For a generational cohort that’s been talked, tweeted, and debated about, there is still a lot to discuss and uncover about Gen Z, what matters to them, and who they really are. Considering this cohort has a disposable income of $360 billion in the US alone, it’s imperative for eCom brand owners to understand this generation’s views on eCommerce & how they shop online.
In this episode, Scott & Ray chat with Will Weeks, Head of Brand and Communications at Student Beans, to really get to know Gen Z, what makes them tick, what makes them likely to convert from cart to purchase, and how much they’ll affect the future of eCommerce and online shopping (hint: this thrifty generation holds A LOT of power).
Will breaks down all the hot trends Gen Z are raving (or concerned) about – like the Buy Now, Pay Later model and how it’s affecting their budget and financial situations, social commerce & live shopathons, and the rise of hustle culture among their peers. This episode also explores why, contrary to popular belief, Gen Z are still interested in physical retail and interacting with storefronts. So find out how to integrate the best of eCom with the best of the mall into one experience!
If you’re still unsure how to spark interest & convert Gen Z, tune in to this enlightening episode. You’ll understand what compels Gen Z to trust and fall in love with a brand and how you can connect with them by understanding and offering solutions to their everyday struggles.
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0:00 – 0:27 – G&G eCommerce Podcast Theme
This is the Growth & Greatness eCommerce Podcast, powered by Right Hook Digital, with your hosts Scott Seward & Raymond Johnston. If you’re an eCommerce brand founder, entrepreneur, or marketer looking to accelerate profitable growth for your business, then listen in ‘cause this is the podcast for you.
0:27 – 2:10 – Introduction of guest Will Weeks
Scott (0:27 – 0:37) – Alright, Growth & Greatness eCommerce Podcast, back for another episode! Ray, we’ve been busy this week, got a few recordings going on, but this one’s a little bit different.
Ray (0:37 – 0:54) – Yeah, it’s been an awesome week, a lot of great guests, Super excited to have Will Weeks with us. And on the team front, been super busy on the TikTok, seen a lot of successes on the team cracking TikTok, which ties in great with what Will’s gonna talk about in the Gen Z buying persona, which is exactly the demo on TikTok.
Scott (0:54 – 1:02) – Will, welcome to the show, man! Give us a bit of an intro, background and tell us about Student Beans and what’s happening on that front.
Will (1:02 – 2:10) – Yeah, for sure. So I’m Will Weeks, I guess I’ll give, like, a background of myself. I’ve always marketed to youth. When I started, that was millennials, but I’ve, kind of, stuck to that age range. As a marketer, it’s, like, an exciting place to be. It’s a harder audience, they’re often more savvy, so definitely keeps you on your toes and makes it more exciting for your job. So, I’m the head of brand and comms at Student Beans. Our mission is to empower students to thrive, and we do that in a couple different ways. We’ve got a technology server, a technology product, it helps brands verify students, make sure that they’re talking to legitimate students. And then also, we have a marketplace that connects students with the brands so, on the marketplace front, it’s, like, a big, global community of student users. We give them discounts on brands they love. We also give them a lot of practical content to navigate what is, generally, quite a critical time in their lives. With brands, it’s a major time to start talking to consumers, right? If you can develop those habits early on, you’ve got lifelong consumers so that’s what we, kind of, what we help brands with.
2:10 – 7:05 – What makes the Gen Z different from Millennials and other generational cohorts?
Scott (2:10 – 2:32) – Nice, let’s think about Gen Z and you brought up the millennials. I’m, sort of, on the cusp, I’m a punk-grunge surf kid. How are you seeing this generation differentiate from the millennials and their, you know, buying behavior?
Will (2:32 – 4:26) – Yeah, so let’s start off, a lot of, the generational definition changes a little bit so let’s just define some stuff first. At the moment, like, 12 – 25 year-olds is where Gen Z, kind of, sits so they’re born between ‘96 and 2010 – basically, straddling the millennium – whereas, millennials grew up, sort of, like, they came of age in the millennium. I think with Gen Z, you can really break it down to 4 key characteristics, right? Digital natives, and we talked a lot about this with the millennial generation as well, but it seems even more so because these guys, they are younger than the World Wide Web. They’ve never existed in a world without the Internet, a lot of them have never existed in a world without smartphones and tablets, and having that level of access, speed to information & communication, that has a huge impact on the cognitive development. That’s the first one. The second one, I think, this is, like, mainly the trope that a lot of people think which is that they’re actively conscious and that’s, kind of, like the meme, if you were to make a meme about the Gen Z, that’s what you’d be looking at. Causes are really important to their generation. We don’t know exactly what that is, but if you think about it, they’ve experienced some major global events during their development – 9/11, 2008, the global financial crisis having a huge impact; obviously, COVID – all of this happening during development, that’s causing them to see, like, injustices and inequality, and that’s, kind of, made them think about change a little bit more. They’re, obviously, also one of the younger generations and they can’t really ignore climate change, they’re champions of the planet. They’re also super financially savvy, and that’s something that I don’t think the millennials necessarily are. I’m talking as a millennial myself.
Ray (4:26 – 4:32) – Will, why are they financially savvy? Can you, kind of, break that down in contrast between millennials versus Gen Z?
Will (4:32 – 5:04) – Yeah, so, I think Gen Z have a much more engaged interest in financial health and in debt, and I think it’s because they’ve seen, as generations go through, you’ll get into more and more debt, and how that, kind of, impacts the success in their life. They’re very much thinking about money and how they spend their money. They’re looking for value out of it, more so than anything else. Millennials are still, sort of, on that cusp of Gen X and, kind of, demonstrating their identity through what they buy and, like, what kind of showing things up a little bit more…
Scott (5:04 – 5:06) – They’re just cheapskates.
Will (5:06 – 5:42) – Yeah, exactly. And Gen Z, they’re a little bit more, like, conservative when it comes to this. They love a deal, they love a discount, they love thinking about how they can get the most out of what the budget is that they’ve got. And they’re elastic, right? Talking about how there are subcultures and subtrends and everyone’s really diversified and it’s not a homogenous group. However, they’re relatively globally-minded and, again, it’s probably because of social media and the Internet. Across the generational cohort, there are so many similarities and trends and interests that demonstrate that they’re, kind of, speaking to each other from across any divides.
Scott (5:42 – 6:38) – It’s super interesting ‘cause I haven’t really thought about that in that context. I’m in the border of Gen X and millennial so I’ve grown up, during the 90s, no Internet, really, until we started having dial-up. Mobile phones just came in when I was, I remember, one of the rich girls at school had a mobile in Grade 12, and it was the biggest thing ever. It just evolved from there. And you’re right, we’ve seen what that’s done to society, families, over that time period. I’ve never really considered what that would change from a growing up perspective and, I guess, view from the personal finance side because we’ve all, like, there’s been a lot of criticism that it’s something that’s not taught and addressed in school, personal finance and how to manage money. So, it’s really interesting, from your perspective, being all hands-on, seeing that that generation coming through is much more, I don’t know whether frugal is the right term, but at least more considered in allocating their dollars.
Will (6:38 – 7:05) – Yeah, definitely more considered. I mean, we do this thing every year, the Youth Money Index, where we look at, like, different trends within finance for Gen Z students. They are, like, shockingly unaware of financial products when they come into that. However, they know that they’re not, and so, sometimes, they’re the ones who are skeptical around different things and a lot of them don’t want to get into things like credit card debt and stuff like that. They have, like, a fear of it because they don’t have the education around how to manage it correctly.
7:06 – 16:02 – How does Gen Z use and view the Buy Now, Pay Later model & how can brands better harness this model to deliver an optimal buying experience?
Scott (7:06 – 7:49) – There’s 4 major trends that we wanna talk about today, and how, I guess, the Gen Z is utilizing these or influencing them – first one being how they’re using Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) to manage their finances, how they’re buying, how they’re selling and, I guess, how that mall experience is being digitized. So let’s start at the beginning there because the Buy Now, Pay Later has just been huge over the last few years. It’s really exploded, and we see this generation coming through. How are they viewing that? How are they utilizing it, and where do you see that, you know, as a sub-niche in eCommerce progressing over the next coming years?
Will (7:49 – 8:14) – Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think, like you said, it’s exploded, right? At the moment, we’ve got millions of students in our community that we speak to on a regular basis. We’ve first started tracking this in March of 2018 where, like, 18% of US students have used Buy Now, Pay Later as a product. We just did it again, it’s risen to 30%, so it’s pretty considerable growth across the cohort in, like, a short space of time.
Ray (8:14 – 8:21) – Will, why do you think that is? With Gen Z being financially conscious, I’d love to, kind of, get your thoughts on, like, how does that tie together?
Will (8:21 – 9:09) – I think it comes down to the fear of getting into further debt and understanding of how your payments can be, like, spread out and that commitment to that, rather than spiraling without commitment, which I think is often what the fear is with other forms of credit. So, like, the opinion on Buy Now, Pay Later, it’s pretty divided; like I wouldn’t say that everybody in Gen Z is, like, a massive fan and champion of it yet. I think almost half of them think it actually encourages students into more debt, but then, there’s, like, you know, almost just as many who think that it helps people to buy what they need or what they want. That’s when you’re looking holistically at the group. If you’re looking at the people who are using this product, all of them see it as a value, as a positive experience they have…
Ray (9:09 – 9:10) – I’d say so.
Will (9:10 – 9:32) – Again, I think that comes down to some of the stigma around financial products and that lack of understanding, information, and support that people get. You know, historically, people have been tricked into financial products, right, and that is the fear people have. Once they do it, this is a much more safer and more easily managed product for them to undertake.
Ray (9:32 – 9:34) – Literally interesting, we…
Scott (9:34 – 9:54) – I think it’s finding that balance with it because this generation has also grown up with having everything instantly, and that can possibly feed into that too much, like ‘How I can buy it now, but I don’t have to pay,’ ‘I can have it now, I can pay for it later.’ I could see it being a slippery slope in certain situations.
Will (9:54 – 11:11) – Yeah, and, like, okay, so we do a lot of analyses on this and looking at the types of categories that are using this. Fashion ranks as the number 1 for this, that’s, I would deem that as a non-essential purchase, right? That definitely plays into that urgency, buy it now… Even when you look at the platforms like AfterPay or Klarna or Zip, it all, kind of, do that, giving into that FOMO of missing out, get that outfit that you need right now, things like that. On the flip side, if you think about why people are using it, there’s also really good practical ways around it. Technology is the 2nd biggest category that people are using Buy Now, Pay Later for. That’s, in this day and age, that is an essential item, right? Our society doesn’t work unless you have access to stuff via smartphone or laptop or whatever that might be, and it’s a high-ticket item so it could be seen as, like, a smart thing to commit to a payment plan to get what you need to help you to function and do that. Brands can, kind of, take advantage of that type of messaging and look at, ‘What are the essentials? What are the things that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to purchase outright? How do you use this, which is a different type of financial product, that has some stronger benefits to other avenues for you,’ and really like dial in to that.
Scott (11:11 – 11:17) – Probably a lot fewer hoops to jump through as opposed to trying to get a credit card or something, or a loan or something as well, right?
Will (11:16 – 11:17) – Yeah.
Scott (11:17 – 11:25) – What’s the approval process look like comparatively to getting debt elsewhere?
Will (11:25 – 11:48) – Yeah, it’s definitely a lot more straightforward. I’m not a financial adviser, right, so I don’t know what the actual approval process is on their side, around this, but from what we’ve seen, it’s definitely easier to make a purchase using one of those platforms, probably because you’re not getting huge access to long lines of credit, and you do have that more committed repayment schedule but, yeah, it does seem to be a little bit easier for them.
Ray (11:48 – 12:36) – It’s interesting, with some of our brands, especially in the fashion space, ‘cause we work with a lot of fashion brands in the eCommerce space, and we’ve noticed significant correlated differences between adding the more popular Buy Now, Pay Later platforms like Affirm, Klarna, not the, the pretty popular ones that most people have recognized overtime, where it actually increases conversion rates. What I think is interesting is that, given that some of the demographics is Gen Z, and so, typically, you associate being cash-poor, right? Like they’re in university or in high school, and they just don’t have the money per se, but what’s interesting is that maybe they’re cash-poor, it allows them to swallow those payments over a longer period of time, like you said, those essentials. I think it’s been really fascinating that you said that it’s been, the uptick has been doubled in that timespan just for the Buy Now, Pay Later.
Will (12:36 – 13:24) – I think, also, just on that cash-poor thing, I think that’s a really common conception. And, like, you know, every student is different, every Gen Z is different, and there’s, obviously, different, like, groups of people and how much disposable income they’ve got to play with. The reality is, Gen Z often have, like, diverse income streams, right? And so, they have a lot more cash coming in and going out than I think we give them credit for in terms of, like, the size of the economy. So it could be that they’ve got a grant to get in college, some money from mom and dad, more than half of them have part-time jobs, a lot of them are doing side hustle stuff as well; while they may not have lump sums to make big purchases and stuff, they’ve got the incoming and going that allows them to do things like this, that allows them to pay it off overtime.
Scott (13:24 – 13:30) – Do you see that generation, like, do you see them taking advantage, more of that gig economy?
Will (13:30 – 14:06) – 100%. Yeah, it’s absolutely, particularly online reselling. It plays into a couple of their different passion points as well – there’s the, sort of, self-representation, there’s a little bit of the environment and reselling and not, sort of, buying new. There’s a couple of things that help them into that gig economy side of things. And then, now, I , generally, freelance culture is just much more, it’s almost like the first port of call whereas I think for all the generations, it was, kind of, like not necessarily… Exactly! When I left university, it was not a thing. So, yeah, it’s incredible to see that shift now.
Scott (14:06 – 14:29) – Yeah, and I think that’s great that people have that option to follow something that’s more of a passion and see if that something that they can monetize. That just wasn’t an option for us, going back into the 2000s for most of us. I think that’s a great evolution of how people can work.
Scott (14:30 – 15:06) – Where do you see brands being able to harness the Buy Now, Pay Later approach and marketing to this demographic? TikTok’s obviously a platform that’s, probably, quite focused on that demographic, and I start thinking back to what Instagram looked like in 2013, 2014; a lot of the arguments were that the demographic was too young, we know what happens when it ages, and we’re starting to see that evolution with TikTok, particularly. How do you see brands, I guess, some of the things they’re doing well and some of the things that you don’t feel that they’re doing well in maximizing how they can leverage this with this demographic?
Will (15:06 – 16:02) – Yeah, I think there’s 2 sides to every point like this. I think, as you mentioned, like, it’s a great conversion optimization tool, and like brands that have it just seamlessly integrate it into what their eCommerce experience looks like. That’s, obviously, a plus. However, there’s an element of trust that this demographic really seeks out when they’re interacting with brands. What they don’t want is to not know of something, be sure of something, or not feel like they’re supported beyond what that purchase point is. So brands really want to take advantage of this product because it’s definitely there to be used, and there’s huge opportunity as to how you can increase your conversion using it. It’s really important to then think, okay, beyond that sale point, how are you supporting, how are you educating people looking for why they would be using something like this, and then developing content support, resources to make sure they’re educated so that they maintain financial health but we know that they’re really interested.
16:03 – 24:22 – The rise of live shopathons and how to deliver value & entertainment to your Gen Z audiences
Ray (16:03 – 16:09) – Will, we talked about trend 1, which is the Buy Now, Pay Later. What’s the 2nd trend that we’re seeing amongst the Gen Z?
Will (16:09 – 16:21) – Cool. So, let’s talk, I guess, shopathons, social commerce but, generally, let’s talk about, like, live shopathons ‘cause that is really…
Ray (16:19 – 16:22) – Can you define that for us? What is the shopathon that you’re seeing?
Will (16:23 – 17:15) – Yeah. So live shopathon is, basically, a cross between TV shopping channel, I think we all remember what those are like, and a really long Instagram Live. Basically, a shopper is guided through a series of products by a host, that could be a celebrity or an influencer. The concept itself is not new, like we all remember, like, QVC, they’ve been doing stuff like this for ages. But what we’ve seen, particularly in China, is the rise of specific platforms, things like Taobao, which are dedicated just to this, and that’s become really popular and driven this as a product and something that’s become more mainstream. And now we’re starting to see that creep into more mainstream platforms here like TikTok and Instagram, and that’s where the trend is starting to creep in. We’re starting to see more and more of it, yeah.
Ray (17:16 – 17:24) – I’m curious. With those shopathons, Will, are you finding that they tend to gravitate towards specific industry or niches, or is there a broad spectrum you’re seeing?
Will (17:25 – 18:06) – I think the one that, like, has taken off so far, dominated by Asian markets, and then it’s obviously what we’ve started to see, most prevalent here as well, is beauty and fashion. The reason for that is, if you were to think about the type of content that is typically popular on social platforms and what has been, like, almost the go-to… what made YouTube and YouTubers famous? It’s like the make-up tutorials, the ‘get ready with me,’ the hauls, and stuff like that – it’s the type of content which is really natural within those platforms that then is making the fastest and quickest transitions to shopathons.
Ray (18:06 – 18:25) – Have you ever heard of the platform CommentSold in the US? It’s a platform that integrates, it’s like what you’re talking about where they go live, people comment a specific word, and it sends them an invoice, but it’s only on Facebook, for example. But what you’re talking about is, like, this is happening across many different platforms beyond just Facebook.
Will (18:25 – 18:34) – Yeah, definitely. What you’re talking about CommentSold, there’s also, what was the legging company that was on the Netflix special? LuLaRoe?
Scott (18:33- 18:34) – LuluLemon?
Will (18:35 – 19:05) – LuLaRoe’s in the US, multi-level marketing company; they used to do stuff like that where it was very manual, the way it is. They’ll show something, and then some of the comments say, ‘What’s that one?!’ and they’d say, ‘I’m gonna buy,’ and they’d say, ‘Oh, I can see that, you know, Scott said that he wants this. Well done! You got it.’ The format’s, kind of, what this is, you’re uploading your product catalog into the platform and developing ways to then direct people really seamlessly and say, ‘Here’s a link straight through, purchase it right onto the eCommerce engine.’
Ray (19:05 – 19:13) – That’s really fascinating. How do you see more eCom brands being able to take part of this, take advantage of this, for their Gen Z market?
Will (19:13 – 20:54) – Yeah, I mean, like I said, Gen Z are looking for, like, really seamless shopping experiences. So they might be digital natives, but, ultimately, what they’re looking for is, like, what is the easiest way to shop? For eCommerce brands, we’re always looking for ways in which we can reduce the journey. We’re looking for ways that we can, like, optimize, reduce steps, make things really easy ‘cause, you know, the fastest point is for someone to see something they want and then being able to put it in their cart and buy it – that makes it the best journey for us. This cuts out, like, 10 different steps of the path to purchase. What you can do is take an inspiration, aspirational platform where people are used to consuming stuff where they get inspired and looking, when they are interested or they do have that purchase intent, they’re going straight through and to purchase and allowing eCommerce brands and direct-to-consumer brands to skip having to send people to their site, having them to browse using search functionality, all of that – it allows them to go straight through to purchase. So, that’s one thing. The other thing is that, obviously, it allows us to work with influencers and influencer hosts in a completely different way. It’s gonna change the game when it comes to this. Like if you were to, if China’s anything to go by, there’s someone who does a lot of live shopathons there, Austin Li Jiaqi, “The Lipstick King,” and they are like a household name now, rose through the ranks through live shopathon events, and now have 42 million followers. They’ve released a new line of lipsticks, they sold 15,000 of them in 5 minutes. It’s a really good opportunity where if you have social success, it’s the most seamless and easiest way for you to monetize that success.
Scott (20:54 – 21:20) – Haven’t seen that one, I’ve seen the handbag guy, does the same, his whole IG persona is just trying handbags and sells them by livestreams as well. They must do some pretty amazing numbers. And, Ray, this is pretty similar, in concept, to what we used to do with Facebook Lives, right, with Black Friday and those big sale drop campaigns.
Ray (21:20 – 22:16) – They are. I’m glad you brought that up, Scott, ‘cause I wanna ask you, Will, we used to do this a couple years ago, but it wasn’t integrated, it wasn’t a great experience, you know, because it wasn’t a full integration. It was still a bit of a hassle. Someone comments, you have to find it or respond to them, like a lot of hassle. What we found is that, to do these live shopathons, in the term that you’re using, there has to be some kind of entertainment value. It can’t just be like a try-on, we would coach these brand owners, ‘Okay, how can you make this entertaining?’ There’s this 1 story I’d like to talk about is this brand owner, you know, for some reason, people love it when she talks about her kids. Eventually, what it morphed into was, like, her and a bunch of girls that work for her, they were having a weekly, like, wine Wednesday, and they’re sipping wine, getting a little tipsy, and then they’re saying what they think and people started tuning in by the thousands, like 5,000 people would tune in every single week ‘cause they like these girls. How much entertainment value do you find that really needs to go into it to make this work?
Will (22:16 – 23:17) – Definitely. Like, I think with anything, if you go in hard right away, people are gonna be turned off, particularly at this point. They do not like a hard sell. It’s like any content that you’re doing, it has to be led with, like, what’s the value that they’re getting? Is it entertaining? Is it emotive? Is it story? Are they getting something, some kind of other benefit out of it? What’s the hook? It’s not as simple as, like, ‘I could just tell people how to buy things, and they’re just gonna, like, connect straight through.’ It’s still a content strategy and you still have to have really compelling and engaging content factor, at the core of it, to make people really watch. The reason that, like, we don’t watch TVSN and QVC now is because, like, that is just going on and it’s someone, like, just showing you products to purchase. With this, you have the opportunity to take, okay, with these inspirational, aspirational, engaging platforms, where they’re already doing this content, how do you take what works really well on that, and then build in its integrated monetization for it, rather than just chucking it all out there and hoping someone buys.
Scott (23:17 – 23:46) – I think that insight really aligns with why we’re seeing the rise of TikTok as well, right? It just, grabbing attention and being able to hold it. I had to delete TikTok from my phone because it’s like a vortex, an hour and a half just gone down the drain. I can’t do this, I’m losing too much time, but I can understand that generation growing up with that, that’s what their expectation is of, you know, everything. If you can’t hold their attention, can’t provide value, you’re gonna lose it and they’re gonna go somewhere else.
Will (23:46 – 24:22) – You got 3 seconds, if that can stop the scroll, right? You’ll see, like, obviously, I don’t know, in the UK and in Australia, the TikTok lives being forcibly rolled out in the algorithm, like every few pieces. That’s how they’re doing it. We’ve started to see some of the shopping elements coming through there as well so they’re, kind of, pushing them. However, it doesn’t matter how much you throw something at someone – if you’re not capturing them with something entertaining and exciting, then you’re gonna lose them immediately ‘cause there’s thousands of other pieces of content that they can be entertained by, and that are not gonna be sold to them.
24:23 – 28:52 – Building their own brand through reselling & content curation
Scott (24:23 – 24:55) – Let’s flip to the other side of the coin and talk about the 3rd trend here, ‘cause we got a new generation of eCommerce entrepreneurs coming up through this generation, and how they experience buying is gonna influence how they want to sell as well, because they understand it, probably, better than we can understand. Let’s talk about selling side – what’s different with this Gen Z group coming through, how they’re selling, reselling, what they wanna build in a brand? What are you seeing on that front?
Will (24:55 – 28:09) – Yeah, I mean, there are 3 main platforms that Gen Z are using for resell. If we go through them, and look at why people, what are the attributes and why people are using them, it starts to tell a really interesting picture. Firstly, eBay – tried & tested, it’s been around longer than they have, like the name in the room. That’s there up in the top 3. Depop is, like, the breakout star for Gen Z; I think there are similarities in Instagram and social, and how things are shared and building up audiences, that lends itself to, like, a bit more like developing your own identity and how you resell through that. That’s where you see a lot of business owners emerge from that platform. And then, the third one is a bit of a curveball because, like, we always say that they’re, like, not there but Facebook & Facebook Marketplace is huge within Gen Z. They might not be actively using the other elements of the Facebook products, although sometimes advertising audiences will tell you that they are there, but yeah, Facebook Marketplace is fabulous because what it does is that it hooks local communities together, which is something particularly desirable for Gen Z. So, let’s look at them, if you’re looking to sell something fast, like really quickly, you want it to be local, you want someone to come pick it up, you’re gonna go Facebook Marketplace and that’s one end of the spectrum – that’s, like, a quick and dirty, just get it done quickly, I need some cash right now. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got people who are like spending time curating and developing this, kind of, like, identity of what their Depop profile is. Obviously, there are people who are just selling things quickly in there. However, for success in Depop, it’s a social network, right? So it has to be a bit of brand identity, almost, even though it’s individual activity. And so, that is looking at, potentially, a more solid income stream. People are like, ‘It’s not just a one and done,’ it’s, kind of, like, how people are selling things on a regular basis, that is how they’re making a similar amount of money each month, and it’s also an opportunity for them to be looking at, like, turning what is a passion point into a business, ‘Okay, if people really like the clothes that I’m selling, I can then buy and resell, charge a bit of a markup, add a bit of an arbitrage in there, and develop value in what I’m doing,’ real business owner there. Someone along the middle is ebay ‘cause it kinda captures everyone else, it’s got the search functionality, you don’t have to have an audience, maybe you’re gonna have to send it away, but it’s got that trust that Gen Z are looking for. It’s a long spectrum of, like, ‘I want something done, I just need money now,’ and then ‘I’m ready to express myself through resell, resell something through Depop, and potentially have this as a legitimate side hustle.’ The thing that underpins all of it is their passion for the environment and climate change. I think that’s a factor that, like, we don’t necessarily know how much of that plays into this. 93%, let’s just say all of Gen Z, they want brands to do more to tackle climate change; when they don’t see that, they want to actually make an impact themselves reselling rather than purchasing new. That’s a huge way for them to do that.
Ray (28:09 – 28:23) – With that platform, for example, do you see it mainly, like you mentioned, doing arbitrage, or do you actually see people using it to either customize clothes, sell their own line, in that almost being like a platform that they break out of?
Will (28:23 – 28:51) – Yeah, definitely. I think there’s a really clear journey that individuals go through, which is, like, they start just by selling stuff that they’ve got in their closet. Then, they build an audience based off what that is, and they start saying, ‘Okay, this is what people like. I’m gonna go find that product and go do that.’ Then, they’ve got the audience and they can start selling unique or original or, like, upcycled stuff through that and then they build their identity even further.
Ray (28:51 – 28:52) – Really fascinating.
28:52 – 36:31 – Phygital mall experience – blending physical & digital retail to capture the attention of the Gen Z
Ray (28:52 – 29:08) – Now, Will, what’s the 4th trend? So, we’ve gone through the 3 trends. We’ve gone through the Buy Now, Pay Later, the buying – the rise of social commerce, now selling & the reselling using the platforms you mentioned. What’s the next trend you’re seeing with the Gen Z market?
Will (29:08 – 29:21) – The relationship between the mall experience and the digital experience. When I was a kid, I’m sure for you guys as well, like, you’re hanging out at the mall, that was kind of a social event in itself.
Ray (29:20 – 29:21) – Absolutely.
Scott (29:21 – 29:28) – Every Thursday night at the Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast, man.
Will (29:28 – 30:01) – Doing what, I know. And I think about it now and I’m like, rarely, I rarely go through a mall myself. What were we doing, just sitting around? But yeah, I think what we’re seeing is a bit of an evolution in both digital & eCommerce experiences, and then competing for that physical experience and how those two things are put against each other. One of the things, I hate this word because it sounds gross, but, like, the term is phygital, right, which is a hybrid between physical and digital experiences in shopping.
Scott (30:02 – 30:05) – Needs some work, that word needs some work.
Will (30:05 – 30:40) – It needs some branding, right? Yeah, maybe I should get my time working on that one. But yeah, it could be simple, right? Just to break it down and make it, that could be digital, cashierless check-outs – that’s a phygital experience, ‘cause it’s in a physical location but it’s using digital technology to, like, improve the experience, make it faster, seamless, and all that. But, on the flip side of it, it’s arguably more exciting would be things like augmented reality, so building something into your eCommerce app that allows people to physically see a product in their home or try something on without having to leave the at-home shopping experience.
Scott (30:40 – 31:27) – That’s also happening in-store and we’ve had a couple people, couple of guests, that we’ve had on in the space to talk about that specifically, both in the in-home and how that’s happening in-store. You’ve got, can’t remember the name, you’ve got big screens – you can superimpose that dress or whatever you wanna try in front of you without you having to actually do it so it’s a much faster process, even in-store. I think that AR integration across these platforms is gonna be, it’s gonna be huge. It’s been a bit of a slow curve, from where it’s been spoken about 5 years ago and the progression of it. I think, at the time, we thought that it was gonna be a bit faster, but it seems like it could be at a bit of a tipping point where, the next 5 years, we could see that exponential curve, like, really take off.
Will (31:27 – 31:28) – Yeah, definitely.
Ray (31:28 – 31:54) – What’s fascinating is, just talking about that curve, I remember, ‘cause the technology’s been around for a long time, like, probably, going on 7, 8 years ago, I was using augmented reality in postcards for an eCom brand where they scan a QR code, it does it. Freakin’ QR codes were, like, the adoption rate of those, it’s been around for 10 years, but the adoption rate, even 8 years ago was there. COVID – it changed that. QR codes are everywhere, it’s highly-adopted, like everyone does this.
Scott (31:54 – 31:55) – Mobilized it big time.
Ray (31:55 – 32:10) – So, I wonder if, like, in your opinion, Will, the adoption of, like, that digital mall experience, I forgot the term you used, but that digital mall experience is, do you think it’s gonna follow a similar trend line where it may take some kind of an event to have that full adoption?
Will (32:10 – 33:45) – I think so, I mean, so it’s up to us to drive it, right? The Gen Z, they’re experience agnostic, right? They’re digital natives, they grew up with digital, but they see eCommerce and heading into store as just choices for them. They weigh up those choices, they’re not necessarily drawn to either one. And so, basically, if you want to, like, make something super seamless, take away those things that need people to go to. I think, definitely, the last few years of COVID is gonna have a huge impact on people going to the store. That’s not to say that they’re not going to; let’s just say that if you’re doing physical retail experiences, the game has changed. You really need to give people valuable reasons to come in-store – whether that’s personalized shopping experiences, or whether that’s events – whatever that is to get them in there. On the flip side, if you’re an eCommerce brand, there’s a really strong opportunity for you to take those experiential elements. What are the things, the barriers, that, if someone gets to the basket and they’ve got something in there, but then they’re like, ‘No, I really wanna touch that and see what it looks like,’ I don’t think it’s just Gen Z, but there’s 70% of them that wanna feel the product as part of that product purchase journey. I don’t think it’s just them, we wanna do that as well, but no one’s really offering that as an experience within their app. There are a few places that I’ve seen, I’ve just moved, I’m looking at furniture at the moment, in my 30s, and a lot of the places that I’m shopping, you can place everything you wanna see in your space and see what that looks like. That’s the only time that I really started to use this.
Scott (33:45 – 34:05) – This is a space that’s, kind of, nailing it actually. I don’t know whether you’re using the IKEA one, but there’s a few others that, like, you can decorate your room really effectively and they’re super punctual, whereas I think, with some of the other verticals, the technology’s still trying to figure itself out. Beauty’s doing okay, but there’s some other ones that it’s challenging still.
Will (34:05 – 34:41) – Yeah, I think beauty is probably, and I think, you look at TikTok, right, and you look at some of the filters, the stupid, frivolous filters that take off on there, which is like, ‘changing your hair color,’ ‘adding makeup to your face,’ it’s, like, all those, kind of, things, people use it. People are becoming way more comfortable with what that does, so there’s definitely a way for that to be brought. The technology exists, it’s not expensive, it’s not hard to do. If you bring that into your experience, it reduces the opportunity for users to leave the digital realm, and go into something physical, and keeps them in there and, hopefully, with an increased conversion in that one session.
Scott (34:41 – 35:13) – I don’t know how much you’ve dived into it, but I’m sure it’s probably on your radar. The Web3, Metaverse part of this generation – have you got any thoughts on where that’s potentially heading, and use cases, and what that might look like? ‘Cause it’s such a big, and I know and understand, it’s a bit of an unknown as to what it’s gonna look like, there’s a lot of talk. Is everyone gonna be walking around with, like, headsets on and do whatever? I can see it, but I still can’t quite see exactly how it’s gonna function.
Will (35:13 – 36:08) – I get asked this question almost every time that I speak to anyone in the industry. And so, and you know what, I don’t think I’ve got the perfect answer yet. I don’t think that there’s any kind of security in projecting what the future’s gonna look like, in terms of the space, but what I say to everyone, and what I’m trying to encourage, like, people I work with to do as well, get in there and experience it. Get into a game and see what that’s like, or use someone’s Oculus and see some of the experience they have on there. How do you position yourself? I think, at the moment, there isn’t enough use cases by marketers because people aren’t, the audience isn’t there, so we need to be the audience. Get in there, discover what those uses are gonna be. I have no doubt that it’s gonna revolutionize the way we’re operating in the next 5 – 10 years, 100%. What that looks like, it would be naive to predict.
Scott (36:08 – 36:31) – It’s so interesting. It’s such a generational thing ‘cause, I mean, I played games as a kid and things like that, but as I’ve gotten older, I don’t feel like walking around with a headset. I’ve tried Oculus and it was super cool, like it was really, really cool. I’ve played with that a fair bit and I can understand the attraction to it, but it would just be interesting to see how this generation, I guess, moves forward with it.
36:32 – 40:05 – Retention marketing: building loyalty & enthusiasm among your Gen Z customers
Scott (36:32 – 36:55) – I’ve got one last question and Ray will enjoy this side as well, more on the retention side. How are brands, or how does Gen Z and the marketing to Gen Z, changing from a retention standpoint, building that loyalty, building enthusiasm? What are some of the strategies that you guys are using, specifically, and things that you’re finding effective in targeting Gen Z with retention marketing?
Will (36:56 – 38:53) – We often describe Gen Z as being loyal for life, and I think that’s a pretty bold statement, particularly as we think about generations that are younger, they have so much choice, they’re very flippant. But, the reality is, this is what we’re being told by our students in our community themselves. And if brands are able to capture students at the start of their journey, you’re not trying to convince someone to use your product over another one, you’re capturing them when they’re starting to make those choices in life. There’s a really good opportunity for us to own them going through. And so, talk about the start and talk about going through – at the start, students, Gen Z in general, but Gen Z students, they want exclusivity and incentives at the early stage to join, right? You know, I know, I just talked about their power of shopping. In the US, they’re in charge of $300 billion dollars, but realistically, they don’t have a lot of capital. So having a discount, showing them you care about where they are in their stage, to capture them at that point is gonna be pivotal. ‘I care for you, I created this offer for you, it’s exclusive for you; therefore, you know, we have a relationship.’ But then, I think the main thing is, and this is something, you look at retention, you look at authenticity, you look at seamless experiences, you look at all the things we talked about today – the important thing that people are missing is how to keep those communication channels open, even past that first purchase and past that point of purchase. So, how do you continue to add value within the lives of your customers, not just when they’re looking to purchase something, once a week, once a month, whatever your rate is. How do you let them know that they’re valued and give them plenty of opportunities to stay within your universe rather than just waiting for them to come to you?
Ray (38:53 – 39:22) – I think that’s fascinating and it’s, I think that’s the ultimate, that’s the long-term play, willing to age up with your customer base, like willing to put in the investment to say, how can we partner with the Gen Z customers over a long period of time, and be with them as they age up and have the value that we can provide them, not only in the immediacy, but in the next year, the year after that, the year after that. Will, this has been a super awesome episode, man! I can’t thank you enough. I love nerding out about this. Let our audience know how can they reach out to you and how they can learn more about you.
Will (39:23 – 39:37) – Just head to studentbeans(dot)com, download our app, take a look at the discounts. Or if you are an eCommerce brand, and you’re looking at how you can capture the market & verify and give some of those exclusive discounts, just go to partner(dot)studentbeans(dot)com.
Scott (39:37 – 40:03) – Amazing! You guys have got some pretty big name brands on there so any eCom brands out there looking to target that younger audience and start building those lifelong relationships, head over to Student Beans. Will, thanks so much, man! It’s been a great discussion. I’ve definitely learned a lot about this generation ‘cause I’m just a grandpa in this industry now. That seems weird because I was young once so appreciate the insights, man. It’s been a really good call.
Will (40:02 – 40:04) – Awesome, thanks, I really enjoyed it!
Scott (40:04 – 40:05) – Thanks, man!
40:05 – 41:00 – Episode Outro
Scott (40:05 – 41:00) – Thanks again for tuning to this episode of the Growth & Greatness eCommerce Podcast. I hope you got a ton of value out of this episode and if you did, we’d love for you to leave us a review on your platform of choice and help us reach as many people as we can. Now, if you’re a brand founder, an eCommerce entrepreneur, or an in-house marketing manager looking to accelerate your growth this year, reach out to us at Right Hook Digital. We’re a performance branding agency and we specialize in partnering with eCommerce brands to help them hit their growth goals with maximum ROI. Now, if this sounds like a solution that you need, then check us out at righthookdigital.com and schedule a call with our client partnerships team. They’d love to have a chat with you and see how we can help you grow.