s strategy is truly omnichannel — its website, app, and even its store are a treasure trove of fun, engaging, and informative content and services that encourage the consumer to interact with the brand across channels. For the consumer that prefers to purchase online the website offers suggestions for the most popular products for their specific skin tone, type, or age. There are consumer reviews, videos, and editorial content to make an informed decision. For those that want to try before they buy, it’s simple to find the closest store with the product.

Courtesy of The New York Times

Importantly, Sephora has transformed what it means to visit a retail store. It is not just a physical representation of their e-commerce selection but an opportunity to provide a personalized, experiential experience for its customers through make up consultations, technology rich trial experiences, and exclusive events. For example in this photo, a Sephora consumer is virtually testing lipstick colors via a selfie, enabling her to browse and trial more easily.

By accepting that buying behavior has changed — that the makeup counter has been replaced with YouTube stars and beauty vloggers — Sephora has been able to stay ahead of the brick and mortar curve by offering unique services and experiences its customers cannot get anywhere else, online or in store. Walk in to any Sephora and their success is obvious — packed stores, buzzing sales associates, and a constant stream of satisfied customers walking out with their iconic black Sephora bags.

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