How To Design Retail Apps For The iPad-Native Generation

As today’s tweens become tomorrow’s shoppers, retailers may be tempted to treat these customers as a new breed. But the conversation hasn’t changed–it’s only the media that won’t stay the same. Here we discuss how retailers should think about the buyer of tomorrow.

How To Design Retail Apps For The iPad-Native Generation

Tweens today have been using mobile apps since elementary school, and before too long they will hit consumer age. As this contributed Wired post explains, your company might be considering a backflip to meet their expectations. It’s also going to need a new sobriquet for the subsequent generation; “Generation Z” is apparently now taken.


From gushing about the latest gaming app to which fashion icon walked the runway, tweens expect their voices to be heard … and not just by their peers. They expect brands to listen too. Retailers still focused on traditional e-commerce, click-and-order shopping are in for a rude awakening when it comes to Gen Z:
Are they going to be happy choosing between blue and red when they want a new hoodie? Will they buy something just because Taylor Swift wore it on Ellen? As spread out as they are on TV, Internet, and who knows what kinds of new platforms, will it even be possible to spot what’s hot and what’s not with this elusive group of savvy consumers? Which technology and engagement factors will impact their fashion decision process?

Apparently the stereotype of the hyper-managed soccer brat is morphing into a new stereotype: the multi-channel, multi-platform consumer. I’d love to know if there is any data behind the claim that things will work any differently than yesteryear; it may be that the same old influencers are at work, just through variegated channels.

Tweens are born multi-taskers–racing from volleyball to piano lessons to homework. They were built to consume data quickly and react. And when it comes to what they buy, they’re embracing an entirely new, discuss-design-buy model. They expect not just to have choices, in other words, but to influence what those choices are as well.

One role of the retail store, whether large or small, is curation: the buyers and suppliers for that outlet are in an implicit agreement with the consumer to stock items that they think the consumer will appreciate. Turning the question of “what to stock” back towards the consumer may remove some of the value of the store (whether online or brick-and-mortar).

And it’s clear that they’re expecting to interact with ALL brands this way. They’re confident about what they like and vocal about what they don’t. Why should they take what they’re told as gospel when they can just Google it themselves? They feel entitled to a one-on-one connection with a brand, and expect their voice not only to be heard, but to be counted.

This is another myth-in-the-making. Consumers still take as gospel certain opinions about products and brands. What has changed? The gospel no longer comes from the brand itself, but from disinterested individuals outside the company or brand. Peoples’ behavior may change over time, but their motivations don’t. Retail shoppers are still importing their notion of “cool” from somewhere else, but these days, it’s from a person, not a company.

Backtrack by reading our series about how Software Is Changing The Future Of Retail

Image by Romana Correale on Flickr


About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.