December 6, 2016

A New Generation is Heading to University: Is Your Campus Store Ready?



Students graduating high school this year are the last group born in the 20th century and they’re the first generation to be growing up immersed in technology.

This next generation, known as Generation Z, is defined as those born between 1995 and 2012.

Because Gen Z is in it’s early stages, there are many unknowns about how they will shape up as a group. What we do know is that they have money to spend but are a little more reluctant to part with it versus previous generations.

Also, they have high expectation of retailers, which is likely because they have a myriad of shopping options at their fingertips. This makes Gen Z even more discerning about what they spend on.

Over the past decade we’ve learned a lot about Millennials, but Gen Z has some clear differences. These differences will require retailers of all kinds to understand their needs and preferences. For the campus bookstore, this will be integral to getting a headstart on getting  your campus store Generation Z ready.

Here are five things you need to know about Gen Z for your campus store of the future:

Technology in Their DNA

Digital is in Gen Z’s DNA. Bookstores need to be supporting and selling technology, and using social media to meet them where they already are.

In a 2015 survey, 45% of respondents said they pay the most attention to online video ads, and that they are 29% more likely than Millennials to make an electronic purchase.

This means having an online presence for your campus store is key to engaging with these future customers. This can be an e-commerce store, or via relevant social media channels, but you need something to meet their expectations.

Frugal Spending Habits

For the most part, Gen Z is frugal with their cash, with 39% preferring to save their money. This means your bookstore is going to have to work harder to get them to part with their dollars.  

This generation wants to know they’re getting the best possible value and that what they’re spending their money on is worth it. Overall, Gen Z is less impulsive with purchases. This group tends to look beyond the price of an item, and consider things like if it includes free shipping, future discounts or no hassle returns.

Simple Style

Overall, this Gen Z likes a simpler style, so campus wear should reflect this. They value practicality and ease.

You need only to look at brands like Lululemon and UnderArmour to see this in action.

Clothes that historically would have been considered sportswear are now part of everyday wardrobes. Updating the style of campus wear to reflect this trend means more potential to get the Gen Zers to spend in your store.

Research and More Research

Gen Z does their homework before they buy. They tend to research online before going to the store, and when they go to the store, they want to ensure the item meets their needs.

Interestingly, once they’re  in the store, the purpose isn’t necessarily to buy it right that moment. According to a 2016 survey, 58% of the teens surveyed said they go to a retail store because they want to see and feel what they are considering buying.

Retailers need to be able to provide the level of detail on each item this generation is looking for and take into account they may need to work harder to convince Gen Zers to actually purchase.

Personalized Experiences

Research has showed that this generation likes to have experiences and be able to get involved in things. This can be applicable to what they do in the store or what products the store has to offer.

The value they find is more in the feeling that something is unique, or can be shared with friends.

Generation Z is looking for ways to show individuality in a world where social media makes it seem like everyone has already been there, done that.  They seek uniqueness in the brands they do business with.

A good example of this in action is Converse’s Blank Canvas workshop that allows shoppers to personalize their shoes. They work with a designer to create their dream shoe with their own customizations from lace color to adding doodles, studs or other accents.

The workshop, in their Soho store in New York City, is an extension of the same capability they offer online. Best of all, customizing your shoes is affordable with customizations costing about $25 to $45 per shoe.

When it comes to appealing to Gen Z, each of these differences are critical to future success of the campus bookstore. Stores need to be ready with a solid plan in place to ensure they are ready to best serve the needs of this new group of students.

LHR Consultants has considerable experience working with institutions to modernize their campus retail. To discuss your specific needs, contact us for a free consultation at: [email protected].


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