Consumer Goods General

Introducing the iBrains: Understand how to reach tomorrow’s shoppers

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By 2020, 40% of consumers in Europe, the US and BRIC markets will be “iBrains”, or Gen Z. The first generation fully immersed in smartphones and social media, these digital natives will drive disruption in retail. Always connected, they live in the fast lane. If you are to succeed in the future, you will need to identify, predict and meet their needs. And you’ll need to grab their attention to maximize the opportunities they offer retailers and manufacturers. Here’s how.

Meet the iBrains

You’re already familiar with Millennials, but the iBrains – the “selfie generation” – are different. They don‘t know a world without smartphones and social media. While Millennials are tech-dependent, iBrains are always connected, intense social media users and live through technology. They expect brands and retailers to do the same in a seamless, authentic way. They want an identical brand experience, whether they are in-store, online or on their mobile device. For many brands, this represents a goal still to be achieved.

The iBrains:

  • are aged 19 or under, most live at home
  • have little spending power, but, with 93% of parents saying their iBrain kids hold sway over what they buy, they are powerful influencers of purchase behavior
  • readily share details of their lives, likes and dislikes across dozens of platforms online
  • expect to engage in two-way conversations with brands in this virtual world
  • will happily share their brand allegiance with others and are more likely to trust their peers than marketers

How to reach the iBrains

So far, we’ve shown that iBrains present brands and retailers with many growth opportunities. Compared to Millennials, they are more open to buying in-store, and in general they see no difference between online and offline.

So, how should retailers prepare for the arrival of the iBrain wallet?

Firstly, it’s key to be available 24/7 across all channels and devices. The mobile is the handheld personal life assistant of iBrains and they reach for it first when thinking about making a purchase. It connects the physical and digital worlds and holds the key to the personalization you need to offer to win over this group.

Anticipate the iBrains’ needs and issues, and provide the solutions before they themselves identify them. Achieve this, and you’ll make fans who are willing to publicize their brand loyalties. Social media is extremely important to iBrains when deciding what to buy and where – according to our FutureBuy survey*, 59% in APAC and 34% in Europe say it’s an important source of information for making the best product choices.

For iBrains, previous experience with a retailer is key for 57% when deciding whether to make a purchase (versus 49% of Gen X). So too are the opinions of family, friends and colleagues (50% versus 35% of Gen X). They also much more likely to search other shoppers’ online reviews (46% versus 30% of Gen X).

Speed is also essential to iBrains. They will accept a “good enough” product or model and have it now rather than wait for a better one. Of course, you need to react fast to grab their attention – iBrains are super multi-taskers. Or, to put it another way, you only ever have their parti­al – never full – attention. Also, don’t ever ignore the fact that they are more impulsive than Gen X. Brands that get their offer right can really maximize on this trait.

Finally, it’s worth noting that iBrains are not loyal to any one brand. They browse intensively to find the best deal. This is the case for 60% of iBrains in APAC and 55% in Europe. However, brands that involve them in shaping products can win vital brownie points – particularly from iBrains in APAC where 64% favor this option versus 53% of Gen X*. In Europe, 46% of iBrains value this involvement versus 36% of Gen X.

The iBrain shift

  • The iBrains herald a new era in retail – in fact, it’s a revolution. Retailers must think differently. They must shift from offering new things to buy to new things to do, from telling a story, to conversing. They also need to move from making a perfect product slowly to making a better product quickly with iBrain collaboration. Here are some other pointers:
  • Be visible online and on social media. iBrains prefer peer-to-peer social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram over Facebook. Use social media and online advertising to get their attention.
  • Keep their personal information secure. Concerns about the security of personal information rank high and are a primary factor in their preferences for shopping in-store. Make sure you protect their financial and personal information.
  • Share diverse images. Make sure your advertising, window displays, website and social media accounts include images of diverse customers, and treat all customers with respect, no matter their age.
  • Let the music play. Incorporate music into your store experience if you want to attract Gen Z.
  • Help their decision-making. An iBrain’s shopping journey typically includes lots of online and offline research, getting opinions from peers in real life and online, and looking for the best value and price. You could describe iBrains as “feedback fanatics”. Stay with them during the process.
  • Experience matters. Retailers must create places – stores, websites, online communities – where iBrainers feel welcome walking in and just as wonderful walking out. Brands that help iBrainers to define and express their individuality and lifestyle will succeed with this group.

Retail is on the brink of a revolution

Retailers and brand owners need to fundamentally reconsider their proposition if they are going to capture the hearts, minds, wallets and attention spans of this constantly connected, partially attentive generation. A generation of consumers who will determine and dominate future shopping behavior.

Marco Wolters is Global Industry Lead Fashion, Home & Lifestyle at GfK. He can be reached at Marco.Wolters@gfk.com.

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