With consumer preferences, trends and a variety of seasons to manage, fashion retailers are no strangers to change. There’s another change headed their way that has nothing to do with product assortments. With Millennials now firmly ingrained in their retail jobs, Generation Z (Gen Z) is becoming the new workforce for retail.
In a recent survey of more than 1,000 Gen Zers nationwide between the ages of 18 and 22, 44 percent of respondents noted that they have worked or are working in retail. With Gen Z forming such a large portion of the retail labor pool, it’s important to understand how these employees prefer to work and deploy some best practices in order to play to their strengths. This will ultimately drive a better experience for everyone: retailers, Gen Z employees, and by extension, the consumer.
This article will outline a number of insights from the exclusive survey on how Gen Zers prefer to be managed, what kind of direction they like to receive from their managers/supervisors, and what keeps them motivated, and engaged as employees.
Insight #1: They love technology
A critical difference between Gen Zers’ and Millennials’ relationships with technology is their familiarity with it. Most Millennials did not experience digital technology until their teen years; Gen Zers have been around it since day one. Gen Zers have a firmly rooted passion for tech devices, including at work. An impressive 81 percent of survey respondents with retail experience said that tech devices make their work more fun.
To leverage this, fashion retailers should find ways to incorporate mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones into day-to-day work. Notably, more than a quarter (27 percent) of survey respondents cited a mobile app as a tool they’d enjoy using. Retail work apps connect employees with essential data they may need during their shifts, including near-real time inventory counts, sales figures, work schedules, and more. The benefits of leveraging mobile apps for work are threefold for the retailer: the apps attract Gen Zers to retailers, keep them engaged and happy once they’re onboard, and foster a better customer experience through having immediate access to the right information.
Insight #2: They don’t like reports
Many fashion retailers still rely on “traditional” report-based analytics to keep tabs on product behaviors, profitability, customer feedback, and more. These systems cram massive amounts of data into long, complex reports that store-level employees are expected to analyze, interpret, and take action on. However, 40 percent of Gen Z respondents claimed that the reports they have interacted with at past or current retail jobs are too long and time-consuming to interpret. An additional 30 percent felt that the reports weren’t relevant to their job or were too complicated to understand.
This is logical, considering that most reporting systems don’t disseminate data by relevance to the recipient. Manually analyzing and interpreting reports keeps employees off the sales floor, where they should be working the register, folding and reorganizing clothing, restocking merchandise, and interacting with customers. Fashion retailers need to continue to innovate and seek other, more efficient analytics solutions that reduce and simplify the number and type of reports their employees receive. It’s a surefire way to appeal to Gen Z employees’ workflow preferences.
Insight #3: They like direct, written instructions
When asked about their task-management preferences, more than one-third of Gen Zers (37 percent) said they like simple, written directives telling them exactly what to do. This is another testament to Gen Zers’ aversion to reports and manual analysis, as well as the need for smarter analytics. The most advanced analytics solutions analyze and interpret data automatically, and tell the appropriate employee exactly what is happening and what needs to be done. This is especially important for fashion retailers, as their complex and variable data points — such as stockkeeping unit audits, returns, out-of-stocks, negative on-hand, and more — can hide numerous problems that would take a human hours to find in a report. The best analytics solutions make use of “smart tasks” (tasks based on analytical findings) to tell employees when issues arise and how to respond to them. This greatly expedites the response, helping employees resolve the issues before they become significant.
One example of an analytics solution that plays to all of Gen Z’s work preferences is prescriptive analytics. Instead of reports, prescriptive analytics sends the appropriate stakeholder smart tasks based on automated pattern based data analysis. Each task is simply written, easy to understand, and may include instructional videos or the retailer’s standard operating procedure to assist the designated employee in carrying out the task. It is also compatible with various in-store and personal mobile devices. Prescriptive analytics’ suite of capabilities empowers retailers to simultaneously appeal to Gen Zers’ passion for technology, aversion to reports, and preference for simple task management.
Guy Yehiav is CEO of Profitect.