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These shopping habits are key to understanding Gen Z

It’s the dawn of a new era in retail. It’s important for brands to understand what gets Gen Zs shopping — and what doesn’t.

 

With an estimated $143 billion in direct spending at their beck and call, Gen Z shoppers are already a force to be reckoned with. With that spending power only set to climb, as more Gen Zs leave college and enter the workforce, it’s important that retail marketers whether they work in brick and mortar, ecommerce or both understand why Gen Z shoppers like shopping.

Online shopping: word of mouth rules the day

Gen Zs spend an enormous amount of time online — and a fair amount of that time goes into researching and/or shopping for their favorite brands. While they dislike digital pop-up ads, they gravitate toward social media- and online influencer-based advertising.

In many ways, social media and shopping are essentially synonymous activities for Gen Zs. Interacting with new brand offerings goes hand in hand with commenting on their real-life friends’ latest posts and videos on Instagram or YouTube. Naturally, this makes Gen Zs excellent digital product researchers. As a general rule, they scope out social media reviews and consult with friends, family members and online influencers long before they ever tap “purchase” on a product.

As such, it’s important for brands not only to have a strong presence on social media with engaging and relevant content, but also to be absolute masters of the “word-of-mouth” game. One well-placed word from a trusted Gen Z influencer can go a long way in boosting sales overnight.

Physical shopping: Just don’t build it boring — and they will come

Gen Zers are often cited as harbingers of the so-called in-store “retail apocalypse”. But that’s neither fair nor accurate. In fact, a recent joint study by IBM and the National Retail Federation finds that Gen Zs overwhelmingly enjoy in-store retail. In-store affords Gen Zers opportunities to connect with their friends non-digitally, turning their shopping experience into something way more fun than a simple “spending spree”.

But at the same time, they’re not into retail shopping that’s boring or undifferentiated. That’s why it’s important for in-store retailers to amp up the “experiential” level of shopping so it matches Gen Zers’ expectations for “fun and unexpected”. As an in-store retailer, it’s up to you to get creative. Think how Athleta lets shoppers enjoy in-store yoga classes in their flagship store in New York. Or take a page from Burrow, the couch store that lets shoppers “test drive” their furniture by lounging on it (while watching live-streamed Netflix services) before deciding to buy it.

Gen Zs are both pragmatic and purpose-driven. Appeal to both these sides.


There’s no question Gen Zers are into retail incentives. They’ve been credited with helping raise foot traffic on savings-based shopping holidays like Black Friday. And a recent report by the National Retail Federation found 93 percent of Gen Z respondents saying they shop for bargains and incentives.

But there are other factors that are important beyond savings, like being able to share in your brand values. Gen Zs have strong opinions on issues ranging from social inequality to environmentalism and brands that take a strong, public stance on matters like these stand a better chance of drawing Gen Zers’ business for reasons that have little to do with traditional shopping. The more your brand can make Gen Zs feel like they’re shopping for a cause that’s “greater” than the sum of their purchase receipt, the greater your chances of clicking with them authentically.

Attention, Gen Z marketers: Learning these principles will help you succeed

If you can understand these fundamental rules and follow them  you have a much stronger chance to draw in Gen Z shoppers.

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Contributor, Gen Z Insights

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