At Premiere Vision NYC, 5 Ways Retail Should Engage Gen Z

E-commerce strategies got some major updates at Première Vision July 18-19 at New York City’s Center 415 in Midtown.

The French textile and fashion trade show organizer returned to NYC with nearly 180 exhibitors representing more than 25 countries and showcasing fabrics, yarns, designs, leather, accessories, manufacturing and smart creation.

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During the panel “New Commerce,” an excerpt from a study created by the global team of experts at consulting agency Nelly Rodi Paris explored and identified new challenges, technology and influences in the “ever-evolving” retail landscape. Presented by Nelly Rodi’s design industry professional Jacqueline Rumohr and vice president of international business development Luc-Dominique Demettre, the discussion highlighted the new ways in which brands are interacting with customers, as well as business challenges and key takeaways.

“We need to forget about the retail we used to go to; brands have to be more creative and dare to be different in order to attract new consumers,” Demettre said. “The digital generation has shifted brands [so] the way that we think about retail should be totally different.”

But to successfully target Gen Z, whose spending power Bloomberg puts at $360 billion, Nelly Rodi identified five key ways brands can succeed in 2024. They should engage and influence followers in new ways, look to retail workers as the new style ambassadors, create service-driven store experiences, put everything at the customer’s fingertips and fuel hyperphysical experiences.

New influences

Brands shouldn’t be buying their influence but rather growing their influence by relying on their communities and curating online and offline experiences.

Jacquemus, for example, created an edible experience on a premium Paris street—Avenue Montaigne—for its community not to shop but to eat. Simon Porte Jacquemus’ eponymous luxury brand inaugurated the opening of its first-ever boutique with a claw-game machine that distributed popcorn, a nod to the label’s textured materials, to brand fans. The goal wasn’t to drive sales but to engage with its following and generate buzz.

There’s also the idea of not just letting fans take on marketing roles but letting them take the reins entirely. In 2021, Bottega Veneta decided to ditch its social media and had its devotees develop the Instagram account “newbottega,” what its curator Laura Nycole calls an “independent journal dedicated to Bottega.” It currently has 1.2 million followers.

“We’re going back to…a more spectacular version of marketing. It’s really about creating real things for real people in real time,” Rumohr said. “The winning strategy would be giving people something to write about with what you do [and] draw your community.”

Power to retail employees

Store employees will not be brand ambassadors but style ambassadors, Nelly Rodi predicts. That means retail workers are the new influencers—at least, that’s what the brands want them to think. While this isn’t particularly new—American Apparel dabbled in this arena—it does have new meaning through a Gen Z focused lens.

“In 2020 we had the Great Resignation so lots of people didn’t want to work in retail anymore. As for luxury brands, there’s a shortage of salespeople for luxury products. There’s a decline in interest for the younger generation; Gen Z want to be their own bosses, they want flexible [hours], they want as well to choose how they want to work, so that’s an issue for the retail industry,” Demettre said. “So when we talk about how to improve retention, culture is key, you need to have strong identity, strong values to attract young candidates and make sure you’re training your employees to make sure they have a future with your company.”

A service-driven store experience

A service-driven store experience means “going beyond product and purchase logic to deliver a better experience,” Rumohr said.

“We talked about Gen Z really sort of driving this experience that needs to be at a more elevated level,” she continued. “So here we’re talking about repair services within the shop—VIP experiences—and what we’ve identified is that the future of luxury shoppers is really Gen Z.”

Gen Z has fostered a reputation for caring about sustainability. Marrying that with luxury is a winning strategy, according to the Paris-based consultantcy. Bottega Veneta has successfully done so with the launch of “Certificate of Craft,” a lifetime guarantee for its bags where upon purchase, the customer receives the certificate as a card with the product’s serial number. This card grants access to unlimited lifetime repairs for wear and tear.

“So, it not only gives you that longevity of the product, but it also gives the brand another interaction with their client repeatedly because of the ability to fix it,” Rumohr said.

The winning strategy for retail, Nelly Rodi said, includes personalization, product exclusivity, going beyond the product, reinventing experiences and utilizing both the human and the digital experiences.

Everything at your fingertips

Burberry shoppers can pre-book fitting rooms through the WeChat collaboration.

Burberry shoppers can pre-book fitting rooms through the WeChat collaboration.

“Shopping at the fingertips is really about shopping from your cellphone; think about 10 years ago, when all the brands wanted to have their own apps, people have in their phones like 50 apps but weren’t using them. So something that’s very important for brands to understand is that if they want to build their own app, they will need to bring something exclusive [like] a great experience [to] their customers,” Demettre said. “It’s really about giving exclusive content to people who use the app.”

Take Burberry in China, for example. Through Tencent’s WeChat, visitors to the British fashion brand’s Shenzhen flagship can interact with window displays and pick their own music to play in the fitting rooms.

The rise of hyperphysical experiences

The “Coach Airways” retail concept store, located at Melaka’s Freeport A’Famosa Outlet in Malaysia.

The “Coach Airways” retail concept store, located at Melaka’s Freeport A’Famosa Outlet in Malaysia.

From Bottega’s Squid Game-style maze in Korea and Hermès’ mythical-inspired performance in Santa Monica to Coach’s immersive pop-up dubbed “Coach Airways” in Malaysia and Balenciaga’s fuzzy fantasy à la Le Cagole in London, hyperphysical experiences are a mainstay in luxury.

“We’re talking about unique, multi-sensory and holistic experiences,” Rumohr said. “It’s about both visually stunning sets, community-driven, reconnecting with your senses and restoring enthusiasm and desire to be in physical spaces again.”

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