5 retail innovations bringing Gen Z back to the mall

Today’s students are part of the first generation of true digital natives: Gen Z. They don’t remember a time before the internet, and this means they’ve grown up with access to a whole world of retail options thanks to the rise of ecommerce. In a time of “peak choice,” it’s increasingly difficult for traditional brick-and-mortar stores to attract young consumers.

Our 2018 Student Shopping Report shows that while students love the convenience of shopping online, they still see many benefits to visiting physical stores. They love to see products in person and shopping remains a popular social activity. Here are five ways that physical retail brands have kept Gen Z coming back for more.

American Eagle's AE Studio (Image courtesy of Business Insider)

American Eagle's AE Studio (Image courtesy of Business Insider)

Concept store

Stores are no longer just functional spaces: visiting them should be an experience. A concept store enables a brand to convey its distinct identity and makes the store an attraction in itself. Examples include Apple’s Town Square, American Eagle’s AE Studio and the brand new Nike Live in LA.

In-store events

Experiential is a buzzword in marketing at the moment, but in most cases it’s simply a more ‘2018’ way of talking about branded events. Holding events in-store is a way to attract new customers to visit the store for the first time, or to reward existing customers with special treats and offers.

Retail tech

Many stores have implemented futuristic new technology to appeal to digital natives and improve their in-store experience, such as personalisation kiosks, interactive mirrors and bluetooth beacons. Brands already offering these innovations include Macy’s, Adidas and Rebecca Minkoff.

An interactive Memory Mirror (Image courtesy of Pinterest)

An interactive Memory Mirror (Image courtesy of Pinterest)

In-store exclusives

It’s still possible to attract queues of customers desperate to be first to get their hands on limited edition lines or items expected to sell out. Celebrity products such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and Kanye West’s Yeezy are among the brands that Gen Z will do whatever it takes to own.


Scarcity is key to creating demand yet again with the pop-up store. This trend enables smaller independent brands, such as ecommerce stores, to experiment with physical retail with minimal risk. Pop-ups appear in malls, shopping streets and other areas frequented by young consumers.

Is your brand looking to engage the student market? Get in touch to find out how Student Beans can support your youth marketing strategy.