The retail experience – why customer service is key to winning Gen Zs’ loyalty

customer and shop employee at the cash register making a transaction

We might know Gen Z as digital natives, but that doesn’t mean this consumer demographic are completely adverse to connecting with the brands they shop with IRL, as well as online. Here, we explore exactly how important customer service is to Gen Z consumers – including and what measures brands should take in order to win student loyalty that lasts a lifetime.

The retail experience – URL and IRL 

When it comes to the retail experience, Gen Zs are big fans of mixing up their online and in-person shopping. For both methods, good customer service plays a huge role in Gen Z’s affinity for brands – but what exactly counts as good customer service to young consumers? 

Our student insights show that for in-store shopping, 71% of US students and 69% of UK students list good customer service as the most important factor. 71% of US students also view being able to handle, touch and test products as very important when shopping IRL. 

For the online shopping experience, trusting the website or product they are purchasing is a must for Gen Z. We’ve learnt that 45% of US students have bought a product online that turned out to be fake, so it’s not surprising that 77% are concerned about brand products online being fake or faulty when browsing online. 

student on their laptop in the dark

Another factor linked to the online shopping experience that falls under the good customer service umbrella, at least in Gen Z’s eyes, is free delivery. For 52% of students in the US and 62% of students in the UK, free delivery is a big factor in their decision making when ordering something online. 

Adding that personal touch

We’ve established that Gen Z customer service preferences differ whether they’re shopping in store or online, however one factor that overlaps the two is brands having an element of personality and human interaction. Of course this is certainly easier to achieve IRL, but our student insiders have some advice on how and why it is important for ecommerce brands to embrace the phygital – and not be total robots. 

“I know for me when it comes to customer support, I base a lot of my brand loyalty and brand trust on that personal touch,” says Bailey, a Business student from California. “If I have issues or concerns about shopping online, I prefer customer support that’s going to be real people that you’re talking to – so it’s going to connect you with someone and that someone is going to help you and be communicative with you. So I think anything on the customer support side that gives you that one on one connection is huge because the only more frustrating thing than having issues when shopping is getting answers for those issues.” 

Lacey, a Performing Arts student from New York, agrees: “I think being more direct with one another is key. I really love brands that reach out to students in a way that a lot of brands don’t. One specifically that comes to mind is a brand called Verb – they have a personal text messaging feature where an actual person talks to you, and it’s really nice because they ask a lot of questions regarding ourselves and what our outlook is on their brand, and they’re very diverse in making sure that we as a consumer are satisfied and are enjoying their product.” 

Student looking at their phone smiling

Paula, a Biology student from New York, touches on the importance of brands using micro-influencers to really boost peer-to-peer interaction and make your brand stand out as one that resonates well with young people. She explains: “I like to see brands make a more one-on-one connection with students. I feel like getting more micro-influencers on board is a better, more direct way to connect with students. Even with events like Back to School, there’s a lot of freshmen that don’t know what to do, don’t know what they need, so I feel like that content would be really nice to see from brands.” 

The result? Lifetime brand loyalty 

How good or bad a student’s shopping experience is has a much bigger impact on their brand affinity than you might think. Students like to research ahead of making a purchase – to secure the best deals and value for money – but that doesn’t mean quality and customer service won’t put them off their path to purchase. 

Our findings show that 42% of students in the US would stay loyal to a brand forever if they have a positive experience buying from that brand. A further 30% said that positive feeling would last at least a few years. When asked what factors would make them stay loyal to a brand, 96% said quality products, compared to 94% who said affordable prices, and 83% who said good customer service. 

Clearly, the customer experience is high on the agenda for financially-sensible student shoppers. When shopping online, customer reviews and recommendations from friends or family are listed as the top measures they would take to ensure an online store is a trustworthy place to shop. This same feeling is echoed in the UK, where 53% of students agreed that positive customer reviews are the most effective tool for trust, followed by recommendations from friends or family, plus a well-designed website – which 43% of UK students listed as a top way to signal a trustworthy online store. For brands, nurturing the next generation of consumers is key to building trust, driving repeat purchases and increasing brand loyalty. 

Want to find out more about what factors make Gen Z students tick when shopping? Speak to our student loyalty experts today

12 Days of Insights

Unlock your Gen Z strategy for 2022