How to Engage Gen Z Shoppers in Today's Stores

Gen Z Shoppers eating alternative plant based crisps

Gen Z is the future of convenience stores. In fact, according to figures from Convenience Store News’ 2023 Shopper Study, one third of its Gen Z respondents said they visited convenience stores more frequently in the past year, compared to 17% of Gen X respondents who were surveyed.

To build upon this and drive younger shoppers to store, it’s vital convenience store owners elevate their product range and shopper experience.

Ultimately, Gen Z shoppers want convenience, which has moved towards delivery services in recent years. This is certainly the experience of Justin Whittaker, of MJ’s Premier in Royston, Greater Manchester.

“Younger shoppers often just want to stay home, which is why our delivery service is so popular. These shoppers are buying comfort-style foods and top-up shops,” he says.

Tango Ice Blast and F’real milkshakes continue to thrive for Whittaker, too. Above all, American confectionery and international products are the strongest sellers. 

Delivery services are now run by two in five convenience stores, according to the ACS. To take yours to the next level, offer a dedicated section of speciality products that cater for different diets and health needs.

Find your Gen Z niche

Gen Z shopper buying popular american energy drink, C4 energy

Gen Z wants alternative products that are new, offer a benefit, or are simply popular in other markets, like America.

While American products became popular pre-pandemic, they have taken off with younger consumers in the past year, according to Imtiyaz Mamode, of Wych Lane Premier in Gosport, Hampshire. His range started off in confectionery but has now expanded to most of his categories.

“We have American products in every category and now work with three suppliers to help us cope with demand,” he says. “We get weekly deliveries; our challenge is ensuring we can stock the same products each week.”

Stocking interesting products backed by the occasional offer is a powerful combination to attracting younger people. Offering discounts or offers is top of the list for Gen Z shoppers, according to Retail Week, with 30% claiming this drives them to purchase most. This is followed by browsing in store (27%), online advertising (19%), social media (13%), and print advertising (5%).

Social Media's Influence on Gen Z Shoppers

Gen Z Shoppers browsing social media on their phones

Many convenience store retailers rely on social media to highlight their offering and expand their customer base. While Facebook is stronger for reaching your older customer base, Instagram and TikTok are typically used by younger shoppers.

Many retailers are currently using the platform to determine the next trend, but others are creating content to highlight their range.

Mamode, for example, works with his younger customers to review new and core range products. “Sometimes when a team member or I give a review, it can be viewed as bias because we’re selling the product,” he says.

“However, by asking customers to give a review, it comes across as more genuine.”

Whittaker prefers to create videos on TikTok, as he’s less restricted by content ideas. He also says it’s easier to reach a wider audience. “If a TikTok video goes viral, it’ll be seen by the whole country – or even go global – whereas Facebook is typically limited to our existing customer base,” he says.

The content you post on TikTok should be personal to your store. For example, Sophie Williams, of Broadway Convenience Store in Edinburgh, creates TikTok videos to promote new products and dance videos that follow other popular trends.

Meanwhile, other convenience retailers use TikTok to find new and trending products. For example, the likes of Bobby Singh, from BB Nevison Stores & Post Office in Pontefract, Yorkshire scrolls to find the next must-stock product.

Mamode advises: “Be on social media daily. If you aren’t posting at all, start by posting once a week on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. Once you’ve done that consistently, increase it until you’re posting every day.”

Monitoring social media is one way we at Epicurium keep an eye out for the next big trends across confectionery, snacking and soft drinks. We pride ourselves on doing the hard work – and making the right calls on which products will work long-term and which will flop. This helps our customers take less risk while benefiting from a world of unique products.

Top tips to grow your social media and find a Gen Z audience:

  1. Focus on creating short reels on Instagram that include trending music. This could be a new release or a sound trending on the app.
  2. Research TikTok to determine the latest trends and consider how you can incorporate this in store. For example, if there’s a dance trending, can this be replicated? Use product placement in videos, too.
  3. Find your schedule. Running a store is busy but find the schedule that works for you or delegate this to a member of staff.
  4. Focus on promoting your niche. If you’ve found a product in a wholesaler that can’t be found elsewhere, create a video or reel on it and highlight any offers running.

Want help building your range to attract more Gen Z shoppers?

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