Digital natives



What you need to know about millennials and Gen Z to attract them as shoppers and employees

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Mary Best
Editor in Chief

As you know, one of the most critical aspects of retail is to ensure  the profitability of your store by understanding changing demographics and emerging markets. The July issue of BedTimes, Sleep Savvy’s sister publication, includes a story about insights into millennials and Generation Z—who they are, what they want and what they expect from employers and companies. In “How to View Your Company Through a Digital Native’s Eyes,” Scott Snyder, a senior fellow at The Wharton School’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management, and Morgan S. Snyder, a software engineer for Palantir, address how companies need to shift their thinking if they want to understand these generations as customers and employees. (Published by Knowledge@Wharton, an online business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the article is available at Here are a few of their findings:

  • Millennials and Gen Zers include more than 140 million people, are 25% of the workforce and have nearly $2 trillion of purchasing power.
  • More than 60% live with their parents and don’t anticipate buying their own place anytime soon.
  • They don’t gather information or communicate through traditional channels. “Smartphones are an extra appendage for us,” the writers say. Their attention spans are short, they expect things to be done easily through their phones and there’s nothing they can’t find through Google. Like their phones, they are mobile and always connected.
  • They trust their digital network of friends more than companies or advertising, and enjoy the freedom of the gig economy.
  • They are more interested in experiences than material things, and prefer to live in cities where they don’t need a car. They hate the idea of suburban life.
  • They are idealistic, have a strong sense of social justice and believe companies put profits before people or the planet.

So, how can retailers attract millennials and Gen Zers as employees and customers? According to Snyder and Snyder:

  • “Encourage exploration.” As shoppers, they like products that enhance their sense of adventure and enable them to “reinvent themselves.”
  • “Let us lead.” As employees, they are more interested in being trendsetters and activists than having a fancy title. Teach them personally and interactively. Forget about asking them to read a staff manual. Ain’t gonna happen.
  • “Stand for something.” “If you want our input and help to make your business better, then you need to get out of the mindset of making money first and think about making an impact and treating people fairly, no matter where they come from,” the writers note. And, they add, if you want to know what they think, just ask them.

Do you have millennials and Gen Zers working in your store? If so, I would love to know how it’s going and what advice you would offer other retailers.


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