Digital natives bust stereotypes as high street stores maintain relevance

Zendesk, Inc. has announced that more than a third (39%) of British Gen Z consumers shopping with legacy brands would opt to go into a store to speak to staff in person versus using digital communication channels. The research, commissioned by Zendesk, shows the importance of the high street in the customer services communications mix, despite the commonly held view that young people are shunning brick and mortar stores. 

Conversely, while the stereotype may be that 55+ year olds would prefer to go into a store, the majority of respondents chose email as their preferred form of communication with legacy brands (57%). This even outnumbers those within this age group who would prefer to go into a store and speak with a member of staff (51%). 

The research, carried out by YouGov, asked about customer experiences with legacy brands (established, well known brands with an existing heritage) and digital first brands (brands established online, in an industry where they are not the market leader). The study reveals the fact that brands need to know their customers in a deeper way than a picture built up on preconceived ideas. Businesses that fail to do this run the risk of communicating with consumers in the wrong way, which in turn could damage the customer experience. As many shoppers don’t match the pre-conceptions that some brands may have of them, a comprehensive mix of communication channels is required more than ever. 

“We may not want to admit it, but we’ve all pinned certain stereotypes against individual age groups,” said Daniel Bailey, Head of North West Europe at Zendesk. “When it comes to communications – it seems fair to say that we’d assume the older generation would prefer more traditional forms of communication such as a phone call, whilst the younger generation would opt to communicate with brands online. 

“The truth is, however, that the high street is clearly still valued among Gen Z and millennial consumers who form part of the wave of shoppers transforming the future of brick and mortar stores. The high street isn’t dead, it’s just changing. High street stores are now part of the customer service centre and as such, should evolve as businesses take advantage of their physical presence.”

The full findings are detailed in a report entitled “Shattering the Stereotypes of Chat”. The report argues that whether a business is a legacy brand or a digital-first brand, it’s vital to communicate across all channels with a consistent tone of voice. It also details the importance of providing customer service that is seamless for both customers and service agents. Zendesk offers the only trusted messaging solution that pulls in all customer conversations into a cohesive interface across web, mobile and social messaging through products such as Zendesk Suite. 

The research surveyed 2,061 consumers in Britain. It also found that shoppers aged 18-24 use private social messaging (22%) more widely for contacting legacy brands than public social messaging (17%). However, analysis shows that this age group expects more from brands when communicating publicly vs. privately on social media. When publicly communicating with brands on social media, 85% of respondents said that it is important to get a quick response, compared to 82% on private message. 74% of respondents think that understanding how long their issue will take to be resolved is very important when communicating publicly, versus 71% privately.

About the research 

The consumer survey was conducted online by YouGov, surveying 2,061 adult consumers (1,000 male,1,061 female) across the UK. Fieldwork was conducted 25th-28th October 2019. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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