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Study: Young customers show surprising in-store shopping preferences

“Digitally native” millennial and Gen Z consumers may not be so averse to brick-and-mortar, after all.

According to a recent study of 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives across the U.S., U.K. and Australia conducted by Oracle NetSuite, Wakefield Research and The Retail Doctor, Gen Z and millennials (43%) are most likely to do more in-store shopping this year, followed by Gen X (29%) and baby boomers (13%).

“Gen Z shoppers are at a very social age,” Gregory Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst for Oracle Netsuite, said during a briefing with Chain Store Age at the Internet Retailer conference. “Shopping at a brick-and-mortar store can be a social experience for them.”

The study also shows that Gen Z and millennials (57%) had the most positive view of the current retail environment, feeling it was more inviting, followed by Gen X (40%). Baby boomers (27%) were more likely to find the current retail environment less inviting than consumers overall.

“Baby boomers have always liked stores, but they don’t like the modern sleek, tech-focused store format,” commented Zakowicz.

Gen Z valued in-store interaction the least, with 42% feeling more annoyed from increased interaction with retail associates. Somewhat surprisingly, 56% of millennials said they would feel more welcomed by more in-store interactions. More than four in 10 Gen X (44%) and baby boomer (43%) respondents also said in-store interactions make them feel welcome.

“Millennials are at a very busy time of their life,” said Zakowicz. “They’re busy raising kids and advancing in their careers. They prefer in-store help more. However, Gen Z shoppers are true digital natives and have never known not having smartphones. When they need help, they want it done quickly. But overall, store associates remain vital assets.”

While more than three-quarters of retail executives (79%) believe having artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) in stores will increase sales, the study found that these technologies are not yet widely accepted by any generation. Overall, only 14% of consumers believe that emerging technologies like AI and VR will have a significant impact on their purchase decisions.

Other notable findings include:
• Emerging tech in retail stores is most attractive to millennials (50%) followed by Gen Z (38%), Gen X (35%) and baby boomers (20%).

• Overall, only 12% of consumers think their engagement with brands on social media has a significant impact on the way they think or feel about a brand.

• Among those who engage with brands on social media, Gen Z (38%) consumers are much more likely than other generations to engage with retailers on social to get to know the brand compared to millennials (25%) and baby boomers (21%).

• Gen Z (65%) consumers and millennials (63%) believe their engagement with brands on social media platforms have an impact on their relationship with brands.

• More than half of baby boomers (53%) and 29% of Gen X consumers do not engage with brands on social media.
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