How PacSun engages young consumers in the physical and virtual worlds

Co-CEO and NRF Nexus speaker Alfred Chang follows generational trends

NRF Nexus is where retail marketing, technology and digital innovators connect to develop intersecting ideas that advance the future of retail. Learn more about the event, to be held July 26-28 at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., here.

It’s been a momentous couple of years for PacSun, the iconic youth retailer known for its exclusive collection of brands, styles and Los Angeles influence.

Not only did PacSun generate over $700 million in sales in 2020, the brand also underwent a major leadership transition in May 2021, promoting PacSun President Alfred Chang to co-CEO, alongside parent company PSEB Group’s CEO Mike Relich. The move is indicative of the company culture Chang has cultivated during his 20-plus years at PacSun, where in-house creative management and homegrown executive talent is the standard.

In his new position, Chang continues to play a critical role in brand positioning, pursuing generational trends that impact the lifestyle of the company’s core consumers. Those trends include new digital and virtual retail technology, which Chang will discuss at NRF NEXUS, a new three-day event in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., next month. He will join Hypebeast Managing Editor Rosie Perper to talk about catering to a fully digital generation in a session titled “Metaverse and crypto: Retail’s next digital frontier.”

Alfred Chang, PacSun to speak at NRF Nexus 2022
PacSun Co-CEO Alfred Chang will speak at NRF Nexus 2022, July 26-28 in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Ahead of NRF Nexus, Chang shared some of his thoughts on engaging with consumers on digital and social platforms and marketing in a physical and digital world.

What current trends are you following in the youth retail market?

We pursue generational trends that impact the lifestyle of our core consumers. These trends shape their behaviors, fuel their influences and drive their preferences, all of which are critical to maintaining brand relevance.

As technology continues to impress the world of digital and virtual realities, it continues to have a growing impact on the lifestyle of the next-generation consumer, making it a critical focus for us as we continue to build our brand platform, such as our launches into NFT and the metaverse.

Young people consume content and communicate with their peers through new digital media and social platforms. New platforms are bringing people and communities together digitally through shared interests. Our focus as a brand will be to continue to authentically engage with these communities and media platforms, as they have a major influence on future cultural trends.

Where do you see the youth retail market going in the next five years?

In the next five years, the youth retail market will continue to expect that brands evolve by providing customers with new and more diverse ways to engage with them digitally.

Development in social commerce is expected to be fast and hugely important — as is the impact of AI — all of which improves the customer experience while simultaneously optimizing the brand’s backend operations.

Strong digital experiences accompanied by compelling physical spaces will be the minimum expectation. In a few years, this won’t only be true for experiences, but for product as well. The youth retail market will continue to need physical products but now also digital products to meet their needs for both the digital and physical spaces in which they exist.

What are the three most important things retailers should know about the metaverse?

First, the metaverse is simply a small step forward of how gaming and social media has already impacted this generation for decades.

Second, the metaverse is native to youth. They’ve already spent hours in a virtual world or metaverse and are developing a taste and understanding of how they’d like to see these spaces evolve.

Third, with the rise of the internet over 25 years ago, retailers began to understand their products could not just exist in a physical store. They would need to launch a website to reach consumers on the internet as well. Similarly, having brand presence and authentic interactions in the metaverse in the years to come is imperative to the success of today’s retailers.

What do retailers need to know about crypto?

Though the market and value of cryptocurrency remains very volatile, it continues growing every day in its popularity as a household name. Everyone is aware it exists. And though very few understand it, learning about crypto communities, the technology that drives it and how it creates different digital coins will be key to keeping up with where this whole thing goes.

Knowing cryptocurrency, VR in stores, NFTs and interactive mall experiences are all areas PacSun is exploring — which of these digital trends do you see going the distance?

Virtual reality, digital consumer products for the virtual space and having meaningful interactions with our consumers in the virtual world will be a scaling reality.

Want to learn more from retail’s digital leaders? Join us at NRF Nexus, July 26-28 in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Learn more.

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