Berns Communications Group has established the “Z Suite,” a group of Gen Z college and university students and influencers, to probe and understand their generation’s shopping habits, values and priorities.
BCG’s Retail Influencer Network of leaders in the retail, consumer and technology sectors will tap the brains of the Gen Zers, creating in effect a broad think tank, while providing the Z Suite members with networking opportunities to discuss career opportunities. Generation Z includes those born between 1997 and 2012, representing a U.S. population of over 68 million.
So far, there are 27 members of the Z Suite. Additional members will be selected and the network will formally launch next September.
“Gen Z shoppers are investing in their future by using their buying power to influence retailers. If a company is actively contributing to the pollution of the planet, unfair labor practices, or unethical designs, we have realized that we can choose not to enable their behavior by shopping elsewhere,” said Clay Lute, Z Suite member, assistant merchant for Todd Snyder and LIM College student.
Sophia Richter, another Z Suite member and student at Northeastern University, said, “Gen Z’s shopping habits consist of an interesting duality by combining fast-fashion and sustainability concerns. Consumers in this generation are always attempting to strike a balance between making ethical decisions and indulging in the inexpensive, trendy and easy appeal of retailers like Shein or Zara.”
In the following Q&A, Stacy Berns, president and founder of BCG, discusses how the Z Suite was formed, its purposes and implications.
WWD: How did you select Z Suite members?
Stacy Berns: The diverse group of Gen Zers was chosen based on their excellent communications skills, passion for all things retail and consumer, and high level of engagement and interest in topics such as sustainable consumption, the metaverse and livestream shopping. We reached out to several universities and colleges that have majors in the retail, consumer and technology industries or programs related to the retail sector. We leveraged our social media channels, our alumni and industry networks to spread the word. We requested that applicants answer specific questions on issues most important to them and what kinds of changes they want to see in the retail, fashion, technology and beauty industries to help us gauge their level of interest and industry knowledge. We also requested short videos describing themselves… and to share what’s important to them [regarding] consumer behavior and the shopping experience. We were highly selective in our process.
WWD: How will the Z Suite function?
S.B.: Members will participate in virtual and in-person discussions, surveys, panels and other events with senior executives from retail and technology companies and have the opportunity to share their knowledge and opinions with leading brands that focus on the Gen Z consumer…Gen Z’s values and priorities along with their growing spending power are shaping the retail, fashion, consumer and technology industries in profound ways.
WWD: What are Gen Zers most concerned about?
S.B.: As part of the selection process, applicants answered a number of questions, including, “What is the most important consideration to a Gen Z shopper?” Common [responses] related to sustainability and environmental impact, brand ethics, product quality, and the omnichannel shopping experience.
WWD: Name potential topics for perception studies.
S.B.: Sustainability, the future of how people work, the metaverse, NFTs, Web 3.0, pricing sensitivity and inflation.
WWD: Have any brands or retailers expressed an interest in the findings of the Z Suite?
S.B.: Keval Desai, founder of Shakti Venture Capital, an early-stage VC firm with several Gen Z–oriented companies in its portfolio, including Queenly, Snack, The Lobby, Sparrow and Criya, is interested in tapping The Z Suite’s insights for these companies.
WWD: Will the findings be released publicly or kept proprietary?
S.B.: We will do proprietary research on behalf of brands as well as research that will be relevant to the industry at large that we will share publicly.