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Unwrapping Gen Z holiday shopping statistics: 2020 edition

by Christina Germano
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    We don’t need to tell you that 2020 has been different than any other year (in our lifetimes, at least). As the year goes on, and milestone after milestone falls victim to cancellations, one can’t help but wonder how the holiday season will fare. 

    We’d be remiss not to mention the impact this year has had on shopping (we’re a Gen Z marketing blog, after all!) Holidays and shopping—they practically go hand-in-hand. Lining up at stores on Black Friday, furiously clicking through sites to find the best Cyber Monday deals, saving up all year to get that special someone a special gift. But in a year unlike any other—when economic hardship is sweeping the world—will these deeply ingrained holiday shopping traditions be able to stay intact?

    We surveyed over 1 million students on the UNiDAYS Platform to answer exactly that. We asked what they’re doing, how they’re shopping, how they’re feeling, and what they are planning for this upcoming holiday season. Let’s dive in.

    5 Gen Z holiday shopping statistics your brand needs to know

    In some ways, Gen Z has been one of the hardest hit generations in the pandemic and resulting economic downturn. Since March, over 1,000 universities and colleges nationwide have sent students home and moved to online instruction in response to the pandemic. Even as some schools reopened this fall, many quickly resumed shutdowns as case numbers soared across campuses within the first few weeks.

    It's clear that this school year is already serving as an unusual backdrop for what’s shaping up to be a holiday season that’s far from the norm:

    For 83% of students, school looks a lot different this year. 20% are doing a hybrid of online and in-person learning, while a significant 63% are learning entirely online.


    Understandably, concerns around social distancing and avoiding crowded spaces continue to mount. In fact, the CDC has actually warned that the virus could get worse this fall and winter—leaving many people wondering whether major holiday shopping events will take a hit. Will people still crowd the stores on Black Friday? Will economic woes steer Gen Z shoppers away from Cyber Monday?

    Good news for Gen Z brands. Our research shows that, in spite of concerns around the virus and the economy, Cyber Weekend will prevail as in years past:

    60% of students will do their holiday shopping over Cyber Weekend, while 21% will wait until the last minute—in December—to finish their shopping.


    Now, let's take a look at how the pandemic and economic downturn has impacted Gen Z and their money. It's reasonable to argue that Gen has suffered one of the biggest economic blows, with an unemployment rate that's 93% higher than older generations, not to mention countless cancelled internships, summer jobs, and post-graduate job opportunities. 

    As a result, our members are being cautious with their holiday budgets. In a year of uncertainty, they want to be sure their dollars are going towards meaningful gifts:

    85% of students admit that COVID-19 has had an impact on their 2020 holiday shopping budgets. Nonetheless, 39% still plan to spend between $100 and $500.


    And, more than ever, Gen Z shoppers will be taking those budgets seriously. Even before the pandemic, Gen Z were a money-minded bunch—looking to spend their hard-earned money wisely, and quick to ‘cancel’ brands that don’t embrace Gen Z values. This is even more true in 2020:

    42% of online shoppers will be on the lookout for the best student discounts, while 41% will be swayed by free shipping offers. 


    And what, exactly, will they spend those hard-earned dollars on?

    39% of Gen Z shoppers plan to spend the most on food this holiday season, while another 20% will dish out the most on tech.


    A little extra discount wouldn't hurt, either:

    96% of students say that an exclusive student discount would allow them to increase their holiday shopping budgets this year



    In spite of the circumstances, Gen Z is serious about keeping the holidays alive and ending what’s been an otherwise difficult year on a positive note.


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