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How your brand can evolve with Gen Z spending habits

by Christina Germano
    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

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    Gen Z is spending a lot more time (and money) online these days. As retail stores start to re-open, businesses of all types should understand Gen Z’s spending habits and how they continue to evolve.

    Along with the rest of the world, Gen Z rapidly shifted to spending more on e-commerce sites out of necessity in light of COVID-19. According to a report that surveyed people in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and France, online shopping grew more in two months in 2020 than it did in the ten years prior. In March and April, online shopping went from making up 16 percent of all retail sales to 27 percent in the U.S. In the U.K., the number similarly jumped from 18 percent to 30 percent. 

    In addition to buying more online, young adults are also finding new digital avenues for socializing and learning. Some of the apps that were already popular among Gen Z—TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook—have seen an increase that is not surprising, and given recent circumstances, some new apps have arrived on the scene for Gen Z. The rise in remote learning and the inability to spend time together in person has added GoToMeeting, Zoom, Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime to the mix. However, although the technology portfolio is expanding among Gen Z, their values haven’t changed when it comes to deciding where to spend their money. 

    Generation Z spending habits are changing based on the practicality of limited access to stores, but the brand messages that resonate with younger consumers are also worth noting, especially for the brands that have only recently been introduced to this audience. 


    A global Deloitte report indicated that about 60 percent of young consumers plan to spend more with the businesses that have taken care of their employees and had a positive impact on society during this crisis. About half of them are receptive to advertising, and two-thirds want to hear more about what brands are specifically doing to help employees through this global health crisis.  

    On the other hand, those businesses that have not reacted satisfactorily in the eyes of Gen Z face lost loyalty and less market share among this important consumer group. Vogue Business asked Gen Z students for their insights and learned that some larger brands are no longer seen in a positive light:

    “I’ve been disappointed by certain companies like Amazon releasing statements of Covid-19 sympathy while refusing to supply their workers with appropriate PPE,” says 21-year-old London-based student Marnie Breadin. “It’s made me rethink which companies I want to buy from after the crisis is over.”

    This sentiment rings true with our pre-pandemic Gen Z and Money report:

    “Gen Zs have high BS detectors and will call you on it—or worse yet, simply disregard you. They’re socially and politically aware and aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.”

    The times may have changed, but deep-seated beliefs and behaviors among Gen Z consumers seem to be holding steady and perhaps becoming even more important as their worldviews take shape into adulthood. 


    Stores are starting to reopen, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Gen Z in-store spending will rapidly return to pre-pandemic rates. According to Salesforce, 73 percent of Gen Z expect to continue purchasing essential goods online after the pandemic. As they do start to venture out more, 57 percent of Gen Z respondents prefer to go places where PPE is required for customers, and 61 percent want employees to be required to wear masks as well. Social distancing seems like less of a priority, with 48 percent indicating they want this to be a requirement in retail stores. 

    Especially as the holiday shopping season approaches, retailers that want to attract Gen Z should take precautions to protect both their customers and employees. And as a bonus, you might find that creative solutions can even attract more young consumers. After all, Gen Z is all about the experience. For example, one coffee shop in New Zealand installed toy trains to deliver drinks. A similar approach popped up in a San Francisco bakery, where bread baskets soar through the air on a pulley system. 


    According to Salesforce, 67% of Gen Z consumers have made a purchase via social media during the pandemic. A similar majority (69%) say that they would pay for a virtual version of something they would normally experience in-person, including online fitness classes and stylist appointments. Some creative fashion brands—Net-a-porter, Burberry, and Gucci, for example—have teamed up with the popular video game Animal Crossing to create exclusive lines that are available to avatars in the game, and of course for online purchase in the real world.  

    Brands can also use social media messaging to encourage former in-store shoppers to view their online offerings. UK brand ASOS is using their Twitter channel to provide followers with activities they can do from home, including one cheeky suggestion about scrolling their own site for new products.   


    Generation Z spending habits are naturally shifting with the times—they are buying more online out of necessity, but in-store purchases are also starting to bounce back. Perhaps more important than where they buy is what brands are doing to earn and maintain their loyalty. This global health crisis is a time for brands to demonstrate what they truly stand for, and Gen Z is paying close attention. The companies that take care of their employees, show empathy for their customers, and offer creative (and safe) experiences are winning Gen Z hearts and wallets

    Learn more about Gen Z values and how you can align your brand with them in our Gen Z Marketing Playbook.

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