How Gen Z is changing the face of retail

By on July 18, 2022 0

Arsen Avakian brings unparalleled energy and enthusiasm to everything he does. After earning his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Armenia State Engineering University, he landed a Fulbright scholarship. He came to the United States to get his MBA from Roosevelt University.

Working in IT for several years, Avakian often found himself drinking tea in airports as he plugged in his laptop. Right from the start, however, he couldn’t help but notice how thoroughly unsatisfying the default American tea experience had become.

So he set about fixing it. Along with a childhood friend and former colleague, Avakian founded Argo tea in late 2002. The business has since grown to include coffee experiences in major cities and bottled teas in select grocery chains. In 2017, he became co-founder and CEO of Cooling screensa company providing translucent cooler doors capable of delivering embedded video promotions and other IoT-enabled features.

So, in this case, the word “cooler” is both literal and descriptive.

Cooler Screens technology is transforming consumer expectations and bringing digital media into spaces that were previously only used to keep products refrigerated. The advanced retail experience has started to make its way into big chains like Walgreens, bringing both customer delight and a healthy dose of initial confusion. For his part, Avakian and his team are excited to be part of a new era in retail that merges digital technology with everyday experiences.

Jeff Fromm: What trends do you see in Gen Z consumers that will change retail forever?

Arsen Avakian: Gen Z, the first generation to be digital natives, are true to their birthright: they’re incredibly diverse, tech-savvy, and spend more than eight hours online a day through their laptops and phones. Yet, paradoxically, even though they are digital natives, most of them (81%) still like purchases in stores.

When they arrive in physical retail, 86% of these young shoppers are looking for special promotions, free samples and freebies, and 43% also want discounts, which are a key factor in their purchasing decisions. More than two-thirds are more likely to shop at brick-and-mortar stores with technology-enhanced shopping experiences and technologies that reduce their wait time.

They also don’t like researching products and want technology that can streamline the process. And while the vast majority of Gen Z shoppers (some are counting up to 80% — use Instagram or other social media to discover products, around two-thirds prefer to shop in physical stores when trying new things.

Across all transactions, more than 60% value data privacy and are concerned about how companies use their personal data. So, identity-blind technology will be vital for them, especially as their buy-in will be critical to the success of every product and service as Gen Z matures over the next decade and takes control of the economy.

To maintain interest and drive sales, retailers need to find creative ways to engage with this digital native generation across multiple platforms.above all brick and mortar retail.

Of : How have you changed your marketing strategy (or technology) to reach Gen Z consumers?

Avakian: Our technology digitizes physical retail, empowers brands and retailers to communicate with anyone in a physical environment, and is constantly evolving to meet the expectations of digital-savvy Gen Z consumers.

The Cooler Screens platform is programmed to meet consumer needs by providing relevant content at the intersection of context, content and commerce. Gen Z must continually produce creative and compelling content to meet shoppers’ expectations and keep them engaged as their wants and needs change and evolve.

Of : What changes in consumer behavior post-pandemic are you seeing?

Avakian: We tracked some data that was not only fun to know, but surprised us.

While it’s still true that 90% of purchases are made in-store and 87% of US shoppers are impulse buys, we’ve found that post-pandemic we’re seeing a shift in what’s going into their carts. Before the pandemic, they preferred food and grocery shopping. After the pandemic, cleaning products account for most impulse purchases. Retailers and brands using Cooler Screens can use our technology to target consumers while selecting brands and making in-store purchases.

But overall, COVID has caused (and is causing) profound human change. People have changed. They study different ways of thinking and living.

This change is unstoppable, like opening a bottle of champagne. Once you’ve popped the cork and the foam has bubbled, you can’t put it back. The same goes for the concept of “returning to the office”. In truth, it’s a “return to human interaction and living,” as Rishad Tobaccowala, former Chief Growth Officer of Publicis Groupe, noted at our recent 2022 Innovation Summit.

When we come back to life and fully embrace human interaction again, we will not come back the same way. Retailers and brands must respond to this reality. Our expectations have been irrevocably shaped by the digital experiences we have relied on during the pandemic. Retailers need to innovate in the in-store customer experience to meet these heightened expectations.

But they must also differentiate themselves from their competitors. By digitizing physical retail, Cooler Screens enables retailers and brands to do so by digitizing the in-person experience. It offers retailers and brands the best path forward to innovate and meet high consumer expectations.

Of : The retail media industry is in its infancy. How do you see it evolving?

Avakian: Today, information is king. It is the world’s most vital resource and offers consumers a path to empowerment. People are looking for unfettered access to good information to guide their decision making. Their robust online experiences have shaped and elevated their expectations and behavior over the past two years.

While it’s not difficult for brands and retailers to provide all of this information online, it’s more difficult in physical stores. Yet, it is not enough for brick-and-mortar retailers to be “as good” as online retailers. They must be better. This is where physical retail will change the equation for physical stores. At our recent 2022 Innovation Summit, Neil Stern, CEO of Good Food Holdings, said, “If the physical experience isn’t better, why go?”

For these reasons, physical retail will remain ubiquitous and indispensable. Sometimes it may encounter resistance from consumers. After all, “while the use and application of technology has become nearly ubiquitous…the actual adoption of new and emerging technologies…continues to be less than optimal,” Harvard Business Review noted. . Yet new technologies such as retail media – which, by design, are constantly evolving to meet consumer wants and needs – are key to driving economic growth and meeting consumer needs. Over time, they will become a fundamental part of the in-store shopping process.

“Early Childhood” Offers an Unprecedented Opportunity

Just as the possibilities for children are limitless at birth, so are any new media. As consumers emerge from two years of heightened loneliness, they seek the human-to-human interactions that shopping excursions once allowed. And yet, as Avakian points out, their expectations of the experience were irreversibly transformed.

Retail media experiences will only continue to evolve and innovate as these post-pandemic expectations become increasingly apparent. Just as Avakian disrupted his tea-drinking routine at the airport, Cooler Screens promises to fulfill many Gen Z expectations in traditional environments previously untouched by digital media.