How to attract Gen Z shoppers with FOGO (Fear Of Going Out)

Close icon

Get Afterpay for your business

Sign up

Some shoppers have been spooked by the coronavirus pandemic. So how can retailers make them feel safe about going back in-store?


It wasn’t that long ago that young consumers were lured into retail stores in droves due to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).


Now many are choosing to hunker down at home because of a new pandemic-related phenomenon: FOGO (Fear Of Going Out).


Afterpay has released a new report into Gen Z – those shoppers born between 1995 and 2012 who make up the world’s largest (and potentially most powerful) demographic. 


The report found that seven in 10 members of Gen Z – many of whom work in sectors that have been hard hit by the pandemic – feel “extremely” or “very” concerned about coronavirus. More than half say they will not feel comfortable at events until there is a vaccine and more than one-third plan to avoid shops and continue to shop online once life returns to normal.


So, how can retailers help shoppers with FOGO – particularly Gen Z – feel comfortable about going back into stores?

Gen Z make up the world's largest (and potentially most powerful) demographic.

- Afterpay and The Future Laboratory Gen Z Report
Build trust 

Trust plays a big factor in encouraging the younger generation back into stores says Polly Yule of retail marketing services company Crossmark.


“Gen Z want to know that there are rules and a system in place, and that retailers are enforcing social distancing and taking precautions. This means that retailers will need to prove that they’ve got a level of protection in place that will make shoppers feel safe.”


Retailers such as Mecca and Sephora have done just this and have introduced temperature checking for consumers before entering stores. It’s a similar story for apparel brand Cotton On, with shoppers barred from trying on shoes or sunglasses in-store.


Other measures retailers can consider are hygiene stations where customers can apply hand sanitiser, floor decals to indicate appropriate social distances and online queue booking systems.


At Dermalogica, beauty therapists will wear masks and face shields during treatments, and salons have been issued with new safety guidelines. Therapists can also undertake a new free online training module in order to be awarded with “clean touch certification”, which they can display in their salon, treatment room or website.


“The customer journey, expectations and attitudes to what we do and how we deliver our services are new,” says Dermalogica’s director of education (Asia Pacific) Emma Hobson, who adds that the certification aims to give clients a sense of reassurance.


In addition to establishing trust, here are some key actions retailers can take to entice shoppers back into stores:


Deliver a unique offer


Polly Yule, says one strategy is to deliver a unique offering that can only be accessed in-store. 


“Young consumers want shopping to feel cool again,” she explains. “Creating personalised shopping experiences they’ve never been able to access before will be important additions to the in-store experience.”


Apparel retailers, for example, could promote a new service enabling customers to book a change room with a personal shopping assistant for a new-season wardrobe, whereas tech retailers could offer a 30-minute booking service with an experienced technician, delivering personalised advice on choosing the best laptop to a set budget. 


Yule adds: “The fact is that retailers needed to step up the in-store experience well before coronavirus. Now, they’ve got no excuse not to.”



Creating personalised shopping experiences they’ve never been able to access before will be important additions to the in-store experience

- Polly Yule, Crossmark
Provide in-store discounts


Offering a discount that is only redeemable in-store can be a great way to increase the number of shoppers through your doors. A first-in-best-dressed offer to the first 50 customers communicated via social media or email can be hard for shoppers to ignore. 


“Store-specific sales that mean customers have to pursue that path to obtain the benefit can be a great way to increase foot traffic in those early days,” confirms Yule.


Alternatively, a free tote bag with every purchase could work. This approach was recently offered by fashion retailer Gorman with stocks selling out within days.   


Harness influencers


Throughout social isolation, Australians – especially Gen Z – have spent more time online, often engaging with content from influencers.


So it makes sense, says Yule, to invite influencers who resonate with your brand to come in-store for a meet-and-greet, and to post about it on social media.


This is a tactic that hotels have utilised in recent weeks, with many influencers employed to post about their stays in stylish inner-city accommodations, as a way to grow awareness and promote the hotel’s commitment to health and hygiene. Yule predicts retailers will also turn to influencers in the coming weeks.


Offer a VIP service


Retailers would be wise to ensure they look for ways to make their customers feel extra-special as they walk back into stores, says Yule, who notes that, for some, it may be the first time they have shopped in-store for months.


A shop assistant greeting each person entering the store can be a great way to achieve this, and it also gives customers the opportunity to ask where to find what they’re looking for straight away.


Reconsider your returns policy


A recent US survey by retail analytics company, First Insight, found that even though shoppers were ready to venture back into stores, many wouldn’t feel comfortable trying on clothes or testing beauty products. In fact, up to two-thirds of women reported that they won’t feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms – suggesting that many may buy pieces in-store, intending to try them on at home.


“[This] begs many questions on how retailers and brands will need to adapt their return and exchange policy in the coming weeks,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, in a statement.


To enable and encourage shoppers to try on clothes in the comfort of their home, a clear returns and exchange policy is a must. Retailers could also consider extending returns periods to make the prospect of shopping even more appealing. Country Road, for example, is currently offering shoppers a limited-time 60-day free returns window.


Nina Hendy is a business and finance journalist who contributes regularly to the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age


All references to any registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Afterpay does not endorse or recommend any one particular supplier and the information provided is for educational purposes only.

Read more about Gen Z here

Gen Z Report