Attention Young Shoppers: Using Water Features to Attract Gen Z to Retail Centers

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“… a new generation is on the rise and the first step to communicating with them, is understanding they aren’t just another Millennial.” –

As Generation Z gains prominence, forward-thinking retailers and shopping center owners have been increasingly eager to attract this young demographic group to their stores and destinations.

In doing so, many retail stakeholders are realizing that Gen Z – comprising those born between 1997 and 2012 – has a completely separate mindset from their predecessors, the Millennials. This means attracting Gen Z shoppers requires a different approach.

The first generation to be raised on the smartphone, Gen Z is the country’s most social media and tech-savvy generation. As such, they must be engaged quickly. In fact, retail owners have approximately eight seconds to capture and hold the attention of these shoppers. This requires providing environments that draw Gen Z members in immediately.

One way to accomplish this is to incorporate captivating water features into retail centers’ open spaces. Thoughtfully designed and beautifully crafted show and artistic fountains entice young shoppers to look up from their smartphones, smile and snap a quick selfie or Instagrammable moment.

Here are a few ways retail developers and owners can use water features to bring in Gen Z customers and generate business from this rising demographic group.

  1. Create a one-of-a-kind environment.

Gen Z is consistently inundated with content on a daily basis and is seeking environments that are truly unique. Retail owners must dare to go big, embrace the unexpected, and create a space that makes their center memorable.

For example, at Renaissance at Colony Park, Phase 2, an open-air retail center in Ridgeland, Mississippi, OTL designed and constructed a dancing show fountain with cutting-edge audio, lighting, and special effects. The fountain serves as the centerpiece of this retail destination, which is influenced by European and Mediterranean architecture styles. An iconic Main Street concept featuring brand-name and upmarket boutiques in an elegant outdoor shopping plaza creates the perfect setting for our spectacular show fountain, which consistently acts as a gathering spot for young shoppers.

  1. Schedule regular entertainment shows around the water feature.

Retail owners that place a significant emphasis on unique experiences and shareable moments will find the most success in attracting Gen Z to their properties. One way to provide these experiences and moments is to schedule hourly water feature shows for guests to gather around and socialize.

For example, at The Village at Meridian, a retail center in Meridian, Idaho, OTL designed and built a 65,000-gallon show fountain with illuminated LED lights, fog effects and a variety of other entertainment features. The hourly shows are a key attraction, especially for Gen Z shoppers, who have described the open space surrounding the water feature as “one of the coolest places in Boise.”

  1. Deliver Instagrammable backdrops.

Research shows that Gen Z spends approximately 10 hours a day online, much of which is on social media platforms. In order to draw these shoppers in, retail owners need to take a comprehensive social media approach that allows this generation to feel at home.

For example, at 2nd & PCH, a coastal contemporary retail and restaurant destination in Long Beach, California, OTL designed and constructed a phenomenal architectural fountain. Artist Ivan McLean created a stunning spherical sculpture for water feature’s centerpiece that makes a true artistic statement. During the day, and in the evening when the fountain is lighted, the fountain attracts Gen Z visitors from near and far who pause to snap a photo and share the experience on Instagram and other social media.

Retail owners who capitalize on this by demonstrating these unique environments and authentic experiences throughout their social media approach will be able to foster a connection with these young shoppers and entice them to visit. Further, in doing so, these Gen Z’ers will become the center’s very own marketers, sharing their own personal experiences and ultimately drawing friends and family in and increasing foot traffic for retail owners.

Today’s retailers and shopping center owners are tasked with capturing the attention of Generation Z, whose outlook is very different from that of Millennials. Well-designed and constructed water features can help them achieve this goal.

By creating one-of-a-kind environments for water features, scheduling regular fountain shows, and delivering truly Instagram-worthy backdrops highlighting water features, retail stakeholders can win Gen Z’s hearts, encouraging them to stay longer and return time and again.