How retail can capture a new generation 

By 2020, Generation Z (today’s 14 to 19 year olds) will be the largest group of consumers worldwide. They’ll make up 40% of the US, Europe and BRIC countries' populations, and 10% of the rest of the world.

We know more about how they shop, why they shop and what they do after they shop than ever before. They have shorter attention spans, more critical eyes, and they’ll be ‘born seamless’, moving fluidly between the digital and physical worlds. And that is why Generation Z will expect a virtual receptionist.

Identities will partly be formed in the online world. Here, teenagers have freedom to pretend to be who they want to be without the same time restrictions, parental checks or financial constraints. And they are far more used to browsing online for the products and brands that match their aspirations.

That’s why stores will have to offer brand-led experiences which match those of the online world while giving consumers that much more. Shops are opening equipped with hairdressers, climbing walls, cafés and tattoo parlours. But physical retail also needs to be geared with the convenience, selection, discounts and anonymity that consumers enjoy online.

Members of Gen Z expect the same level of service as other generations, similarly valuing respectful and helpful interaction. A virtual receptionist or remote expert can greet customers, giving them the instant access to the information they need. They won’t have to hover around looking for a sales assistant. They can navigate their way through the store via online help in the real world. And the Vgreet will be branded in a way they recognise from virtual browsing.

It’s this kind of seamless retail that the savvy consumers of Gen Z will expect. Perhaps it’s time to anticipate that future.