Author’s Corner: ‘Gen Z 360’

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05/31/2022
​​​​​​​A Q&A with Hana Ben-Shabat, a Gen Z expert who is helping to figure out how retailers can connect with this unique generation.
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Hana Ben-Shabat

Gen Z is a generation like no other, according to author Hana Ben-Shabat, who has become an expert in this upcoming cohort of culture creators, employees and consumers. Ben-Shabat is the author of “Gen Z 360: Preparing for the Inevitable Change in Culture, Work, and Commerce.” Path to Purchase IQ caught up with her to discuss the ins and outs of Gen Z and how retailers can connect with this unique new sector of consumers.

P2PIQ: Of the three areas mentioned in your book title — culture, work and commerce — where will Gen Z have the biggest impact to make changes?

Ben-Shabat: I don’t believe that it’s possible to pick one area over the other because we are not comparing like for like. I do see a trajectory, however, to how their impact is and will be felt. 

At this point, we are experiencing their effect mostly on our culture because this effect can come from almost every Gen Z’s age-group; younger and older. Their effect on the workplace and the consumer market will be increasing gradually as more Gen Zers join the workforce and increase their income. 

So, a few words on culture: Gen Z is creating a culture of radical inclusivity and willingness to challenge authority. They are vocal about different causes. From racial and social justice to climate change, Gen Zers are using their technological know-how and entrepreneurial flair to create movements and mobilize their peers and members of older generations to act. In addition, Gen Zers are launching a new age of creativity. This is a generation that wants to be the producer-user, they don’t want to just be an audience. We see that every day on TikTok, other social media platforms and blogging platforms. And perhaps, more importantly, the culture they are creating is being trickled up and adopted by other generations, which is why it’s so critical that we understand them better. 

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P2PIQ: Where are we right now in terms of Gen Z’s coming of age? What economic power do they currently have and how will it change soon?

Ben-Shabat: There are 78 million Gen Zers in the United States between the ages of 6 to 24, which means that we have about 28 million Gen Zers over the age of 18. Their economic power is quite impressive. With 13.6 million Gen Zers already in full-time and part-time employment, 43% generating income from side hustles and many receiving allowances from parents — Gen Zers disposable income in 2021 reached $360 billion. As more Gen Zers join the workforce each year (they expect to account for 30% of the workforce by 2030), this figure is expected to grow, making them an important customer segment. 

P2PIQ: Here’s a big question for the retail industry: What do Gen Z consumers want from retailers?

Ben-Shabat: The list of expectations Gen Zers have from retailers and brands is long. They value authenticity. They are looking for inclusivity in products (for example, size inclusivity in apparel, or color shades in beauty, gender neutral products, etc.) and they want to see inclusivity in advertising (real people or use of trusted social media influencers). Having experienced a global recession in childhood and, most recently, the effects of the global pandemic, Gen Zers grew up to be extremely cost conscious. Therefore, affordable prices and value for money are extremely important to them. But value is only part of the equation, Gen Zers are values-driven consumers and they want to support retailers and brands that share those values. Finally, Gen Zers — being the true “digital first” generation — expect technology-driven, smooth shopping experiences both online and instore. Think the immediacy of Amazon deliveries, the frictionless experience of Uber and the personalization of a service like Netflix.

P2PIQ: Should brands align themselves with causes and values that speak to Gen Z? What’s the danger in doing so? 

Ben-Shabat: As mentioned earlier, Gen Zers are values-driven consumers. They care about a host of causes from climate change to social and racial justice to women’s empowerment. Nike has become a favorite of Gen Zers partially because of their willingness to take a stance on issues of race and inclusivity. There is always a risk of alienating part of your customer base when you align with one cause or another. I believe that it makes sense if a cause you choose is aligned with your core values as a retailer and if you do it authentically. Taking a stance for the sake of taking a stance could easily backfire. 

P2PIQ: What’s your advice to retailers that want to capture more of the Gen Z audience?

Ben-Shabat: It’s all about discovery and personalization. Remember that your real competition is the online world, and I am not referring to e-commerce. Gen Zers who grew up with technology at their fingertips got accustomed to the discovery aspect of social media and to the personalization of the various platforms online. They expect the same when they come to your stores. Designing stores that promote discovery and deliver personalization is key to attract Gen Z. Why would anyone come to a store if it’s much more fun to scroll through a TikTok feed or play in the metaverse? 

Meet the Author Coffee Hour: June 16, 2 p.m. EDT

Hana Ben-Shabat is one of the Featured Authors in our 2022 Book Club, which is currently reading “Gen Z 360: Preparing for the Inevitable Change in Culture, Work, and Commerce.” Sign up (it’s free!) to be part of our Book Club and you’ll get access to our exclusive Meet the Author virtual coffee hour event — June 16 at 2 p.m. EDT — where you’ll get to listen in while we pick her brain and then take part during an interactive Q&A. Visit PathtoPurchaseIQ.com/bookclub to join us and get on the list.

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