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Ethics and values: On selling to Gen Z

There was a time when buying products was about little more than, well… buying products. But today, it seems that it’s all wrapped up with consumers’ political and social outlooks as well.

A new survey from NPD group shows that every business’s favourite target generation – Gen Z – is particularly sensitive to the stances that the companies they patronised take on social and environmental issues. That means they really expect the outlook of the companies from which they buy to mesh with their own views.

At least they do in the US. NPD spoke to over 3,600 American consumers as part of its deep dive into their shopping intentions for the Holiday season and came up with some important insights that aren’t just Holiday-specific.

Overall, more consumers today than last year reported that a manufacturer’s or retailer’s position on current social, environmental, and political issues would affect their purchasing decisions over the Holidays. Younger consumers were affected the most and that’s particularly significant considering Gen Z will account for 40% of all consumers in 2020. 

“In this mid-term election year, political polarisation and activism is on the rise in this country, and it’s bleeding into the upcoming Holiday season, especially among younger consumers,” said NPD’s Marshal Cohen. “While many might disregard the social and environmental views of younger consumers, they do so at their peril. After all, the oldest Gen Z consumers are just now entering the workforce – and the purchasing power of this generation will increase significantly in the years ahead.”

So how do their views translate into action? Clearly, they’re actually voting with their wallets and refraining from buying or actively buying from companies of which they disapprove/approve. Some 52% of consumers said that a manufacturer’s or a retailer’s position on social or environmental issues would affect their spend with them this season. This is three percentage points higher than 2017, highlighting how attitudes are evolving fast. 

And among Gen Z, the number rose to 65%, followed by Millennials at 55%. “Younger generations want  – and will pay a premium for – brands that stand for something and those that have corporate social programmes that are aligned with their values,” Cohen said.

At the same time, 47% of all US consumers said general political issues would play a role in what they buy, another number that was up three percentage points.

But it’s interesting that in this case that’s it’s Baby Boomers who are the most likely to behave this way, suggesting perhaps that it’s not only companies that don’t support ‘liberal’ causes that could suffer. Some 49% of Boomers reported that a company’s politics would affect their buying decisions, followed by Gen Z at 48%, and Millennials at 47%.

 

Here at WGSN, we’ve taken a deep dive into what makes Gen Z tick. For more insight, download our whitepaper, The Gen Z Equation.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.

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