Focus on Retail: Find your creative voice to connect with Gen Z and earn their trust

Gen Z is at the forefront of the new “omnichannel” consumer movement. This generation discovers and purchases products in-store, online, on-the-go—and via Spotify. They’ve grown up with a mobile device in their hand, and now they have their own distinct expectations of the retail experience.

Retail brands that want to reach next-gen consumers have to align their approach with Gen Z shopping habits and deliver on the natural connectivity that Gen Zs anticipate. It’s not enough to stock your shelves and send out a mailer. Brands have to use retail marketing to reach shoppers in contextual moments—and provide a common thread of brand appropriateness in each one of those touchpoints.

Unlike earlier generations, Zs consider the consumer role and impact to extend well beyond simple transactions—and expect retail brands to demonstrate awareness of the issues they care about.1 Zs want to know: How do you treat your employees? How and where are your products produced? Are your delivery methods sustainable, down to gas or electric trucks?

Retailers should consider these new conversations as an opportunity to reach next-gen consumers. But it’s crucial that retailers approach those conversations with care and understanding, in order to earn young consumers’ trust and increase long-term ROI.

We spoke with Category Development Officer for Retail, John Gregory, to understand how Spotify helps retail brands connect with Zs...

Q: First, what is the urgency for retail brands to connect with Gen Z now?

“This is all about maintaining and retaining the lifetime value of a particular customer, starting when they’re young. It’s much easier to gain a customer and maintain that relationship throughout their life than to gain a customer, lose them, and then have to spend three times as much effort getting them back again. My advice for retail brands who want to connect with Zs is to get to know them, understand them, and speak to them in the right way to maintain their loyalty long-term.”

Q: Do you think advertisers in the retail space are generally doing a good job of meeting the new consumer expectations of Zs?

“Honestly, the retail industry has made progress but still has a long way to go. Big box and department stores still focus on the mid- and lower- sales funnels, and getting customers through the door to buy their merchandise offerings at a very low price. To reach young people, brands have to connect with the right mindsets in the right moments. Gen Zs are not thinking about your brand so much as they’re thinking about their own lives and the culture they live in—so meet them there.”

Q: So if big retail brands still have work to do, as you say, what do you think is step one for updating their approach?

“My advice is to focus on speaking to customers about the lifestyles they lead, rather than product, price, or promotion. Connect with Gen Z consumers over their needs and behaviors, in order to understand Gen Z shopping habits. That’s what it takes to build a sense of loyalty and engagement with a younger audience. What does this look like in practice? Retailers need to make sure they’re involved in the cultural conversation. They need to ensure they have a share of voice in the marketplace, and they need to cultivate the right creative format and messaging. There’s room for creative improvement from a media standpoint as well. There's still such a heavy reliance on television for a lot of big national brands, which bewilders me. That’s not where the next generation of consumers spends their time.”

  • 65%

    A little more than a quarter (27%) of Gen Zs say they watch live TV every day, while 65% report that they stream music everyday.²

  • 45%

    45% of Gen Zs say they enjoy listening to audio more than they enjoy staring at a screen.²

Q: What opportunities do retailers get by connecting with consumers on Spotify?

“Retailers advertising with Spotify have an incredible opportunity to develop a bigger, more creative voice, and a more brand-appropriate personality, with the message they deliver through digital streaming audio. More than half (59%) of Zs say they like it when brands have their own recognizable sound—whether that’s a voice, jingle, audio logo, or the like—according to our recent Culture Next research.1 So brands can get into really creative territory.

The other important piece is that Spotify allows retailers to tailor their messages in a way that’s much more targeted than traditional terrestrial audio, or any mass media for that matter. So, you can and should use different creatives in different moments to reach Zs who, by the way, are spending hours and hours on our platform every day. Whether through music, podcasts, playlists, or ads—like the one UK retail brand Primark created as part of their post-lockdown ‘Hello Summer’ campaign—streaming audio allows brands to connect with listeners over the important issues and topics they care about.”

For more on how brands can connect with Gen Zs, check out the full Culture Next 2022 report.

  1. Do Your Brand's Values Align With Those of Gen Z?, CMS Wire, AUG 2022.
  2. Spotify Culture Next survey, MAR-APR'22

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