Gen-Z Voice: What Yoga Taught Me About My Generation and Retail

Jun 29, 2017 5:23:59 PM

This week we're featuring a guest post from our resident expert on all things Gen-Z - Sara Chopra


Last Wednesday, crowds of young women flocked to New York City’s Times Square, turquoise blue yoga mats in hand.  Here, right outside American Eagle Outfitters’ Aerie store (their women’s loungewear branch), thousands convened for the brand’s “Mind Over Madness” Summer Solstice yoga event.


I happened to have plans in the area on that day, and as I was traveling to the city, I learned about the event on Snapchat; Aerie had a Story on the app’s scrolling Discovery page.  As I tapped through the Story’s photos and videos, I saw that they were all coming from the phones of the event’s Gen-Z and millennial attendees.  From these young women’s Snaps, I learned that Aerie was offering free yoga, with complimentary mats and small tote bags, led by professional yogis.  In photo booths touting hashtags from the brand’s #AerieREAL campaign, attendees could pose with their mats, bags, and newly purchased Aerie attire.


Once I arrived in the city, I decided to visit Times Square to see the event for myself.  For all of the people practicing yoga outside, there seemed to be just as many inside the Aerie store, where a one-day deal offered free personalization on purchased items— a rare offer from the brand.  Throughout the day, the store’s corner buzzed with customers.  Whether the young women in the store were purchasing clothing to wear for the event, browsing the shelves after their yoga session, or stepping in off the street, drawn in by the sight of the crowd, the sales floors remained heavily populated throughout the long day of events.  If the online-based loungewear line was looking for a way to bring teens and twenty-five-year-olds through their doors again, they found it with “Mind Over Madness” yoga.


For a brand like Aerie, with such a strong online presence, the “Mind Over Madness” event helped to bring the store back into relevance, especially for younger crowds, who tend to prize virtual shops over brick-and-mortar presences. The brand’s 2014 #AerieREAL ongoing campaign bolstered the brand’s online power with its denouncement of Photoshop and praise of body acceptance.  Now, by hosting this year’s Solstice yoga event, Aerie drew in its elusive Gen-Z and millennial consumer crowd while staying true to its core mission and customer strategy: “This event is an amazing way to share our message and empower thousands of yogis to love their REAL selves,” said Jen Foyle, Aerie’s global brand president.


It’s not the first time that an apparel brand has called upon fitness and mindfulness to bring customers into its stores.  Many sports clothing lines such as Lululemon and Athleta host yoga classes and group runs for their local crowds; Nike locations coordinates Run Club and training sessions in major cities.  Other brands, more similar to Aerie— less wholly focused on sportswear and, rather, centered around loungewear and “athleisure”— such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Urban Outfitters, and Free People, also reel customers into their stores through activities like yoga and boot camp sessions.


By witnessing Aerie’s Times Square event both in person and on social media, I learned a couple things about the retail life and success of web-oriented brands targeting younger generations.

  • In order to combat the monopoly over customers that online shops may gain, brick-and-mortar stores need to distinctly tailor their strategies toward the customer they desire. Aerie is met with a wide response from online customers, especially due to its constant hashtag use, social media engagement, and online-only offers. However, despite the strong pull toward online shopping, the concept of stores is not completely lost on younger generations.  Though an in-store sale may not be enough to pull in the masses, a marketing plan specifically tailored to tap into the mindset of the target audience is a gold mine for stores, especially those seeking a Gen-Z or millennial customer base.  Aerie’s store would not have seen such a large turnout last week had it not been for the fact that its audience was already interested in yoga and mindfulness.  For this demographic, Mind Over Madness was a way to get involved in something they already enjoyed that happened to be sponsored by a brand they already liked.
  • Engaging activities can be the key to attracting new Gen-Z and millennial customers. When I visited Aerie’s store in Times Square that day, I saw other young women my age who, like myself, entered the store without participating in the yoga event outside.  Many of them had walked toward the store in the first place after seeing everyone practicing yoga in the plaza next to the store.  Inside Aerie, a few of these girls mentioned to one another that if the brand had another event like this one, they would definitely attend.  For a brand like Aerie, with younger generations comprising nearly all of its customer base, the day of yoga not only brought online shoppers into the store, but also introduced new customers to the clothing line.  By acquainting new in-store shoppers through an engaging and tailored event, brands’ brick-and-mortar presences can usher in more consumers through a less archaic, more demographic-customized means.
  • If you’re after specific customers, learn to speak their language. I find that this point is especially pertinent for my generation, Gen-Z.  When seeking to attract this demographic, Aerie made the right decisions online by appearing on Snapchat Discover and creating an event-specific hashtag for use on Instagram.  These two apps are the best for courting Gen-Zs and millennials, and Aerie used this knowledge to its advantage when marketing Mind Over Madness.  Too many times, brands want to bring in these younger customers, but do so using the wrong platforms or methods, thus rendering their attempts less successful and less targeted at the demographic in mind.  By learning the language of a customer base, from media platforms to on-trend, relevant keywords, brands can laser-focus their marketing and succeed in attracting their desired customers.





Sara Chopra is a 16-year-old student at Princeton Day School in Princeton, New Jersey.  She works as a consultant with JÜV Consulting, providing companies and brands with teen insight.  Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Image credit to Aerie Official Instagram @aerie

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Sara Chopra

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