Thanks to Gen Z, Deeper Connections Will Become the Currency of the Future

The 5 levers that fuel organic brand love when it comes to this cohort

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There are two types of ecommerce: empty and connected.

Empty ecommerce gets you to checkout fast but gives no reason to return. Connected ecommerce adds value emotionally, materially or both while delivering the same seamless purchase journey.

Why is connection important? Because Gen Z are social shoppers. They use social and websites for inspiration, think highly of influencer and peer recommendations, and expect businesses to take a stance. To be social is to be connected.

For the next era of ecommerce, how businesses connect with customers will determine if they are driven by near-term transactions or lifetime customer value. Here are the five engines that fuel organic brand love, as well as examples of companies that know how to leverage connection to create real customer engagement among Gen Z and other audiences.

Strive for that 80%

Great customer service solves problems, but Gen Z prefers to solve their own. Most (88%) customer service journeys start in self-service, and 52% of Gen Z won’t buy from a brand with bad self-service.

Chewy anticipates this desire by centralizing FAQs, order status and 24/7 agents on their app and site. When self-service is exhausted, Chewy’s agents serve as an extension of the brand values. They send bereavement flowers after a pet’s death. They answer calls and emails warmly, ready to earn trust and deliver results.

This dedication to service is partly why Chewy’s net sales per active customer grew almost 15% to over $500 in 2023. Eighty percent of people feel emotionally connected when problems are solved, and Chewy goes beyond.

Be inspirational

More than half (51%) of Gen Z use sites as a source of inspiration. Taking advantage of this inspirational intent calls for rich storytelling and exceptional UX writing. From product descriptions to product photography, all content should work to communicate why the product satisfies the customer’s needs.

Mammut, an outdoor apparel company, stands out among competitors with their art direction and product storytelling. The brand weaves rich video and shoppable images in landing pages, putting the product in the context of its use. Their product pages are built to meet customer needs instead of just offering sterile technical documentation. Mammut successfully puts its product in context, using visually compelling content that reflects where its customers aspire to be.

Recognize the value

Gen Z is the most likely to make purchase decisions based on values and principles. Pangaia, a “material science brand masquerading as a fashion brand,” weaves sustainability, innovation and a higher purpose into its ecommerce journey. Inspired by Gen Z and Gen Alpha, their business model sells sustainable apparel in the short term and B2B textiles in the long term.

The site is garment-forward, connecting each garment with a sustainable textile and story. Though a smaller brand, their focus and approach indicate a new class of brands that are sustainable from the start. In a world where greenwashing, pinkwashing and the like are being called out, brands like Pangaia have a real place to shine.

The paradox of choice

In a market of infinite options, Sourcerie does it differently. Instead of selling a marketplace of skincare, they sell personalized skincare routines backed by over 300,000 reviews.

Most Gen Z (93%) consider reviews in their purchasing decisions; by starting review-first, Sourcerie bypasses that barrier to purchase. They pair curated recommendations with UI language that explains the accuracy of matches. This knocks down another barrier to purchase: confidence.

Sourcerie’s approach leverages the contemporary expectation of social validation with personalization to deliver a service that is often mired by confusion. This value-add, in a world of TikTok and brand ads, restores a feeling of authenticity to the skincare realm.

Real recognizes real

A brand’s community impacts how 92% of Gen Z feel about it and can lead them to purchase more often. With this in mind, Gen Z favorite Telfar took the opposite approach to other luxury fashion brands—they engage in conversation with their community. Their response to bots and resellers scooping up their iconic shopping bags was to create a Bag Security program that allows consumers to preorder the in-demand bags.

The community is present at every touchpoint. A Telfar shopper can be featured to promote drops, or a communal favorite can be featured as a model. This dedication to community has created results to the tune of $7 million for a single product drop.

The numbers are excellent because this kind of authenticity can’t be faked. It takes an acute awareness of the community’s lived experiences. Real recognizes real.

Strategically using these five tactics will be the difference between earning mere short-term gains and increasing customer lifetime value. The businesses that graduate from empty to connected ecommerce will not just survive but thrive in this shifting commerce landscape. As the market evolves and Gen Z’s influence grows, deeper connections become the currency of the future.