Is Gen Z the Saviour of Bricks and Mortar?

Posted by Philip Wiggenraad Philip Wiggenraad on Sep 27 2018
  • “80% of Gen Z prefer to shop in-store”
  • “Gen Z prefers to shop in-store versus online”
  • “Gen Z shoppers prefer physical retail

These are but some of the headlines that have emerged in recent years on Generation Z – the demographic cohort that follows those pesky millennials. Born after 1997, this is a group that is used to managing their entire daily life on smartphones, yet plenty of research suggests that this is also a demographic that might actually come to the rescue of the physical store.

Tofugear has recently commissioned a survey on the digital consumer in Asia. Covering 6,000 consumers across 12 markets, it looks into the on- and offline shopping habits of the different generations. The motivation behind the study was that while there is a lot of research out there on millennials and Gen Z, these are often based on studies done in the US or Europe and an Asian perspective is sorely lacking.

Which channel do you prefer to shop through?

Having asked consumers which channel they prefer to shop through – online or stores – it does appear that Gen Z is more into bricks and mortar than millennials. In fact, their preferences are very similar to those of Gen X (those born between 1965 and 1980) – a generation that still remembers when Amazon was simply a bookseller.

So what can retailers take away from this data?

While Gen Z in Asia has a higher preference for stores, the fact of the matter is that the majority (57%) still leans towards ecommerce. Physical retailers should not expect things to get easier once Gen Z gets older and they should continue to focus on improving the in-store shopping experience to help set their stores apart from the online channel.

The research took into account Gen Z consumers that will be at least 16 years old in 2018, as the retail spend of younger Gen Z shoppers is fairly low. Regardless, these are still very young consumers, with many yet to enter tertiary education. What are the chances that their shopping habits will stay the same as they become older?

For instance, most millennials have now entered the work force. Because of being more time poor, they value the convenience of online shopping. Will that be the same for Gen Z once they get to that stage of their lives?

Lastly, for Gen Z shopping is more than simply “buying stuff”. It is an activity that they do with their friends and this social dimension means they place a higher value on the bricks and mortar experience than millennials.

It therefore remains to be seen whether that will still be the case once they get older and socialise in other places. Retailers should take note that tactics to appeal to millennials, such as increased personalisation in stores and experiential retail, are likely to remain relevant for these younger shoppers as well.

For those interested in the other findings of our research study, Tofugear intends to publish a full report on the digital consumer in Asia by the end of October, so stay tuned for that.


Philip Wiggenraad is Head of Research at Tofugear. He has over 10 years of experience in analysing digital innovations in the retail sector and keeps his finger on the pulse of the latest trends. Prior to coming to Hong Kong, Philip led the analyst team that launched the Retail Week Prospect intelligence site in the UK and originally started his career as European Retail Analyst at market research firm Mintel.


Topics: Omnichannel


Philip Wiggenraad

Written by Philip Wiggenraad

As Head of Research at Tofugear, Philip provides insight on how retailers are adapting their digital strategies to target the connected consumer. Prior to relocating to Hong Kong, he led Retail Week’s research team in London, researching the tech and ecommerce strategies of the UK’s leading retailers.

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