How Gen Z’s Stand for Privacy Could Transform Retail

With machine learning, augmented reality and 3-D design on the radar of more footwear brands and retailers, it’s no secret that tech will continue to disrupt businesses.

But according to Matthew Rhodus — director and industry principal of apparel, footwear and accessories at Oracle NetSuite — it’s not just advanced technology that will be the harbinger of change. During last week’s Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America 2018 Executive Summit, Rhodus said that Generation Z’s views on privacy will significantly impact retail.

“On one hand, [Generation Z consumers] are more private about themselves, but on the other, these consumers have grown up in a world where privacy is not ‘assumed’ to be inherent or something they are entitled to have,” Rhodus explained. “You will see a shift towards where the consumers are willing to give up privacy for convenience — they understand that there is data available about them through their use of social media platforms, [and they] expect or assume [this] will be [leveraged] in their shopping experience.”

Rhodus said that he wanted to spark a debate about where privacy limits should lie. “This is where we as an industry have to decide what we need [in order] to protect the consumer,” he said. “[There is a] temptation to push the boundaries of what used to be considered ‘creep factor’ in favor of a more personalized experience, weighted against what it means to have and keep all this data about consumers.”

A sense of transparency and authenticity are other related themes that are important to this generation of shoppers, Rhodus added.

“[There should be] transparency in the way their clothes are made, as social responsibility and sustainability is top-of-mind [for these consumers]. And [they] are willing to pay a premium for it. Transparency in your brand and visibility that goes both ways — you to them and them to you,” he explained. “Brands and experiences that feel authentic are the ones that integrate best into those social media platforms by leveraging promoters or influencers rather than [through] traditional media campaigns.”

Last, Rhodus said Generation Z likes to be actively engaged when shopping — and brands and retailers would do well to take note. “These consumers don’t want to watch on the sidelines. They actively want to be a part of the brand experience,” he said.

Rhodus stated that footwear businesses will need to keep up with these shifts to thrive. “I think it was [made] loud and clear [at the summit] that status quo is not acceptable anymore — that if you spend one more day thinking like you have been, you’re already years behind,” he said.

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