Yoox, the online luxury discount retailer owned by the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, is making an ambitious play for Gen Z consumers by launching an online hub dedicated to the young shoppers. Hi_GuyZ!, which goes live on 1 June, will spotlight up-and-coming designers and talent, and promote brands that follow sustainable practices in pursuit of appealing to Gen Z interests, says Paolo Mascio, president of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group’s fashion division.
“The idea was to create something that was welcoming, warmer and closer to their tone of voice and perspective. Our vision is to make sure they feel at home and inspired,” says Mascio. “We already have customers between 15 to 25 years of age and we already carry a lot of brands that appeal to this audience, but we want to represent a virtual place where young people can really meet and establish use.”
Gen Z consumers currently account for 7 per cent of Yoox’s customer base; the goal is to increase this to over 20 per cent in the next three years. With $150 billion in spending power in the US alone, according to Mckinsey & Company, the cohort is quickly becoming a critical demographic for fashion, as brands and retailers figure out how to best resonate with their interests and demands. Understanding Gen Z values and building a curated edit in response will be key to success for Yoox, experts say. While Gen Z love discounts, Hi_GuyZ! must convince the high-service and community-driven cohort to shift to platforms already well-served by Depop, Ebay, Vinted and search apps like Lyst among others.
The new launch reflects a push to appeal to new customers in a post-pandemic pivot for Yoox, who sits in the loss-making division of Richemont’s online distributors unit. The division, which includes YNAP and Watchfinder, reported annual losses of €223 million in the year ended March 2021. Richemont’s bright spot was its jewellery brands, online retail of its brands, and sales in the Asia-Pacific region.
Yoox’s business model is to buy up overstocked or unsold items from previous seasons and sell them at discounted prices; the launch of Hi_GuyZ! adds a needed layer of curation for a new demographic by emulating concept stores, says Mascio. Yoox carries thousands of brands, but only a few hundred names such as Jacquemus, Fear of God, A-Cold-Wall, Our Legacy, Heron Preston, Nike, Palm Angels and The North Face will feature on Hi_GuyZ!. The brands were selected via a combination of data and buyer knowledge.
“Everyone has started to realise that more focused approaches, selections and marketing make sense,” says Robert Burke of Robert Burke Associates. “Bigger is not always better in the customer’s mind because time is money and they don’t want to wade through large segments of designers.”
The brands that make up the curated shop are largely gender neutral and have strong communities, but they also fit into an emerging group of brands that are able to target Gen Z thanks to their jarring visual aesthetic and authentic emotional appeal, observes Matt Bennett, chief creative officer at Zak, a youth-focused creative agency.
“These are brands built on optimism, which we see as a direct reaction to the decline of Instagram as being an aspirational-without-irony place where people feel judged,” says Bennett. These brands resonate with Gen Z by telling them to be who they want to be and wearing what they want to wear, he says.
Gen Z have different standards for who they consider successful and what they’re inspired by, and they can be a hard sell, says Burke, cautioning against an “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Castelli says collaborations and competitions can drive engagement from audiences, while Mascio hopes that 8 by Yoox, Yoox’s own label informed by AI, will resonate.
“Gen Z customers are extremely savvy and hard sold. Where it used to be the brand which told the customer what they wanted, it’s now the reverse. Gen Z are a very discriminating customer so authenticity is key, and if they deem something not cool then there’s a risk that they will move on very quickly,” says Burke.