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Three things Gen Z expects from luxury brands

by Joni Sweet
    Think digital marketing is all it takes to reach Gen Z? Think again. Download the research report here.

    Turn first-year students into lifetime fans

    Gen Z first-years are storming the back-to-campus retail scene with shopping carts at the ready. Be it homeware, tech, or beauty, they’re gearing up to out-buy...

    For Gen Zs, big-ticket items aren’t just about showing off—they’re a way to make everyday experiences memorable and express their personal values.


    Gen Z may be a financially savvy bunch, but they aren’t afraid of the occasional splurge. In fact, around 1 in 4 Gen Zs are saving up for a luxury product right now.

    However, this authenticity-driven generation won’t buy a high-end handbag or red-soled high heel simply for bragging rights. Luxury goods and services must have certain qualities to get Gen Zs comfortable with three- or four-figure price tags.

    Here’s what Gen Zs expect from luxury brands, and some ways legacy companies are winning over this generation.

    Memorable, high-end experiences

    The fastest growing sector in the luxury market is not fancy duds for your closet, but experiential luxury, driven largely by young shoppers’ interest in dining, hotels, designer furniture, cars and technology. They’re more likely to engage with a high-end brand that helps them make memories—especially ones they can share on social media.

    Hotels have already jumped on the experiential luxury bandwagon in attempt to court luxury-minded Gen Zs. Arlo and citizenM properties, for example, have decked out their lobbies to create a sense of place (and perhaps an eye-catching background for an Instagram post). Other hotels have started hosting one-of-a-kind lifestyle events to engage their younger guests. The Hoxton, for example, offers running clubs, bottomless disco brunches and drink ’n’ draw sessions to up the ante for Gen Z travelers.

    Fashion brands have also caught on and are increasingly introducing experiential luxury into their brick-and-mortar stores. Gen Z shoppers can now get coke floats at some Kith shoe stores, check out zines and art installations at Opening Ceremony and try out an augmented reality handbag design experience at Gucci.

    Marketers should offer added value through exceptional experiences that can plant your brand firmly in the minds of young shoppers. They’ll begin to associate your brand with their lifestyle—and they’ll start including your products on their lists of must-haves.

    High resale value

    Gen Z has taken the resale shopping market by storm. They’re not only buying used apparel, though—they’re also selling their unwanted wears on sites like Poshmark, Depop and StockX to make some extra cash. That’s why 57 percent of Gen Zs who shop for luxury say they pay attention to the resale value of what they buy.

    Rather than shunning secondhand, luxury brands should embrace this trend and emphasize the long-term value of their products. Givenchy, Céline, Proenza Schouler and other high-end fashion brands offer repair services on their products, which gives Gen Z shoppers peace of mind that they can get an item ready for resale when the time comes. Stella McCartney recently teamed up with The RealReal to offer sellers a $100 incentive for consigning the designer’s sustainable apparel.

    Don’t be afraid to be direct about how your brand’s products may play out on the resale market. Consider taking things a step further and partnering with a resale site to show Gen Z shoppers you’re on board with secondhand sales.

    Aligned with their personal values

    Gen Zs have a strong set of values that drive their purchases. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z luxury shoppers say they’re influenced by sustainability when making a purchase. It’s one reason luxury watch company Baume has recently started promoting timepieces created with sustainable materials and eco-friendly manufacturing processes, which has been a win with younger shoppers. And that partnership between Stella McCartney and The RealReal wasn’t just smart from a resale perspective—it also showed one more way the brand was trying to become even more sustainable through the circular economy.

    Some luxury brands have also developed ways to be more inclusive—a big value for Gen Zs, who might be the most ethnically diverse generation in history. Moschino, for example, only used models of color in its 2018 campaign. Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty put out 40 shades of foundation in its launch and has since expanded. Inclusivity and diversity is no longer just a nice-to-have—it’s a must if you want to attract Gen Zs to your brand. Even more so if your brand requires shoppers to dig deep into their wallets.

    Gen Zs think about luxury items in radically different ways from previous generations. Show how your brand’s products align with their values and create long-lasting memories to persuade young shoppers to splurge. 

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      Think digital marketing is all it takes to reach Gen Z? Think again. Download the research report here.