This is how retailers should cater to the Gen Z shopper

Generation Z consumers are quickly emerging as the largest consumer demographic, and brands need take notice. What do we already know about Gen Z consumers? They love to shop, love a bargain, often buy online knowing they’ll send most things back, browse for relaxation with no intention of buying, get shopping ideas from YouTube and find in-store displays a key source of inspiration.


Those are just some of the conclusions from a new report by shopper research specialist Shoppercentric. The company conducted online surveys of over 1,000 Gen Z and older shoppers as well as doing more in-depth research with a smaller number of the Gen Z group. The report warns that retailers can’t take the 15-24 age group for granted as the shop-happy and digitally-savvy generation may be open to influence by retailers, but they also have high expectations of them.


“Generation Z are a fascinating section of the shopper population,” said Shoppercentric MD Danielle Pinning. “They’ve grown up in a truly connected world and are starting to access the kind of money that means they can flex their spending power.”

In studying this age group, the company found that they are very aware of their influence and more upbeat than many older consumers. While consumers in many older age groups (one-third) feel neglected by retailers, less than 20% of Generation Z feel that retailers don’t think their age group is important. And half of them believe that retailers and brands understand their age group, compared with a third of the rest of shoppers.

Here are three key takeaways brands should know to better cater to Gen Z consumers.

Gen Z consumers are experience seekers

Picture courtesy Primark

But the challenge for retailers is that many claim their happiness runs deeper than material possessions alone and 34% strongly agree that they want to feel they’re getting good experiences, that life isn’t all about what they own, versus 28% of older shoppers.

The study also found that Generation Z consumers are open to persuasion and really like to shop.

They shop (in-store or online) at least seven times a month (rising to eight times a month among the men in this age group). And going to physical shops and malls is as much a social pursuit as it is about buying things: 52% of Generation Z said that going out shopping was a fun way to spend time with friends/family, versus 44% of adult shoppers at large.

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E-commerce provides a welcome distraction to Generation Z with 62% of them agreeing it’s a great way to stop getting bored – compared with 53% of older shoppers. Again, there’s a challenge here as 70% of Generation Z shoppers agree that they “often browse online with no intention of buying” (versus 63% of older shoppers). These shoppers are receptive to inspiration and 28% say that they spend lots of time on YouTube getting ideas and recommendations, compared to 13% of older shoppers.

In-store display is important

They’re also twice as likely as other shoppers to cite product displays as important when shopping in-store, and 49% agree that they use the displays in-store/online to give them ideas (versus 41% of the broader shopping population).

They’re also using their smartphones in-store more often with 53% agreeing that using their smartphone means they can get better information to help them decide what to buy when in-store – compared to 38% of older shoppers.

Gen Z consumers

Generation Z love a bargain even more than everyone else and 48% agree that they tend to buy the cheapest items they could so that they could buy more things they really like – compared to just 29% of their older counterparts. And 62% are also tempted to buy if an item is on promotion versus 55% of older shoppers.

Digital is everything for this age group too. This is the generation that is doing much of its growing up online and as such, 97% have a laptop/PC, 96% have a smartphone and 63% have a tablet.

When they shop online they have no problem buying more items than they want, and returning what they don’t want. In fact 28% of Generation Z agree that they buy lots of things online knowing they’re going to send most back – compared with just 10% of older shoppers.

They are risk-takers

They’re more impulsive and willing to take risks with an order than older shoppers – for example 44% of Generation Z say that they often buy things on the internet that they hadn’t planned to purchase, versus 32% of older shoppers.

Speedy delivery is more important to Generation Z than to older shoppers, with one in five putting same day/next day delivery in their top three most important factors for shopping online – compared with one in 10 older shoppers. Interestingly re-sellers such as eBay are used less frequently by Generation Z than older shoppers, which might reflect their preference for immediacy. Social media plays a huge role for Generation Z, and they’re more likely than older shoppers to be connecting beyond their social groups of family and friends or even like-minded groups, to retailers or brands.

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The study also found:

  • 79% of Generation Z use Facebook vs 66% of older shoppers
  • Of those 24% regularly use it to contact retailers or brands
  • 50% of Generation Z use Instagram vs 17% of older shoppers
  • Of those 41% regularly use it to contact retailers or brands
  • 49% of Generation Z use YouTube vs 27% of older shoppers
  • Of those 32% regularly use it to contact retailers or brands
  • 41% of Generation Z use Twitter vs 26% of older shoppers
  • Of those 48% regularly use it to contact retailers or brands

Pinnington added: “We’re all aware that Generation Z are easily bored and have a very short attention span, but on the flipside, they have great confidence and a terrific support system provided by social media which helps them to manage risk when they’re choosing what to do and what to buy. Plus they’re aware that retailers are interested in them and that they’re worth getting to know – this is in stark contrast to how many older shoppers feel.

“Generation Z know that they’re being courted, so it stands to reason that they expect to be impressed before they part with their cash. This apparent self-assurance is important because it will set a high bar against which retailers and brands will be judged moving forwards. Each touchpoint with these shoppers needs to be a positive experience and reflective of the brands’ tone of voice and values whilst remembering that this is a generation that enjoys shopping.”

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