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5Qs for Kristina Tipton on attracting millennials and Gen Zers

Nine out of 10 Gen Zers shop online, but eight out of 10 said they visited stores during the holidays, as well.
Al Urbanski
Kristina Tipton
Kristina Tipton

Years of digital marketing experience with TED Conferences, Paramount Pictures, and Yahoo! have provided Kristina Tipton with astute knowledge of disparate demographic groups and the best ways they can be reached by marketers of consumer goods and services.

Now the director of market research at Near -- a Singapore-based company that serves up its global consumer intelligence to more than half of the Fortune 500 -- Tipton recently led a study on the future of mall anchors. Near found that experiential anchors such as Dave & Buster’s and Pinstripes are drivers of the young, online-shopping consumers that mall owners are striving to attract to their properties. We decided to ask her how they differ from mall visitors of the past.

What new kinds of tastes and behaviors are Gen Zers, many of whom are now adults, bringing to the marketplace?
Not surprisingly, online shopping is very important to Gen Z. In our recent survey 88% of those 18-to-24 indicated they were doing holiday shopping online. However, Gen Zers also bring a very omnichannel sensibility to their shopping. Eighty-three percent of them were also planning to shop in stores, which was higher than the general population. Gen Z is flexible with its shopping behaviors and ready to use whatever works for them at the moment. As a generation that has no memory of the world before the internet and pervasive online shopping, they may find some novelty in going to shopping centers.

What don't retailers and retail center operators know about Gen Zers that they should?
Members of Gen Z place a lot of importance on the brands they shop as a part of their identity, and brands should be both authentic and tuned into them to win their approval. It’s critical -- especially during these times of quickly adapting consumer behaviors -- for brands to stay in tune with data intelligence on both Gen Z and other customers to understand how they’re shopping, what other brands they shop for, and more. This is especially true now given the pandemic. The demand for expediency has risen quite a bit. It’s critical for retailers to leverage data to stay head of the competition.

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“Gen Zers and millennials both place high value on experiences, so it’s important for gathering places to offer them experiences that they can’t find elsewhere.”

Name some of the key desires of millenials and Gen Zers that operators of public gathering places should attend to?
Gen Zers and millennials both place high value on experiences, so it’s important for gathering places to offer them experiences that they can’t find elsewhere. In our recent study of traffic patterns to malls with different types of anchors, we found that Gen Z and millennials were both more likely to go to malls with experiential anchors like unique art exhibits or entertainment centers than they were to more traditional shopping centers. Gen Z and millennials are also both careful with their money overall, and looking for bargains while not sacrificing quality. We see that the mall-going Gen Zers and millennials over-index in both our “Bargain Hunting” and “Fashionista” interest groups.

How should retailers and center owners appeal to young, affluent people, while at the same time still courting less affluent customers? Can it be done in a single location?
In our recent research looking at malls with different types of anchors -- including big-box, grocery, healthcare, department stores, and experiential -- we found that people with household incomes topping $100,000 are more likely to visit malls with grocery or healthcare anchors, while malls with experiential anchors attract people in lower-income brackets. We also found that the experiential and healthcare anchored malls had recovered footfall better since the start of pandemic than other types of anchors by attracting visitors from a wider trade area than the rest of the mall. If a center had both experiential and healthcare anchors in a single location it could attract a mix of higher and lower-income visitors and attract visitors from a wider trade area than other types of mall anchors.

What else does your research tell shopping center operators to take into consideration as they look to maximize traffic?
It continues to be important to focus on key dining experiences. Those are highly valued interests across all mall-goers. Regardless of the type of anchor, we saw three interesting personas heavily over index: “Fast Foodies,” “Casual Diners,” and “Coffee Lovers.” Having solid offerings around those areas is always a good way to go. I’ll also emphasize again the importance of using data intelligence to stay tuned into rapidly changing consumer preferences, and to be ready to adapt and innovate your mall infrastructure, marketing strategy, or operations to meet evolving needs.

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