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Shopper Trends|March 09, 2022

Gen Alpha May Be the Savviest Shopper. Retailers, Beware

Small wonder brands and retailers are already marketing to Generation Alpha and anticipating their power. These digital natives, the first born in 2010, may be only 12 years old but they are influencers in ways that generations before them were not. Their innate reliance on digital information has made them marketing-savvy – and now grade schools are teaching lessons in smart consumption. Here’s how retailers and brands should prepare.

When It Comes to Shopping, Generation A Are A+ Students

Consider this story, courtesy of our Candace Campbell, research manager at WSL Strategic Retail: Her 7th grade daughter’s class was given an assignment to research four brands of a product they would like to buy. Then they were asked how their values influenced their product choices.

For Candace’s daughter, sustainability and cruelty-free practices were the deciding “value” factors. But she’s also learning the power of knowledge when it comes to retail and brand marketing.

And for good reason. The young members of Generation Alpha, thanks to their digital nativism, are bombarded with marketing, from direct-to-consumer brands to shoppable social media platforms to customer-tracking Amazon advertising. This is not surprising, considering the first of this generation was born the same year Instagram launched and the iPad was introduced, in 2010.

Gen Alpha’s resulting reliance on social influence and digital devices has made them “a critical gateway for marketers looking to get in good with their parents” according to AdAge. Those parents, by the way, are Millennials.

So it’s no wonder consumerism lesson plans are available for elementary schools.

Are Retailers and Brands Ready to Get Schooled?

If schools are taking the lead on teaching responsible consumerism to children, then retailers and brands better start cramming. Because if they think they market to an informed shopper now – meaning Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers – they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Regardless of how well parents feel they are controlling their children’s screen time, the digital world that surrounds Generation Alpha has created a generation with distinct characteristics:

But here’s the thing. The same devices that brands and retailers use to reach young “consumers” also enable these future shoppers to research before they buy. They may be a captured market, but they are a digitally resourceful one.

So How Do Retailers Stay Ahead of the Curve?

Here are five ideas based on our vision of the Shopping Life for Generation Alpha:
 

  1. Cater to their influence. Gen Alpha’s brand awareness and influence on household spending is so advanced it distinguishes them even from Gen Z, researchers say. As the social researcher Mark McCrindle, who conceived Generation Alpha’s name, told AdAge: “While Generation Alpha are yet to hit their teens, they have brand influence and purchasing power beyond their years, engaging with brands, toys and products that speak to the future needs of this generation.”
     
  2. Remember, they live (and browse) online because for nearly two years they had to. The pandemic had forced members of Gen Alpha into virtual lifestyles, and their familiarity with digital devices may have made it a somewhat seamless transition. However, this means they now tend to shop online first, diminishing a product’s chances of in-aisle influence and impulse wants. Retailers that want to engage Alphas in the store need to invest in experiences that matter to them.
     
  3. Treat them, and their minds, WELL. Young consumers are health conscious, and that extends to mental health, which has become a looming issue in their pandemic-constrained childhoods. When enthralling athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka bravely stated they were stepping down to focus on their mental health, Gen Alpha was given permission to consider their own mental health, and that of others.
     
  4. They ignore “labels,” including their own. The children of Gen Alpha are on course to becoming the most racially diverse and are more likely to grow up in households that are neutral about race, gender and lifestyles. They for example are more likely to see nonbinary people, and therefore products, as status quo – experts say many members of Gen A do not like to be grouped as girls or boys. Perhaps this is why toy retailer CAMP organizes its stores not by gender, but by interest.
     
  5. Gen Alpha has big opinions. They see the same news as their Millennial parents and are highly opinionated (thanks to their social media exposure). As a result, Gen Alphas expect products to be customized to their preferences, and they tend to reject traditional forms of marketing, preferring instead direct messaging and social shopping.

 

Candace Campbell isn’t the only one of us at WSL who’s witnessed how the classroom can change a child’s consumer behavior. WSL President Candace Corlett’s 10-year-old niece chose to become vegetarian two years ago after a class lesson about the meat-processing industry. Now her parents shop differently.

Retailers and brands, learn what matters to these kids.

WSL Strategic Retail is always researching for new ways for retailers and brand to remain relevant to shoppers of all ages today and tomorrow. If you’d like us to customize our research to your needs, you can reach us here. To access our latest How America Shops report “Shoppers Reveal Many Paths to Purchase,” click here.

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