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How to harness the power of the Gen Z consumer

Lessons in Gen Z appeal from the woman behind social selling app Yeay

Melanie

Melanie

Social commerce platform Yeay allows users to upload homemade videos and sell items directly through the app. Since its launch in January this year, it has proved a hit with Gen Z consumers. Drapers spoke to the platform’s founder, Melanie Mohr, to find out the secrets of the elusive Gen Z consumer.

Can you briefly explain the concept behind Yeay?

Yeay is entertainment meets shopping. It is the first global m-commerce marketplace for Generation Z, where users create short, fun videos to sell products. Anyone can buy, sell and discover new products and designers from around the globe through Yeay’s feed. You might find a budding musician selling their music, an entrepreneurial teenager promoting their own line of T-shirts, or the biggest brands selling their fashion lines.

Like Snapchat, Yeay is based on short, engaging video snippets – but the difference is that users can browse brands and buy items as well as being able to sell items of their own. So far, 4 million videos have been played since the app came out of beta testing in January.

How did you come to set the business up?

Before launching Yeay, I produced more than 100 TV shows, ranging from music videos and documentaries to kids’ entertainment and prime-time TV. I also founded [German entertainment network] Apollo TV and developed two apps for its creative lifestyle platform.

I understood the selling power of video and could see that TV shopping wasn’t keeping up with the needs of today’s teens. It was this realisation that led to Yeay: a platform that fuels the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of Generation Z, while helping brands build a closer and more collaborative relationship with this younger and harder to reach audience.

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How are brands using the platform?

Yeay enables brands to reach Generation Z – those who have no memory of a pre-internet, pre-mobile or even pre-social media world. Brands can tell stories about their latest designs through personal, fun and creative vertical videos, and Yeay helps brands create authentic content with in-house studios and studio pop-ups in several cities around the world. Yeay is equipped to handle multiple items and lines, so brands are using it to sell their inventory to our users. The brand that is most searched for is Kanye West’s fashion line Yeezy, but people also sell goods they’ve made or sourced themselves.

What kind of characteristics do Gen-Z shoppers have that makes them interesting consumers?

They are the first truly digital generation. They live in apps and like sharing photos and chatting to friends all the time – in fact, you rarely see them without a phone in their hands.

Because of their intuitive digital knowledge, they are also savvy shoppers. They have very high expectations of brands and are very quick to call out inauthenticity. Research shows that 69% of Gen Z actively try to avoid brand advertising now, and they know how to implement ad block software on their phones and computers. Even in store, they often won’t buy without using their phones to do research first in case they can get a better deal nearby.

Young people want to take control of their shopping experience and feel part of a cool brand experience that all their friends are also talking about. They don’t want to be talked at – they want to be involved, and technology allows them to creatively express themselves in new ways as brand collaborators. In a way, brands should think of all their customers as influencers who will tell their friends and followings about a brand if they think it’s worthwhile.

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Why do you think Gen-Z have developed such an entrepreneurial mindset when it comes to shopping?

Many young people have watched older siblings struggle with large student loans, high rents and difficulties finding jobs after university. I think this has led to a strong independent streak, and so now 72% want to start their own business. The barriers to becoming an entrepreneur have never been lower, thanks to technology and social media. All the information you need is accessible on your mobile, where you have instant access to an audience through social channels. To be frank, Gen Z have a better understanding of how to talk to and influence that audience than most brands. They’re great at creating fun, honest and relatable content that people want to look at and talk about. Today, teens can establish their own YouTube channels, and write, direct, produce, star in and promote their own content, on virtually any subject.

How do you think social media is altering how retail in general works?

Social media is just that – social. Shoppers don’t want to be talked at: they want to build a relationship where they have two-way dialogue with the people they follow. If used well, social can be used to build communities for brands to engage with buyers directly on a daily basis and drive more sales with exciting content. And the better the relationship, the more likely people are to want to create and share their own content for the brand – which is a far more authentic and relatable form of marketing than more traditional advertising methods.

It has also altered the brand experience. Brands need to build brand worlds with a distinct voice and style. They have to build a sphere of influence of their very own and compete with young people who excel in producing awesome content. Teenagers, especially, are acutely aware of what makes good content and know when something feels like advertising

What do you think the future of shopping looks like?

Shopping will become more of a fun and entertaining experience, not simply a transaction. Content posted online by brands will need to capture the creative hearts and minds of shoppers and they will need to treat them as collaborators, not simply ”consumers”. Brands will also need to be transparent and authentic, [and provide] honest and accessible content that truly represents the items people are buying.

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