Clarkston Consulting
Skip to content

What Retailers Need to Know About Generation Alpha

The youngest generation of shoppers – Gen Alpha – seems to be dominating news headlines lately, flocking into retail stores like Ulta and Sephora over the holiday season as they shop for the perfect products for their 10-step skincare routines and “Get Ready with Me” TikTok videos. As Ulta Beauty’s Chief Merchandising Officer noted, skincare was at the top of Gen Alpha’s holiday wish list as the 2023 holiday season kicked off. This generation falls between ages 0 and 13, and despite having been raised with technology at their fingertips, these pre-teenagers are not doing their shopping online – they’re actually driving traffic back to brick-and-mortar stores. Below, we outline what retailers need to know about Generation Alpha. 

Why The In-Store Experience? 

There are a few reasons why we’re seeing Gen Alpha driving traffic back to stores. First, due to their age, most of them don’t have access to a credit or debit card to easily purchase items online (without parental supervision, of course). While they can research products or look to social influencers for suggestions, they aren’t actually clicking to buy. Therefore, they tend to rely on seeing products in store, usually depending on their (likely Millennial) parent or guardian, to actually make that purchase. In fact, brick-and-mortar stores are still currently the primary source of product information and desire for Gen Alpha.  

Secondly, as eco-conscious consumers, Gen Alpha is very focused on sustainability, and it’s been found that they don’t appreciate the use of plastic and other more “wasteful” materials used in shipping products purchased online. This heightened focus on sustainability can also be seen through the actual purchases Gen Alpha is making, with Mintel finding that just over half (57%) of 13-year-olds prefer to use eco-friendly beauty products. 

We’re also seeing that Gen Alpha prefers the in-store experience, with 75% of kids today stating they “like the experience of going to a physical retail store.” As a New York City dermatologist put it, “stores like Sephora and Ulta Beauty are more appealing than actual candy stores for this generation of tween and teen girls.” 

The in-store experience for Gen Alpha, however, is also another factor causing a stir. Embracing the in-store experience, Gen Alpha likes to try out products and most do not refrain from playing with or making their own concoctions with samples. Gaining significant traction on TikTok recently, users continue to share their experiences and frustrations with the “10-year-old girls at Sephora” – whether it be witnessing chaos, poor behavior, and so on as a fellow shopper or an employee. Gen Z in particular, along with other social media users, are seemingly very against the perceived materialistic values and frustrating in-store behavior of Gen Alpha.  

What Does this Mean for Retailers? 

As this phenomenon continues, retailers are going to have to work to meet the in-store needs of a very diverse customer base and find opportunities that allow them to cater to all needs. 

Gen Alpha, Gen Z, and Millennials alike are beginning to demand social consciousness from brands and focusing on this can help to bridge the gap. Similarly, there has been an increasing push for an omnichannel experience as well as a personalized shopping experience. In-person retailers are working to meet the demands by integrating technology into their stores with features like interactive mirrors or by accepting digital payments. 

While continuing to market and cater to Gen Z, Millennials, and so on, retailers need to consider how to market to this up-and-coming generation. The purchasing power of Gen Alpha is only set to grow as they age, so building a sense of loyalty early on is the best move for retailers. 

A Focus on the Future Purchasing Power of Gen Alpha 

Gen Alpha – while not possessing much of one now – will have a large purchasing power in the future, which means retailers need to be mindful of the ways they engage with this demographic today. What does that look like? 

Here are a few recommendations for retailers to keep top of mind: 

  1. Gen Alpha is very focused on sustainability, social consciousness, etc. so retailers should make their commitment to inclusivity and environmental sustainability very apparent. This includes establishing a clear mission and goals and staying on track with them. 
  2. Retailers should continue to target Millennial parents, as Gen Alpha is starting to play a much greater role in their family’s purchasing decisions. After all, 87% of Gen Alpha parents report that their purchasing decisions are influenced by their children – translating up to $500 billion in annual spending.  
  3. Don’t be afraid to use experiential marketing tactics like meet-and-greets and pop-up shops to appeal to the desire for a memorable shopping experience – something appealing to both Gen Alpha and other generations. 
  4. Visual and interactive content is important for Gen Alpha, but retailers will need to strike a balance with how to effectively do this without deterring other shoppers (particularly as we consider the concerns about Gen Alpha’s in-store experiments and misuse of product samples). 
  5. Over half of Gen Alphas want to buy products that their favorite YouTube or Instagram personalities use, so retailers should tap into the world of social media and influencers. This will also show a commitment to active customer engagement. 
  6. Gen Alpha is the first digitally-native generation, and retailers need to target Gen Alpha with mobile-first strategies like AR and VR for virtual try-ons. 

Looking Ahead 

With Gen Alpha driving foot traffic back into brick-and-mortar stores, retailers have a true opportunity to build their relationship and establish customer loyalty while Gen Alpha’s buying power grows over time. For now, this means striking a balance between the demands of each generation. Finding common ground between Gen Z and Gen Alpha and playing into it is the best bet for retailers – continuing to cater to their prime customers while building lifetime loyalty in the younger generation. 

Subscribe to Clarkston's Insights

  • I'm interested in...
  • Clarkston Consulting requests your information to share our research and content with you.

    You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Tags: Retail, Retail Trends